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How Long Do You Wait for the Cable Guy?

7:45 PM, Nov 7, 2011   |    comments
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People often joke about how much waiting for the cable guy and other service people is costing them - in time and billable hours. Well, now someone has actually done the math.

It costs a whopping $37.7 billion a year for the time customers spent waiting for someone to come fix, install or deliver something, according to a new "Cost of Waiting" study from TOA Technologies. The company makes software that helps businesses better track their service people and narrow down the window of time customers have to wait.

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Americans waited 4.3 hours on average - more than double of what the individuals had expected. On an individual basis, that works out to about $250 a year, or two full working days, that we waste waiting for everything from the cable, phone, Internet or utility guy to a retail home delivery.

Comcast, the nation's largets cable provider, is paying attention. Bill Ferry, Comcast Vice President of Government Affairs said the company has a new policy.

"Through our focus groups and listening to our customers and finding out what they would like to hear, we made sure that our appointment window in Jacksonville and throughout the company is going to the standard of two hours," said Ferry

Ferry said he couldn't speak to the other industries. But the TOA technologies survey is speaking out. 

"It's clear from this year's survey that customer service needs to be a top priority for businesses in the current climate, not only because it can negatively affect a company's performance but because poor service around wait times has financial penalties for a company's own customers," said Yuval Brisker, co-founder and CEO of TOA Technologies.

Adding to its two hour policy Comcast is adding a guarantee policy.

"If we don't make it in two hours, we will credit the customers account $20 or provide them a free three month subscription to a premium channel," said Ferry.

If you've had it with waiting, you're not alone: The TOA survey found 58 percent of Americans suffered fist-pounding frustration, waiting on somebody for something, in the past year.

In fact, Brisker and his partner Irad Carmi, now the CTO of the company, founded TOA after a particularly frustrating wait for a guy to come and fix Brisker's video on demand. The window the company gave him came and went without a single ring of the doorbell, so he decided to go out and run an errand. He came home to find a note on the door from the service person that said, "Sorry we missed you." The company was able to give him a new appointment - for ONE WEEK LATER.

"I thought, there's got to be a better way!" Brisker said.

Customer frustration with wait times is bad in the best of times, but Brisker said it's even worse since the recession.

"Our focus in this survey was to understand if waiting pains people more as a result of the downturn in the economy. Do they perceive that pain more acutely than before? Yes," Brisker said. "There's a much more acute sense of every dollar lost - especially in middle- and lower-income people."

Couple that with the fact that people are more inclined to voice their complaints through social media - reaching far more people than just complaining to family and friends - and companies like TOA are seeing huge demand for their software.

Their revenue has doubled in the past year, when growth in the broader economy has stalled, and grown more than eightfold in the past five years.

Their software figures out the best service person to send on the job, based on three criteria: Skills, location and availability. Then, it narrows the window down to one hour that the company can give to the customer. Some of the companies that use TOA software include Virgin Media, Cox Communications and Cincinnati Bell.

The software is reminiscent of the Domino's Pizza Tracker, which aims to take that ambiguity and frustration out of the food-delivery process, by letting customers track their pizza from oven to front door online.

Sure, the quality of the product is important in winning over customers, but companies should never underestimate the power of waiting rage - and the peace of mind in good customer service.

One reader on the "Hey We Like This" blog, wrote: "I love the pizza tracker! Even my girlfriend was mesmerized by being told the name of our pizza-maker and delivery guy. The pizza is so-so (indigestion today, ugh!) but the delivery tracker rocks!!!"

That's rocks with three exclamation points, for those of you keeping score at home.

On LongShortTrader.com, Michael Comeau, called the Dominos pizza tracker "awesome" and said he thinks FedEx or UPS - or, might I add, the flailing US Postal Service- should think about something cool like that on their web sites.

"I want an animation of a FedEx worker scanning my new camera from Amazon for explosives. Or the package falling off a truck. Or the guys at the UPS depot using a box of wedding photos as a soccer ball."

Or, an animation of your cable guy watching his pizza tracker when he's supposed to be at your house making sure you'll never miss an episode of Desperate Housewives or Ice Road Truckers again.

Hey, cable guy, if you're listening: I want those two days - and billable hours - of my life back!

USA Today

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