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Cost of waiting: $38 billion

Waiting for the cable guy and other in-home appointments and deliveries costs Americans an average of $250 in lost wages, poll says.

By Giselle Smith Nov 7, 2011 7:53PM

Waiting for the cable guy and other in-home services cost American workers almost $38 billion in the past year, according to a new study.


That's the cost of two full workdays for every U.S. employee -- not just the ones who stayed home from work to wait on a service call, TOA Technologies CEO Yuval Brisker said in a statement. TOA Technologies sponsored the study.


Fifthy-eight percent of respondents to the 2011 "Cost of Waiting" study said they had waited at home for delivery, service or repair people three times in the past year, with an average wait time of 4.5 hours. More than 25% said waiting resulted in lost wages, and 50% said it cost them a sick day or vacation day.


Taking a half day off work to wait for a furniture delivery or appliance repair appointment is bad enough, but survey respondents reported that the wait times were a full 2.5 hours longer than they expected.


And what do people do while they wait? They complain, of course. As Multichannel News reports: "The longer a technician is late, the more likely it becomes that customers will start griping online: After waiting for one hour, almost half of respondents (49%) said they would have posted a complaint on a social media."


In sponsoring the 2011 Cost of Waiting study, TOA Technologies has created ammunition for such complaints -- and a warning for companies who neglect customer service. TOA, which develops software for mobile workforce management and customer appointment scheduling, concluded that -- based on estimates from survey respondents -- each lost customer cost businesses $330 annually. Post continues below.

Why wait?

The top reason respondents gave for companies not showing up on time was a perceived lack of consideration for the customer's time (29%). Though 21% of people surveyed said the length of time required for service is unpredictable, 18% said the companies took advantage of knowing the customer would wait.


The survey also found that most customers (71%) blame the company, rather than the service person, for keeping them waiting in 2011 -- up from 55% in 2010. And 27% switched to a competitor as a result, according to the poll of more than 1,000 adults conducted by IBOPE Zogby International for TOA Technologies.


The study results didn't mention whether any of the respondents worked in home offices or if any were unemployed. While someone working at home or job-hunting might not lose wages waiting for the doorbell to ring, their numbers would certainly increase the overall dissatisfaction rate. No one likes being kept waiting, and it's tough to concentrate when you anticipate being interrupted at any moment.


I can't complain too much about the cable guy. The last time we had someone from Comcast come to the house, we were able to make a weekend appointment, and when they were running ahead of schedule that day, the techs called ahead to ask if they could show up early. (Perhaps service improved after the cable company was named The Consumerist's Worst Company in America for 2010.)


Online comments to news articles about the poll indicates my experience is likely atypical, however. Readers mostly related their customer-service horror stories, often bringing up wait times in other places, such as doctors' offices and airports.


"What ticks me off is that companies could do a better job. Cable companies know how long it takes to hook up cable in an apartment or house, especial since most are already wired, and they know how to map out routes to pin down the installation time," reader Joshua Morgan said on CNN Money.


To which another reader responded: "I don't like waiting, but the fact is that estimating such things is an art, not a science and is based on a variety of factors."


"Rabbit Ears are making a comeback … go buy a pair and curse at the satellites when your station won't come in. But it comes with no monthly bill," a Daily Finance reader offered.


What has been your experience? Have you been kept waiting in the past year? And do you still do business with that company?


More on MSN Money:

Nov 7, 2011 9:16PM
I find myself most irritated with doctors.  That I should have to wait an hour or more past my appointment time for the privilege of seeing them, and then have to PAY THEM is just insulting.  Clearly their time is far more important than mine as I have nothing better to do than leaf through the old magazines in their waiting rooms.
Nov 8, 2011 11:09AM
I worked for a Comcast subcontractor and would not work for them again. The major problem is over-scheduling for Installation, drive time between each job and the time it took to activate an install. The longest it took to activate was 2 hours and most of that time was spent on hold. If you remember the video showing a Comcast Tech sleeping on a customer's couch, he was on hold for several hours ... it does put a person to sleep and make the customer irate. Comcast's firing of the Tech did nothing to resolve the widespread problem. By the time I left the Comcast sub-contractor, they have added procedures that ADDED an additional 45 minutes to your installation time and increased customer dissatisfaction. In contrast, Comcast's competitor Charter, streamlined it's installation and reduced installation time and upgraded the tech's equipment that did not require activation by phone but rather by wireless technology. This made activation time in seconds and not in hours.

As 'someone' mentioned, it can be frustrating for the customer, but it is even worse for the Tech because this is a daily, all day stressful job. I think that the corporate powers-that-be would spend a week in the field with a service tech, the overall customer service and installation time would improve and be competitive.      
Nov 8, 2011 11:44AM
My husband is an appliance repairman. He gets his jobs from the company for the day, with scheduled times already listed. He is usually able to get to all his jobs within the scheduled time frame, but there are times when he is so overbooked or a job takes longer than expected and he gets behind. He makes a point of calling the next customer to let them know that he is running behind but there is only so much he can do to get there on time. Especially when traffic is terrible with all the construction.
Nov 8, 2011 10:18AM
"Time, time time, see what's become of me"......The universe exists because time exists. That means though that everything TAKES time. You can't brush your teeth in 0 seconds....add to that friction and gravity slowing down the mechanisms of life....You think the doc books extra patients cause he wants more money??  Try that's what he has to do to get everyone in. There are five extra dental patients you have to wait for cause they all wanted appointments. There is traffic, accidents, 7 billion bodies to get around...all takes time. It really is not a question of the world slowing you down, YOU slow the world down...Get used to it, get in line, take your turn and stop whining  LOL
Nov 8, 2011 7:46AM
Doctors offices are definitely bad. One I used to go to had great doctors but a horrible staff that would intentionally overbook the doctors' time. This office did not see walk-ins or emergency cases. I got tired of going to 1pm appointments, waiting till 5pm and then being asked to come back the next day. That happened to me several times and others in the waiting room said that had been done to them many times as well so I asked the staff about it. They said it was in case of no shows so they wouldn't lose money. I reminded them that their own policy displayed in the waiting room says that no shows still have to pay as if they had been seen by the doctors. They gave me a nasty looked but that was all I accomplished. I never went back.
Nov 8, 2011 7:33AM

Worse than waiting on service people is waiting on Nov. 2012 to get here!!!

So far the wait has cost the taxpayers 14 TRILLION plus!!!!

WAKE UP PEOPLE! Take the trash out in DC!!! ALL OF IT!!!

Nov 8, 2011 9:28AM
Another rediculous story. You can't live a life in the real world and be 100% efficient in all you do. Never waste a single hour, never wait a single minute, every second of every day completely filled with productive acts..That's just stupid, and impossible., Slow down every one, smell the roses....
Nov 8, 2011 10:07AM

Okay...Let's play doctor...No. Get your dirty minds out of the gutter. Doctors are at the hospital most mornings by 5 AM. I know this because I've seen them do their rounds between 5 AM and 9 AM. This includes reviews of patient progress, tests performed, changing medications as well as speaking with patients directly.


Then? Off to their office where most work from 9 AM until 7 PM and some still offer Saturday hours. Some doctors see as many as 30 patients in a single day. Think you can maintain that schedule? Oh and by the way, in all fairness, how many times must doctors stop to answer phone calls while they are with patients to argue with HMOs dickering over whether or not HMO Kings will accept claims and medical procedures?


What's with this younger generation running their lives at breakneck speed, multi-tasking and still accomplishing nothing of any major importance or value? They whip through their daily work at their jobs like tomorrow might not come. Then it's hurry, hurry, hurry off to lunch where they spend an hour of lunch time on their cell phones. They fly out the door, rush to pick up the 3rd generation of Daycare Trophy Kids and then shove a mediocre meal on the table they call dinner or hustle the kiddies out to the nearest fast (there's that word again) food restaurant.


If they are trying to do an impression of the Busiest Generation, give it up already. We get it.

Nov 8, 2011 10:10AM

This kind of waiting is definitely annoying but life isn't perfect.  At least you are in your own home or environment and can do other things.  My personal pet peeve is doctor's offices.  You make an appointment and sometimes don't get seen for over an hour past your appointment time.  While waiting you are trapped in some innocuous and bland little room with a bunch of inane and irrelevant reading material with absolutely nothing to do. Then the nurse or what ever comes and gets you and puts you in an even smaller room and amuses you for perhaps 10 minutes or so then you are left alone for up to another hour with even less to do.  Then when the doctor finally does pop in they look at you for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, give you a scrip, and boot you out the door followed by a bill for anywhere from $25.00 to $75.00 for the privilege.


The medical profession definitely has a racket going because they know that they have you over the proverbial barrel.  I appreciate that they went through a lot of education to become doctors but what part of their education taught them complete arrogance and inconsideration for their patients?  Frankly I am just as pleased with the speedy clinics where you are seen by a courteous and caring nurse practitioner.  Quick in, get what you need, and quick out. 

Nov 8, 2011 9:03AM
I know it can be frustrating waiting around on a service technician. I work for a service company in the office. We have people calling and complaining when a tech is not there right when they thought they were going to be there. There is often a communication problem that starts the whole problem. We do promise times after a certain time. EX: after 1:00 p.m. We tell the homeowner that the technician will call sometime after 1:00 because we cannot have an exact time with the previous calls in the day. The problem with many service calls is that when a customer calls in and tells you what they think is wrong, and what is actually wrong are two totally different things. What they think might be wrong could be an hour fix and what is actually wrong might be a three hour fix. You have two of these in the morning and the rest of the day is running way behind. The best way to deal with the service company is give them your cell phone number and request a 30 minute heads-up courtesy call so that way you can go about your day. No more waiting around. Just be ready when they call to b-line it for the house because if you keep them waiting, now you are increasing the delay for some other customer behind you.
Nov 8, 2011 7:27AM

Comcast is without a doubt the WORST cable company in the history of cable! Just bought a new (forclosure) home, set the appointment 3 weeks in advance, on the day of installation no one showed up, called Comcast and was told it would be 3 more days due to the fact that they had a problem with the last owners bill. I ask what that had to do with me and why would I care? They said "they thought" I might be hooking it up for them. The house had been vacant for almost a year!  WTFO

Guess who didn't put cable in my house? Called Dish...had a tech there the next morning at 8:00 am...he did a wonderful job of his installation and everything works like a champ! Say what you want about Dish but I like them way better than Comcast or Direct.

Nov 8, 2011 8:43AM
COMCAST tried to install service on our property Three times when We never even ordered it, the third time I told them I was calling the police and they left, When My Sister passed on We called Comcast to tell them to disconnect it from Her apartment because She had died, they told Us they could not without a death certificate,DO NOT DEAL WITH COMCAST,Where were they when their customers needed them. They are voted worst customer service hands down every year! DO NOT DEAL WITH COMCAST ( you can not cancel it even if you die)
Nov 7, 2011 8:50PM
Waiting for any kind of service guy is nonsense' you have to take charge before you sign up for anything. They either come at the time I want them to or else. Its my way or Ill take my business elsewhere.
Nov 8, 2011 10:17AM
If we didn't have all these luxury gizmos and more and more adult toys and computer controlled products we wouldn't need to wait. We could fix it our selves. Repair and service people don't fix, they replace.
Nov 8, 2011 8:51AM
If this cost 38 billion then we could buy Mexico with the money lost waiting on doctors.
Nov 8, 2011 1:18PM

I agree with the comment about calling the customer on a cell phone before I arrive. We try to do that just for that reason. The customer can then stay at work or whatever until shortly before we arrive. What most people don't unerstand is the very nature of the repair business is frought with uncertaintys and variables tnat can't be accounted for by the person setting up the service call. in 35yrs of servicing I have never been able to do two jobs in exactly the same time. In other than the most routine repairs, things come up. A bolt may be rusted, the machine is stuck in a closet and has to be removed before I can even start the repair, the customer asks me to look at another appliance "as long as you are here, can you take a peek at my washer" , or the "BEST ONE" the customer thought he would help me by completely disaasembing the appliance and left the parts in a bowl and doesn't want to be charged any more that what they were quoted on the phone !  


 It's not to our advantage to take more time on a job than is needed. It's just something that happens and most of the time it is beyond our control and can't be planned. Some of our customers make the  mistake of comparing the repair business  to a barber  shop where they have an exact time and "They" go to the appointment at the office. It would be a totally different scenario if the barber had to fight traffic and do "house calls" 


If we are going to start looking into this kind of thing, how about looking into the time people waste at the DMV or any other goverment requirements.  Look at both sides before you complain.

Nov 8, 2011 12:56PM
I don't wait past the expected time for anyone, doctors included.  I just leave and not tell them, then when they call and say I missed the appointment, I say "no, you were not available at the specifed time"
Nov 8, 2011 10:20AM
It's simple really, just tell the person making the appointment with you when you're available.  Further, tell them that you'll be happy to switch to a different service if they cannot find the time to be there when they say they'll be there.  These are service organizations.  They'll get that if enough people switch.
Nov 8, 2011 9:58AM
What's next, a story about how much time in the world is wasted cause we lay in bed for 5 minutes before we get up?? We should jump up immediately and start working on something..  How bout all the money that is lost in the unproductive act of sitting in a chair and reading a paper??  We COULD be using earphones and a smart phone and be cutting the grass at the same time for goodness sake..  Oh, Oh, I know, lets do a study reporting on how much is wasted in the world every day cause cause we sit at the computer reading these stories?? ..or worse yet, writing them  LOL 
Nov 7, 2011 9:18PM
There's always option B- get a truck and move your own furniture. I went to a cell phone, instead of waiting for the phone company. Installed my own satellite instead of waiting for the cable company.   If you don't want to do it yourself, then wait.
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