By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com staff writer
NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- 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. Doesn't it just make you want to set that little Post-It note on fire in the front yard for when the guy comes back? CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? It costs a whopping $37.7 billion a year for the time customers spent waiting on 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. 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.
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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 ( VMED), Cox Communications and Cincinnati Bell ( CBB). The software is reminiscent of the Domino's ( DPZ) 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 ( FDX) or UPS ( 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 ( AMZN) 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! -- Written by Cindy Perman, CNBC.com staff writer