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(Soundbite of phone recording)

Unidentified Man: Your call is very important to us. Please hold.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Yeah, right. But for how long? We've all probably spent time on hold while waiting for customer service. Some of us just sit there and get a little stressed out. But others actually do something productive while they wait. That's what a new survey commissioned by Jacada, a company that sells customer service software, found.

Steve Herlocher is senior vice president for Jacada in Atlanta, and he's on the line with us. Welcome to the program.

Mr. STEVE HERLOCHER (Senior Vice President, Jacada): Thank you for having me today.

HANSEN: I hope we didn't keep you on hold too long.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERLOCHER: No, you did not. It was excellent. Thank you. A good experience.

HANSEN: The survey asked about, what, 1,000 customers what they do when they're stuck on hold? What do they do?

Mr. HERLOCHER: Clearly time is precious and people have learned to multitask these days. So, some people will go and make a meal while they've waiting to get their question answered. Others will go and watch an entire TV show while they're waiting. So, people clearly will go off and take care of their lives and move on with things while they put the customer service department on a speaker phone and move about and do their lives.

HANSEN: You know, a lot of companies are trying to deflect people from call centers to the Internet when they need help. How do customers respond to that?

Mr. HERLOCHER: They don't respond well, or it really depends on what you're going to the Internet for. If it's a simple question, then sometimes it's easier to answer it there. But as soon as there is a relationship or a complex product involved, people absolutely want to talk to a live person. Two-thirds of the people we talked to really listed themselves as frustrated or annoyed because they were pushed to a Web site and they really didn't get an answer that was sufficient.

HANSEN: The survey also found that there's been an increase in the number of people who say they need to call customer service. Any idea why that is?

Mr. HERLOCHER: Primarily we believe it's the economy, and that's really two reasons. People's expectations are getting much higher. The bar is being raised. If I'm going to spend a dollar with a company and I have fewer dollars to spend, I'm going to expect more, and they'll call more often because of that. But then, also, companies are spending less, and so they are pushing people more to self-service Web sites. They are making people wait longer on hold and that's rising frustrations.

HANSEN: Did the survey find anything about people who just don't bother to contact customer service because of the hassle?

Mr. HERLOCHER: Over 40 percent of people say they've postponed dealing with it because it's such a hassle. And some of those, even up to 20 percent, said they just would never call if the problem wasn't critical enough, because it was such a hassle.

HANSEN: What do you do when you get stuck on hold?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERLOCHER: What do I do? Depends on the time, of course, but I've had situations where I've even had to put it on speakerphone in the background and have a meeting in my office.

HANSEN: Steve Herlocher is the senior vice president of product delivery for Jacada, a company that sells customer service software to call centers. And he joined us from Atlanta. Thank you.

Mr. HERLOCHER: You're welcome.

HANSEN: Tell us your stories about how you pass the time while stuck on hold. Just go to our blog npr.org/soapbox.

Mr. Herlocher?

Mr. HERLOCHER: Yes.

HANSEN: Can I put you on hold for just a minute?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HERLOCHER: Yes, please. I would enjoy that.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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