customer calling customer serviceWhat would you rather do: call your airline customer service or go to the dentist? I don’t know which option I find less painful, but at least you feel good after going to the dentist –which is not the case with airline customer service.

Recently, I had no choice but call the airline I was going to use. The experience was just as bad as I expected. The countless voice menus and all the recordings I had to listen while waiting made it very clear to me that they don’t want me to call them. Over and over again, the recording told me I should visit their website –which I had already done! Did they really think I call them just for the fun of it?

Self-service and agent-assisted service should go hand in hand

Airlines have done a great job designing online tools, mobile apps and automated services to allow customers take care of most routine tasks themselves. It is very convenient and customers love it. However, self-service is not the cure for all illnesses. There will always be situations where customers need help and companies need to be prepared for it. Customers should be able to change from unassisted to assisted service without having the feeling that they are a burden to the company.

Web chat is a great example on how to provide customers an easy access to personal service. Companies should not ignore the importance of traditional contact channels either. Whether the customer contacts you through chat, phone or email, the same rule applies: you need to find the right experts from your company to help the customer –and you need to do it quickly, as customers hate to wait.

Be there for your customers, and they will be there for you

Customers expect convenient, relevant, timely and consistent answers to their questions. They will not stay long on your website, if they don’t find what they are looking for. If you don’t want to send them to the competitors, make sure you are there for them when they need help. This video shows a good example of making a customer happy by providing an easy access to the right experts when the customer needs it.

Customer satisfaction builds up during the entire customer journey

“Thank you for flying with our airline. We hope you had a pleasant flight with us.” As a matter of fact, I didn’t. My flight experience started a long before I even entered the airport. And if you make me feel unwanted when I need your help on the phone, even the widest smiles of the stewardesses won’t make me feel welcome. If I call you, I need you, so please, pick up the phone and help me.

This blog originally appeared in The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce and is republished with permission.