Engaging with customer support with many companies leaves much to be desired. Sometimes the frustration comes from calling and waiting on hold for seven minutes. In other instances, it's having to repeat your information three different times before getting transferred to the right department. And there's my personal pet peeve of receiving an autoresponder email that says "we'll respond within 24 hours" when you have a pressing issue that needs to be addressed, and the company doesn't offer support via phone or live chat.

Engaging with support doesn't have to be a source of frustration for your customers. With a clear vision of the type of experience you want to deliver, along with the tools to enable it, customer support can be a source of competitive advantage for you.

And it all starts with treating customers who engage with you, much like you do with friends. Here's how.

1. Use the data you have.

A major benefit of interacting with your friends is the familiarity they have with you and the details that concern you. They know your backstory, which allows you to jump in immediately to address a challenge you're having.

Most companies you interact with have a ton of data about you. Thus they should know your backstory, as it relates to how they've interacted with you in the past. But far too many companies don't use that data or don't make it accessible to the people who need it most. 

Yesterday an international flight I was supposed to take got canceled. The airline rebooked me with the same itinerary for the following day. When I asked the customer service agent at the airport to confirm I still had a gluten-free meal reserved on the new flight, she apologized and said she couldn't see that information. She advised I would have to call a different customer service line to find out. 

You can enhance the experience your customer support team delivers, by utilizing systems that enable you to engage with your customers the way you would with friends. Use the data you have, make it accessible to the relevant parties, so that no matter who your customer is engaging with, they have the relevant information readily accessible to serve your customers seamlessly.

2. Provide omnichannel support.

The way we communicate today is quite different from the way we interacted ten years ago. It used to be that calling someone on the phone was a standard way to have a conversation. These days, people are much more likely to chat.

Bradley Birnbaum is the founder and CEO of Kustomer, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform for customer experience, service, and support. He explained to me that not only should you give your customers options for how to reach out to you, but that support needs to be omnichannel, rather than existing in a vacuum.

Our definition of omnichannel, is a single threaded discussion about a topic where you can communicate with your customers in any channel that they want to communicate with you on. If I've a got problem with my air pods, and I want to have a phone call about it and later I follow up with an email, and then I happen to text about it, [a company] can bring all that into a single conversation where you can context switch between those channels.

As you think about providing a pleasurable experience with your customer support, ensure you build systems that allow your customers to contact you in the manner they most prefer.

3. Use software for sentiment detection to proactively turn customer frowns upside down.

Whenever you interact with your friends, you can tell pretty quickly when they are excited, upset, or frustrated about something. With modern customer support tools, you're able to discern that same information even with purely digital communications. Birnbaum explained how they do this at Kustomer:

We're doing sentiment analysis on all forms of communications between the company and the customers...We're accessing the sentiment and constantly updating its score over time...Understanding how the customer feels about the company is very important and very useful. 

Based upon those signals, you're able to adjust your communication accordingly to have a positive interaction. Bauman continued:

I don't want to be an ID or a number. If you and I were in a room together looking at each other, you would be able to know, Brad's not really happy right now. Why? You would want to dig in and say, "Brad, you don't look happy. "What can I do to fix the problem?" 

Customer support is an important piece of the overall experience you deliver to your customers. Take the time to build a vision and adopt the tools and systems that help you treat your customers as well as you do your best friends.