In an increasingly competitive marketplace, customer experience has become the ultimate differentiator. It’s the defining line between companies that are struggling and those that are thriving. And customer service plays a starring role in an organisation’s quest to win on customer experience. In particular, these four ingredients of good customer service are proving key.

1. Empowered, engaged customer service agents

As the frontline staff when issues go wrong, service reps play an integral role in a customer’s overall impression of a brand, with the power to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Yet, it’s unlikely that unsympathetic or disempowered service agents are going to be able to achieve this. The last thing a frustrated customer wants to deal with is a service agent with an unhappy tone of voice on the phone, a curt email, an unkind social media response, or bad body language during an in-person encounter.

According to the latest State of Service report, 31% of service agents aren’t empowered to go off script, even if it means creating a better customer experience. Yet, top service teams are not only empowered with autonomy, but also the right technology, tools, and training. In fact, 90% of high-performing teams say they have the right amount of training to do their job better, while only 48% of underperformers say the same.

Happy, empowered and engaged service agents are important weaponry in the fight for providing superior customer experience.

2. A shared, single view of the customer

Fast, easy, and consistent issue resolution has become a linchpin of great customer service, with 64% of consumers, and 80% of B2B buyers, expecting companies to react to them in real time. If a customer reaches out with an issue, they don’t want to hear how complex the organisation is, be passed around to different departments repeating the same information over again, or be kept waiting for an unreasonable amount of time.

High-performing customer service teams are 2.9x more likely than underperformers to excel at promptly solving customer needs on the first touch. But, having a single view of the customer is critical to being able to achieve this. More than two-thirds (79%) of service teams agree that a shared, single view of the customer empowers agents to provide consistency, and continuity in every customer interaction.

3. An effort to personalise service

Like anyone else, customers want to feel like they’re not just one in a long lineup of people waiting to be heard. And this demand to be respected as an individual has become even greater. They want to be recognised, and have service tailored to them, without having to offer a lot of detailed instructions.

This is why the best service teams are also using data to personalise the service interaction – with 89% of high-performers rating their personalisation as excellent, compared to 37% of underperformers. This attention to personalisation pays off, with 69% of consumers, and 82% of B2B buyers, saying that personalised customer care influences their loyalty.

4. Provide proactive customer service

The best customer service teams are like a collective brain that continues to get smarter with each passing call, email, or social media post. Technology, like Salesforce Einstein, takes this mass learning to a new level by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI).

Think about all the actions a customer might take as they discover, purchase, and use your products. Customer experience mapping allows you to understand at a granular level what their journeys look like. Add AI into the mix, and you can not only see where they’ve gone in the past, but predict where they’ll go in the future. In other words, if they buy certain products, or use them in certain ways, there may be patterns in service requests or troubleshooting issues that tend to come up.

Service teams that are getting ahead of those issues, and proactively reaching out to customers before they call, are setting the bar on what great customer service looks like, and creating an unforgettable customer experience in the process.

Delivering a killer customer experience is no longer something that only big businesses can pull off. With the right technology, tactics, and talent, it’s an area where companies of all sizes can excel, and customers have well and truly caught on. They now expect organisations, across the board, to impress on customer experience.

Download the State of Service report today to find out what else businesses can do to stay ahead of changing customer expectations.