Customer expectations have changed. Businesses are being challenged to throw out any preconceived notions of customer service, because the bar’s been raised, and loyalty is on the line. Customer experience has become the new battleground for true business differentiation.

The convergence of mobile and social technologies has driven a shift in the way customers want to be treated by businesses. They're expecting an experience where the brand recognises them as an individual, respects their privacy, and engages with them in a seamless and simple way. They expect service that’s personalised, based on who they are, and in the context of where they're at in their customer journey.

While technology has played a starring role in creating this new dynamic, it’s also going to play an equally important role in enabling businesses to take on the challenge of changing customer expectations. A challenge that sits with customer service – 80% of executives (with service oversight) see service teams as the primary vehicle to proactively disrupt the customer experience in a positive, relationship-building way.

Here are four ways to surprise and delight your customers:

1. Treat your customers as individuals


Great customer experiences are fundamentally about creating a human connection, and you can’t do this unless you’re connecting with an individual in a personal way. High-performing service teams are turning to personalisation to positively disrupt their customers’ expectations. They’re putting a focus on understanding a customer’s full service history, creating deeper relationships and personalising service interactions.

Consequently, customers are now more inclined to expect this level of individual service across the board. More than half (52%) of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalise, while 69% of B2C customers, and 82% of B2B customers, say personalised care influences their loyalty.

2. Let your customers choose their preferred channel


In today’s connected world, customers expect to be able to communicate with a brand via their channel of choice – this could be phone, in-store, email or social media. It’s becoming imperative that brands cater to individual channel preferences, then remember these preferences for future, and provide a service that’s consistent across all channels.

You can exceed your customers’ expectations by giving them an opportunity to interact with you on their terms. A great example of this is using Facebook as a service channel. The customer then doesn’t need to leave the app they’re in to engage your business in a conversation, have a service query addressed, or make a purchase.

Of late, there’s also been a trend towards SMS. Yes, SMS has been around for a long time, but it’s largely been used as a one-way mode of communication. Organisations and customers are now beginning to appreciate SMS as an enabler of two-way dialogue. Plus, it’s a great, simple option for customers.

3. Know your customers better than they do


Forward-thinking businesses are shifting their customer engagement strategies from reactive to proactive. They’re doubling down on the use of smart technologies, such as artificial intelligence and predictive intelligence, to anticipate customers’ needs and wants.

Instead of waiting for the customer to communicate a service issue or maintenance need, savvy businesses are diagnosing and predicting issues ahead of time by tracking consumer behaviour across a range of different devices and channels. They can then proactively reach out to customers who have the same product, or who they know will likely experience the same issue.

Knowing what the customer needs and/or wants before they do is an immensely powerful offering. It demonstrates that you know the customer as an individual and that you care about them, all while nurturing loyalty.

4. Constantly disrupt customer expectations


Customer expectations are ever-changing and evolving. So, if you really want to stand out and lead on customer experience, you need to be constantly innovating, challenging the status quo and looking for new ways to surprise and delight your customers.

Discover how high-performing customer service teams around the world are tackling heightened customer expectations. Download the State of Service report.