Remember when customers stayed with their service providers no matter what? When satisfaction was not relevant, and customers were locked into contracts or had only a handful of providers to choose from?

Those days are long gone. Today, loyalty is not assumed, and customer satisfaction is one of the most critical components of successful customer retention.

Luckily, organizations across industries are getting the message loud and clear. The most successful are upping their customer-satisfaction game through artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and smart analytics to provide a much more individualized — and proactive — customer experience.

If you’re a service provider looking to enhance customer loyalty, where do you start? The first customer interaction — the first point of contact — is the most critical. That’s where customer loyalty is earned. If the first contact is frustrating, this is where customers will turn away. The more personalized that first point of contact, demonstrated by seamless execution, the more loyalty and confidence you’ll build.

Recent trends show that cable/telco customers consider their WiFi connections critically important.  It’s no surprise then that a customer calls in the minute there’s a cable or internet outage.

Imagine if, instead of the customer calling in, the service provider proactively contacted the customer about the outage with an estimated repair time frame: We know it’s down, and we’re fixing it. Imagine if that service provider went a step further by actively monitoring customer connections and using AI technology to have the system automatically find and fix issues before they result in an outage.

What about saving money? Cable/telco service providers could further enhance loyalty by helping the customer find savings while ensuring there is no performance degradation, based on historical data-usage analytics. Let’s say a customer is paying for 5GB of data but only uses 2GB on average per month. The provider has the opportunity to reach out proactively and let the customer know he or she is paying too much, then help that customer choose a more cost-effective plan.

Or, as the customer gets close to the set data-usage limit, the service provider can proactively and digitally (using SMS, email, etc.) reach out via a virtual assistant to bump up the customer’s limit for that month — with customer approval — at no extra charge, albeit at a lower performance threshold.

Similar scenarios extend to the healthcare industry.

Say a patient is not feeling well and reaches out to a doctor. There are several ways the patient can make that first contact. If the patient prefers an online experience, forget the standard username-and-password scenario; imagine instead biometrics-based identification. If the patient allows this, a virtual assistant bot can automatically access the patient’s past health information, and the session can be much more patient-specific.

Perhaps an elderly patient has an elevated resting heart rate, hasn’t been sleeping well, or performed more rigorous exercise than usual the day before the contact. Having insight into these factors through an IoT smartwatch, for example, provides far more context than would otherwise be available — and can even be a lifesaver in some instances. Imagine the telcos working closely with healthcare providers; through IoT or via new 5G subscriber identity module (SIM) attributes, they would know where the closest ambulance or doctor is located, enabling quick responses to a critical situation. Public safety is top of mind across industries, and all of the new, innovative technology could come together to deliver positive and desired outcomes.

In fact, the smarter the technology gets, the faster the potential response time to vulnerable healthcare cases. Even with something as routine as daily medication intake, an alert from a smart medication tracker can now have even deeper context if it’s based on the patient’s lifestyle.

Perhaps the patient prefers a phone call from a caregiver. If doctor and patient are talking one-on-one, the provider can record the conversation and provide the patient with a voice-to-text transcript — through natural language processing technology — to ensure that the patient was able to understand and remember everything the doctor said. At the same time, the transcript can be used to automatically update the patient’s electronic health record (EHR).

Healthcare and cable/telco providers are just two examples of industries that are seeing dramatic benefits from enhancing the customer experience. And we barely touched on how real-time analytics with real-time contextual communications on any channel (voice and digital) can go well beyond transforming experiences to actually saving lives. Hospitality, sports and entertainment, airlines, FinTech, education, retail and many others can all take advantage of new technology innovations to transform customer, citizen or employee experiences.

It’s all about providing a next-generation experience. This is where all industries’ business transformation needs to go.