In stressful times, customers crave simplicity.

2020 is challenging customer service leaders in ways few of us could ever have predicted.

Customer-demand fluctuations, fractures in supply chains, workforce disruption, and rapidly evolving government policies have stressed organizations all at once.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has caused customer anxiety levels to soar. Priorities have shifted and many have less money to spend. They are concerned about the future and increasingly want to engage digitally with organizations. This is true in both B2C and B2B scenarios.

Today’s customers aren’t looking for prolonged engagements. They want organizations to eliminate frustrations and make interactions quick, effortless, and effective.

This is more important than ever during the stressed-out state of our professional and personal lives. If customers have to expend what feels like unnecessary effort to receive support, they will ultimately spend less, leave earlier, and share negative word of mouth.

With customer spend constrained and budgets under prolonged pressure, businesses must renew their focus on operational efficiency. So how do you deliver effortless customer experiences while simultaneously reducing cost and boosting productivity?

The following three strategies will help organizations meet all three goals.

#1: Focus on solving problems, not adding channels

Research shows 84% of customers care more about the ultimate solution than about the channel on which they engage. Furthermore, customers tend to be less loyal when they are switched from one channel to another during a service interaction.

The emphasis needs to be on effortless experiences that solve problems. Orchestrate work so customers don’t have to engage with a service rep. This leads to faster problem resolution. So much the better if the resolution can be fully automated through non-human workflow.

However, don’t stop there. Find opportunities to drive proactive customer service and inform customers of an imminent problem (and a corresponding solution) before it even happens.

And where human involvement is desired, or perhaps preferred, arm your agents with the knowledge they need to resolve issues quickly, presenting them with rapid workflow pathways to get work done.

Many of us are very time poor in our daily lives. Although it’s nice to have multiple ways to connect to a company, we really crave faster resolution to issues via the most efficient medium.

What’s more, moving from channel to channel in the hunt for answers is incredibly frustrating. In a world where change is constant, it’s key to invest in technologies that help you adapt quickly.

#2: Respond rapidly

Low code and no code platforms let people build enterprise-grade apps with minimal programming effort, offering an alternative to the traditionally slow, costly, and inefficient development process.

This kind of agility is critical in times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies are crying out for applications that accelerate workflows and processes that help maintain business continuity, particularly as volumes of incoming customer requests increase.

Above all, organizations need digital workflow solutions that are simple, fast, and affordable to build, while still meeting enterprise standards for security and scalability.

#3: Make self-service pay off

A typical self-service interaction can be as much as 98% less expensive than a phone- or email-based interaction—meaning your organization can save money exponentially by moving more support requests to self-service.

Where this investment is made is important, as unfettered use of technology can erode customer care. If customers are anxious, stressed, or worried, it’s important to pair self-service offerings with a customer service team that can focus on high-touch interactions that require care and empathy.

The primary goal is to make the user experience effortless. This is especially true for self-service channels. Focus on a small number of key interactions in the user journey where user experience is won or lost.

Remember too that self-service isn’t something that can just run in the background. Prioritize its improvement and maintenance and make it a priority for your service teams. Putting in place measurable goals will put the spotlight on the impact of self-serve on the customer experience, ensuring it complements your wider customer engagement strategy.

Customer experience at the crossroads

Customer experience is more important than ever during the pandemic, when customer service teams are under extreme pressure while their organizations race to adapt business models and drive cost efficiencies.

Sectors such as hospitality and air travel are facing dramatic increases in customer support requests. Customers are chasing refunds, adding nothing to the bottom line, and squeezing operating margins like never before.

In contrast, many online retailers face unprecedented demand. This promises big revenue increases, but exposes customer experience models that are unable to cope.

Operating through a pandemic has highlighted the importance of bringing agility and business continuity to customer service. But it can also be a catalyst for positive change.

Let’s learn from 2020 and take the opportunity to bring together people, processes, and technology so that effortless experiences become the heart of customer service.

A version of this article originally appeared in Workflow, ServiceNow’s digital magazine for business leaders.