May 20 • 3 min read
Invest in a customer portal your customers actually want
5 Features you won’t want to skip.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but if you don’t already have a customer portal, you could be disappointing 70 percent of your audience. According to Saleforce, that’s how many people expect to have some type of self-serve support portal when they do business with a brand. As the notoriously tech-savvy and brand-disloyal Millennials continue to climb the ranks in the workplace and gulp down bigger pieces of the decision-making pie, providing easy, digital-first experiences is becomingly increasingly important in the B2B world. The majority of companies are already differentiating primarily on experience. And that number is only going to rise.
But, for the love of Pete, before you rush off in a panic to get a customer portal tacked onto your website, take a minute to decide exactly what you – and your customers – need. There is little point in investing in technology your customers won’t want to use.
What’s in it for me?
Theoretically, that's the worst question you can ask when you’re thinking of implementing a customer portal. Like we said, your portal should be rooted in the genuine desire to make your customers’ lives easier by empowering them to access the information they need to do business with you confidently, securely and conveniently. But … it’s human nature, not to mention good business sense, to ask what’s in it for you. Here are a just few ways that customer portals can help your company (in addition to that whole happy customer thing):
Fewer overall customer support tickets/less cost
Better use of customer service personnel
Faster invoicing/streamlined communication
Less reporting time
Quick and paperless document sharing
Increased website traffic
What makes a really good customer portal?
From accessing account and billing information to scheduling appointments to viewing data reports, customer portals can guide your customers through a wide variety of actions. Make a payment? Yes, please! View test data and recommendations? Sure thing. Download gated assets? Yeppers. Your portal’s design and functionality really depend on what industry you’re in, what your customers need to do and what their level of comfort is with technology. However, there are some basics to consider:
1. Simple, quick-hitting UI and UX
Here’s the bottom line: no one will use your customer portal if it’s faster and easier to get answers another way. If there are too many login steps, if your portal is hard to navigate, if the experience isn’t logical and intuitive, and if it just looks clunky and dated, customers will give up and either call your support team or just walk away feeling frustrated with your brand. Investing in high-quality user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design is money well spent.
2. Ability to customize
The best customer portals are not one size fits all. Even in a self-serve environment, people want to feel valued. How can you personalize the portal experience? Can you add customer logos and first name greetings? Can customers configure how they view information? Can AI be employed to learn your customers’ behaviors? If your portal reports data, can customers set their own limits and define parameters?
3. Permission-based settings
In most B2B companies, employees’ roles are not one size fits all either. Managers need a different level of insight than associates, for example. Certain information may be confidential. If your portal will give access to a range of job functions, consider giving your customer the ability to restrict access when needed.
4. File storage and knowledge transfer
For B2B customers, one of the biggest perks of a portal is having a central repository that many employees can access for shared information. Do you know what makes this even more valuable? The ability to upload photos, store comments, create and export reports, and other forms of internal communication for their team members.
5. Killer support team
This may sound counterintuitive (the portal is supposed to minimize the need for people, right?), but make sure you have a clear and visible pathway to real people right within your customer portal. This could be as simple as a “Talk to an agent” button, a chat box or even just a clickable phone number. Even though today’s customer craves self-serve independence, they also want the security of knowing you and your helpful, collaborative team are still only a click away.
Interested in learning more about how a customer portal can help you and your customers? Drop us a line. It’s one of our favorite topics to wax poetic on.