In a fast-paced, connected world, how can companies keep their clients engaged and satisfied? Even if your business model is selling fungible, disposable widgets, customers look for two-way conversations about their experiences. This is even more true for companies that provide professional services. Clients need to know you’ll provide support when needed, yet live support can cause its own problems when resources are stretched thin. Creating a client portal creates a win-win situation for you and your clients.
What is a client portal?
According to Entrepreneur:
It’s an entry point in the provider’s website where clients can log into an area where they can view, download, and upload private information — securely.
How can a portal help my clients?
Most customers prefer DIY. Creating a client portal helps them help themselves.
For at least the last several years, most consumers prefer self service over phone support. Amdocs reported survey results confirming this as early as 2012. Here’s an excerpt from their findings:
75 percent of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online support if it were reliable, but only 37 percent currently even try to use self-service options, which are often perceived as inaccurate or incomplete. An overwhelming 91 percent say they would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.
This preference has only grown since 2012. For example, Forrester reported in 2017 that customers continue to move away from using the phone in favor of using self-service when they first interact with a company.
Using a client portal allows access any time, anywhere.
How frustrating is it to be tied to a narrow set of business hours just to ask a question? Especially with software and professional services, issues may arise outside the usual 9-to-5 window. Providers and clients may be in different time zones, compounding the problem. As we all know in our everyday life and recreation, moving online frees us from those constraints. Ease of access and quick resolutions drive client satisfaction up.
How can creating a client portal help my company?
You can think of a client portal as your company’s 24/7 assistant, taking on repetitive support chores like answering common questions. Like a personal assistant, it frees your
team for higher-level tasks.
If you think this is too steep a hill to climb, step back and think about your current website. Shift your perspective to see your site through your customer’s eyes.
Does your site include a FAQ section? If so, great! You’re already giving clients online access to some of your knowledge base. In other words, your FAQ section is a rudimentary, publicly accessible client portal. You have already taken that crucial first step.
Why should you continue down the path of creating a client portal?
Creating a client portal saves time.
If clients can interact with their basic information online, your team can spend less time chasing down details and responding to phone calls and emails. Clients quickly answer their own questions about routine matters. They don’t have to wait while your team is in a meeting or their main contact person has the flu.
For weightier issues, a client portal becomes a two-way communication and file sharing medium. New feature requests, bug reports, and unusual support questions are all posted in the portal for both teams to see. You can post responses, update your progress, and notify clients of status changes withou cluttering up their inboxes.
Saving time saves money.
Saving money is a natural result of saving your team’s time. Still, it’s worth mentioning on its own. Growing a customer base means growing your support demands, so it’s important to make support as efficient as possible.
You can gain insight into your clients’ usage patterns and needs.
You can track the traffic in your client portal to gain a better understanding of what your clients want. Which content sees the most traffic? How often do clients search within your content and come up empty? How many clients ultimately reach out to you directly after spending time on the portal? Questions like this can drive improvements that increase client satisfaction over time.
Client data is centralized and secure.
People don’t often think about the risks of sending sensitive business or financial information via email. With a secured client portal, your team and your clients can collaborate more securely. Files and images are contained within the secure environment, which is a big improvement over managing email attachments.
When team members work on responding to clients, they have access to all the information they need in one place. This prevents duplication of data, with all of its inherent risks. It also helps your team work more efficiently and effectively because they don’t have to go hunting for missing pieces of information.
Do I have to maintain my own servers if I want a client portal?
Short answer: No.
There are many options available, from fully custom solutions on Microsoft Azure to hosted, template-based communities. Zendesk, Salesforce Community Cloud, and Quickbase are just a few possibilities for automating service and support.
Client support is one of the hardest things for growing companies to manage because it grows at the same pace as their client base. Client portals relieve this pressure and provide extra value to both companies and their clients.
To learn more about creating a client portal, click here.