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What is a Customer Portal and Why Does It Matter?

As CX leaders explore ways to enhance customer satisfaction and control support costs, many are developing and deploying “customer portals.” This post will take you through the basics of a customer portal and why a portal can be a valuable tool in helping businesses deliver the best possible customer experiences and solutions. 

“Self-Service Central”

Today’s customer expects to be able to address their support and sales needs quickly and easily. Any friction in the customer support process can create user frustration, drive expensive live agent support calls, and even contribute to higher customer churn.  

A customer portal centralizes all of the self-service support capabilities a company offers in a single location, like a page on a website. When a customer has an issue they want to resolve, they navigate to the portal and select from the many options available. 

The content available on a customer portal varies by company because different businesses have developed different kinds of support content, experiences, and applications. On navigating to a customer portal, the user might find any or all of the following:

Digital Self-Service Applications

Many companies recognize that one of the easiest ways to improve the self-service experience for customers is to create simple digital applications focused on a single task. These experiences are often referred to as “micro-apps.” Each micro-app is designed to perform a single task with the minimum required customer inputs and steps. Examples include micro-apps to check account balance, make a payment, provide a change of address, or dispute a charge. 

Knowledge Bases

Companies that have developed an array of “how to” articles and videos often offer a searchable database of this content on a customer portal. If the content collection is easily searched, it can give your customers the in-depth information they want without reaching out to your contact center.  The more technologically adept your customers are, the more likely they will use a Knowledge Base.

Chatbots

Chatbots are another increasingly popular technology for customer service. Through AI and natural language processing, well-designed chatbots can enable customers to ask questions and get answers quickly. Including a chatbot on a customer portal can encourage customers to try for an automated resolution rather than reaching out to a live person via phone or chat. 

Live Chat

While not strictly a self-service application, live chat access helps a company address customer questions and challenges more cost-effectively than live telephone support. The challenge with including it in a customer portal is that customers may default to live support to solve their issues rather than turning immediately to an agent for assistance.  To help mitigate this risk, the live chat option is made less prominent — or is made available at the end of self-service experiences when customers have first tried to solve their own issues. 

Your customer portal needs to offer a positive customer experience across any common connected device, like a PC, tablet, or smartphone. Many companies build portals tailored to PC use occasions. This is short-sighted. 59% of connected consumer time takes place on smartphones, so ensuring that the portal experience is appealing on the small screen is critical. 

Why are Customer Portals Important?

Portals are a powerful way to achieve both experiential and financial goals. Self-service is the keystone to maximizing customer satisfaction. Most customers prefer to solve their own issues whenever they can – if the self-service experiences are straightforward and efficient. By centralizing all self-service support capabilities in a single location, companies can prevent customers from having to locate solutions that might otherwise be scattered across many locations.

Increasing self-service adoption also lowers overall company support costs and reduces stresses and demands on your contact center organization. Most call centers saw a significant spike in usage at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic and continue to struggle with call volumes, staff recruiting, and agent retention. A customer portal can address all those issues by helping increase self-service adoption. 

Creating a customer portal is a tangible expression of your commitment to delivering an outstanding experience for all of your customers. It shows that you care about their needs and time, and every positive experience they have on your portal creates stronger brand bonds.

Further, a custom portal offers a way for you to provide inexpensive 24/7 customer support. Customers have been conditioned to expect “always on” access to support and digital experiences. 

Customer Portals and Omnichannel Self-Service Strategy

Customer portals can be a valuable component of a comprehensive digital self-service distribution and adoption plan. By effectively communicating the availability and benefits of a portal, you can drive some consumer adoption. 

That said, not all customers will choose to access a customer portal. Customer expectations about service have risen dramatically in recent years. Many of your customers will want to be able to access self-service solutions in whatever channel or touchpoint they choose, rather than having to visit a portal. That’s why the most progressive customer experience teams deploy portals as just one component of a comprehensive strategy to maximize access and adoption of self-service. The portal serves customers who find it easy and convenient to use, while other access points help maximize the number of people who choose digital self-service. 

One of the reasons why digital self-service “micro-apps” have become so popular is that they can be deployed in any channel or touchpoint – on a portal, company website, mobile app, IVR, chatbot, and live chat environments. That makes them a great way to serve customers uninterested in visiting a portal. 

Learn More Digital Self-Service and Customer Portals

FICX offers a variety of content to help CX leaders define and deliver the best customer experiences. Visit our website to learn more about portals and our solutions. You can also request a FICX demo, or explore any other articles we offer on customer portals, which are indexed below. 

Get the FICX Digital Self-Service Development Playbook

Building digital self-service experiences should be easy. It can be. This helpful playbook explains how you can create, integrate, and deliver powerful digital self-service experiences 10X faster than with traditional/custom CX development. Get your copy now.

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