In the 90s, when the internet was just getting started, portals were the best way to organize information in one place. But back then, most providers didn’t have the data necessary to personalize that information, and deliver it to the right person at the right time.
Two decades later, portals have made a massive comeback, thanks to the desire of users to self-serve for their needs, and to the ability of organizations to provide the personalization those users want. Customers now expect that they can come to your online business anytime, anywhere, without talking to an agent. This same desire holds true for partners and employees.
The new customer service is self-service.
In the digital age, the best customer service is often self-service. Take me, for example. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m more likely to buy a pizza from a restaurant that lets me order online than from a restaurant where I have to call in my order. It’s not just because I’m awkward on the phone (although that’s true). It’s also because I can quickly and easily customize my order, and even change my mind without causing any hiccups.
When I use a customer portal for pizza delivery, I’m not spending extra time explaining that on one side I want olives (not green olives, black olives) and on the other side I want pepperoni. Wait, actually, change the pepperoni side to plain cheese. I’m not alone, online self-service in the food industry alone makes both customers and companies happier.
Hungry yet? No worries. I’ll stop talking about pizza now, because customer portals have major value beyond satisfying my snack cravings. Virtually any industry can use a customer portal to keep customers satisfied without ever picking up the phone, from financial services, to healthcare, to high tech and beyond.
With a customer portal, you can make it possible for your clients to log in, access their account information, research the answers to their unique questions, pay bills, set appointments, and more, all within one frictionless experience.
Hide complexity from your customers with seamless integration of third-party apps and multiple systems on the back end.The result? You get happier, more loyal customers. Your agents spend less time dealing with FAQs and more time solving complex problems. You create a reputation for excellent service and build trust in your brand. It’s a win-win.
Dynamic portals improve employee engagement and productivity.
What does the unicorn employee look like? If I had to guess, I’d say that your best employees are highly trained, highly engaged, and highly productive.Part of what makes a great employee comes down to who you hire, do they have relevant skills and experience? Do they have a solid work ethic? Do they believe what you believe?
Growth-minded organizations know, however, that hiring the right person is only the first step in making an employee successful. Employees need to know what’s expected of them, where to find information that helps them do their job, how to best collaborate with other individuals and teams, and where to access important corporate communication. And that’s exactly what the best portal software is designed to help them do.
The more easily employees can find what they need, the more productive they’ll be (and probably happier, too). Additionally, as we learn more each day how a strong company culture can increase a business’s chance of success, it’s more important than ever for companies to build and maintain trust and communication between employees near and far.
At the same time, more employees work remotely and connection becomes a struggle. Use your employee portal to encourage two-way communication, transparency, and engagement.
Portals make partnerships more effective.
Your business partners need access to a lot of information to make your partnership successful. Sure, they could surf your website for marketing assets like your logo or case studies. Or they could send your internal teams a lot of one-off emails asking for updates on accounts and opportunities. Or they could give you a call each time they can’t find valuable documentation. Or, they could just log in to a self-serve portal and get all their questions answered there.
By providing a centralized place for your partners to go, you can spend your time helping each other grow your organizations, instead of rerouting miscommunications. In this example partner portal, partners get access to: a homepage with announcements, upcoming opportunities, KPIs, revenue, cases, and tasks; an Accounts page for an overview, account detail, etc; actionable commissions visualizations; and pages for requesting information from the parent company.
Get tips to build your perfect portal.
Now that you know why a portal works for employees, customers, and partners, make your portals laser-effective with a few simple but powerful tips.
1. Conduct user research.
User experience always matters in any application, and especially when it comes to portals. To fulfill its express purpose, a portal needs to make it easier for the right person to find the right information at the right time.
Before you purchase, build, or customize your portal application, do your user research. Ask and answer questions like:
- What will people visit this portal to find?
- How will needs differ by user persona (think: managers versus reports, type of business partner, size of client, etc.)?
- What FAQs do users encounter? What’s the best way to help them answer these questions?
For each question and answer, potential solutions exist. For users who need to access content sourced from third-party vendors, you can create a single sign-on so that they’re not jumping between a lot of tabs and apps to find what they need. If you have lots of different people with different needs who will have access to the portal, consider including identity management features to tailor content by status or persona.
Don’t let the user research stop after the initial release of your portal, the real work starts when the app enters the hands of the users. Continue to monitor user behavior and adoption to measure the effectiveness of the portal and identify areas for optimization. Offer a frictionless way for users to provide feedback that you can use to keep customizing the portal.
2. Simplify management behind the scenes.
When choosing, building, or customizing your portal software, think about who will be responsible for maintaining and updating the content. How often will content change? For an employee portal with employee information and health benefits, HR will probably need to provide content like job title changes, health benefit updates, and amendments to the employee handbook.
Partner portals, meanwhile, are likely managed by your partner or sales team, while the management of a customer portal may vary depending on the service and information offered.
Instead of piling all of the responsibility for these portals into IT’s lap, look for a dynamic solution that people without expert-level tech skills can handle. By making it easier for business users to manage your portal on the back end, you can save time and resources and prevent miscommunications all around.
3. Make content easy to find.
How quickly can your portal users find the information they’re looking for in your app, without a wealth of knowledge about how the app works? Simplify the journey for your users by personalizing content and organizing it in a way that’s intuitive and easy to navigate.
Avoid creating “link farms”, pages of links to internal or external sites that require bookmarks and memorization just to remember how to find them.
Don’t overload your portal with content, figure out what content people will really need to access to be successful. Top off your excellent information architecture by investing in a high-quality search function within your portal. For many users, the search bar is the go-to for finding the information they need quickly.
4. Optimize for mobile.
With partners and clients more mobile than ever and remote workforces increasing, your portal should be easily accessible on the go. You have to make a good first impression fast, as nearly 1 in 4 people abandon mobile apps after only one use. When designing your portal for mobile, keep in mind that the most effective mobile apps are more than just responsive screens. When using a mobile app, users want to get in, do what they need, then get out quickly.
Think about how people will want to interact with your portal when they’re viewing it on a small screen, while they’re riding public transport or juggling five projects at once. Optimize the user flow based on the users’ goals, and cut out clutter that distracts them from achieving what they’ve set out to do.
Whether you’re looking to drive engagement with customers, partners, employees, or all three, you can achieve it through a well-designed portal. Ready to create your own custom portals? With Skuid’s latest release, Skuid Spark, you can create the portals you imagine up to 90% faster than traditional methods. Learn more here.