10 reasons to use a customer portal
This page describes 10 reasons to use a customer portal and starts by explaining and defining what a customer portal is. Read the article here on the page or download the text as a PDF by filling in the form below.
What is a customer portal?
A short definition of customer portal is a website where supplier and customer interact and exchange information with each other. It helps to strengthen the customer relationship and provides a transparent, secure and unambiguous surface for information exchange.
"Information exchange" is a large and wide area. The information can occur in many different formats, such as text, sound and images. Furthermore, an information format, such as text, can be exchanged and communicated in different ways.
The same text (information) can be the content of a Word file, a web form, or an email to name a few examples. You could say that there are different information paradigms that customer portal providers apply in different ways depending on the purpose and goals of the solution.
The reasons listed here for why there are good reasons to use a customer portal should be understood from a file-centric information paradigm, that is, where information is mainly created, stored and exchanged via files.
The reasons for using a customer portal covered here are:
- Your customers benefit greatly from a customer portal
- Increased security
- A strong need of the customer - 7 common application areas
- Enables structure and order
- Provides continuity over time
- Provides reduced administration
- Enables increased quality
- There is value in older versions
- Large file management
- Maintain contact routes
1. Your customers benefit greatly from a customer portal
Most companies want to be there for their customers and that customers to experience benefits and values with the company's services and products. If they don't, it's only a matter of time until they're not customers anymore..
It may sound like a cocky claim that customers benefit greatly from a customer portal. How can such a thing be claimed? One way to implicitly interpret utility is to look at what customers actually expect. "In fact, surveys have shown that 70% of customers expect self-service applications on a company's website," states SupportBee.
OIf it is the case that our customers expect some type of customer portal, then it is not a bold conclusion that it is because they have learned that they benefit from and appreciate that type of support function of a supplier. But if we scratch the surface, where does the benefit persist at a higher more conceptual level?
The benefit can be described by:
The customer is today used to a high availability of information. The expectation is that it is possible to reach or provide information around the clock 24/7 at a time that suits the customer. The customer also expects to be able to do this from any location where there is a network connection.
The knowledge that even if the computer breaks down or is stolen, my important documents remain in the customer portal, builds security and reducrd anxiety. The same applies to physical documents such as important agreements. A burglary or fire does not have to mean that important information is lost.
Who has not wondered if it is the last version of, for example, the quote, the contract or the drawing that you have in front of you? Is there anyone more current perhaps? Customers have gradually become accustomed to the fact that by logging in to the customer portal, you can always take part of the latest information, which means that you dare to act on the information in a clearer way.
2. Increased security
In a troubled time, there is a general desire for increased security. There are many aspects of security but the one primarily referred to here is information security. When information is to be transferred between supplier and customer or vice versa, there is much to be gained from this being done in a secure way.
Not infrequently, the information handled is of a secret, sensitive or protective nature, which means that high demands are made in this area. In practice, information is currently transferred between the parties through e-mail, portal solutions or physical letters and, to a reduced extent, physical digital media such as USB sticks. Over the years, portal solutions have emerged and taken the lead from a unified security perspective because they offer:
Makes it possible to ensure who enters the customer portal.
Once inside the customer portal, an access control provides the opportunity to determine which parts of the customer portal users should access.
Once users have logged in, the actual transfer of files and other information between the customer portal and the user takes place through encrypted traffic via SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). This is a significantly safer way to transfer data than regular mail where the traffic, as a rule, is not encrypted.
As an extra layer of security, some portal solutions offer that the files are stored encrypted on the server. This means that if a file should end up in the wrong hands after all, the file is unreadable without access to the decryption key.
3. A strong need of the customer - 7 common application areas
Customer portals with a file-centric approach are particularly suitable in operations where files are the natural and preferred carrier of information. Let's take a closer look at 7 common application areas within companies and organizations where this is especially common in the exchange of information between customer and supplier.
The process whereby the selling and buying parties of a company are to find each other is called business intermediation. In this process, it is common for a large amount of documents to be shared between the selling party and interested buyers. The documents are often of a sensitive nature and need to be shared while maintaining full integrity between the interested buyers.
Manufacturing industries are often characterized by the fact that their customers demand that documents relating to their delivery, project or product be made available in an easy way to the customer. This can be, for example, quality documentation from the manufacturing process, certificates, reports or specifications.
Project-intensive collaborations are found in a lot of industries. The construction, civil engineering and real estate industries are among many examples. Documents and drawings need to be exchanged between the project owner and various project participants such as contractors, subcontractors and consultants. Typical documents are drawings, descriptions and project plans.
This area of application is common in research organizations, such as universities, and some government agencies. The need usually consists of being able to have a common storage place where all parties can safely share administrative documents with permission control and versioning. Document production is often extremely extensive and often lasts over many years.
Bookkeeping and accounting
In bookkeeping and accounting, a large number of supporting documents are handled, such as invoices and contracts. The exchange usually takes place with a large number of customers in parallel, so it is of the utmost importance that integrity can be maintained between customers.
Customized products or systems
Tailor-made products or systems refer to products that require tailor-made adaptation, manufacturing or assembly for the unique application of a customer. Here, too, there are many examples, but a clear example could be the delivery of a whole kitchen equipment with cabinets, countertops and machines. A large number of documents, such as drawings, need to be produced and exchanged with the customer both before, during and after the kitchen is in place.
Organizations that are member-based in nature in many cases have a great need to exchange documents with their members. A common example of such an organization is housing societies. The need is partly about board documents that must be made available to all members and partly about handling unique documents for the individual member / member organization.
4. Enables structure and order
Countless are the examples of where the exchange of information between customer and supplier as a whole exists with long and many dialogues via e-mail. Over time, it builds huge mess where employees on both sides spend more and more time looking for different documents and files.
With a customer portal, where a common structure and order can be established, the time can be spent focusing on the content and its availability instead of non-value-creating searching.
5. Provides continuity over time
One consequence of a lack of a common customer portal where customers and suppliers share information, is that it can create major problems with continuity over time. If all the information between the parties is mainly gathered in different e-mail accounts, it is extremely difficult to manage the shifts of staff that naturally occur over time.
Important documents that are only stored in the e-mail account whose owner has long since remained at the company, can potentially cause a great deal of damage in both time and money, and in the worst case, completely lost information. If a customer portal is used, new employees can only be given the correct permissions in the portal, and for those who leave, the permission is only removed. All information remains intact.
6. Provides reduced administration
A consequence of both customer and supplier picking up and leaving documents in one place in itself means that the administration is reduced. With clear and agreed storage structures, employees can mainly focus on an update path, that is, the one to and from the portal.
For example, employees do not need to spend energy on creating their own storage structures with themselves in their own IT environment or focus on emailing out all attachments in emails, which in turn fill up storage space on employees' computers.
7. Enables increased quality
A central cornerstone of a quality system is a functioning and well-developed structure for file storage. It is the basis for quickly finding what you are looking for and being able to leave documents in the intended place.
A customer portal enables not only this, but also the ability to control who has done what and when. Through a so-called "audit trail", both customer and supplier can go back and check important information such as who it was that updated the latest version of a certain agreement.
8. There is value in older versions
A feature of some file-centric customer portals is that they support versioning that does not expire after a certain period.
In many cases, there is a potentially large economic and/or legal value in being able to go back and check what was the content of a previous version of a document after a long time. A classic example is agreements where it is especially important to keep track of changes over time.
9. Handling large files
In an interaction between supplier and customer, it is a very common situation that large files of various kinds need to be transferred between the parties. These can be pictures, movies, drawings or other large files.
A customer portal with a sharing function therefore removes that headache by allowing the sender to upload the large file(s) in question and the recipient can easily make a download.
10. Maintain contact routes
The various users from both supplier and customers often have regular needs to contact each other. Being able to find the contact information of, for example, the customer manager at the supplier in a central place in the customer portal can save a lot of time.
It also helps to manage over time when contacts in different positions of the parties are replaced. The vital foundation for a continued good dialogue between supplier and customer is then in place in the customer portal.