education - Dec 30, 2021

Customer portal – Why you need it & how to create an efficient one

Did you know that 88% of customers expect a company to have an online customer portal?

Without doubt, modern-day consumers need online self-service options to get help and answers. But what exactly is a customer portal? What are the benefits of setting up one on your webpage? And most importantly: what are the elements of an effective online customer portal?

To get all the answers, keep reading!

What is a customer portal?

First things first, let’s discuss the meaning of a customer portal.

An online customer portal is a website used by businesses to give current customers access to their account information, products, services, and any kind of related information they need.

Simply put, a customer portal acts as a digital sharing mechanism and information center between a company and its customers.

Here’s what Freepik’s customer portal looks like as an example:

A customer portal is a digital sharing mechanism and information center between a company and its customers.

As you can see, a customer portal may contain:

  • account information;
  • account history;
  • payment information;
  • case information;
  • issued customer invoices;
  • downloadable digital files;
  • access to support mechanisms;
  • means for customers to upload information;
  • any other kind of relevant information.

Why is it crucial to have a customer portal?

Well, the main reason is that today’s customers are quite resourceful. Most try to solve problems on their own before reaching out for help. Consequently, recent years have seen a big shift in customer support as technology rises to meet the evolving demand for customer self-service options.

Let’s dig into the exact benefits of setting up a customer portal from your customers’ as well as your own perspective!

This is how your buyers benefit from your customer portal

Setting up an efficient customer portal will definitely improve your customer satisfaction scores! How?

To begin with, customer portals are available 24/7, 365 days of the year. Consequently, buyers no longer need to wait around for agents to help them find information, request services, and resolve their queries.

Use cases are almost endless: no matter if your customers want to log a service request, reset their password, manage purchase orders, track order deliveries, or look up invoices or FAQ information, a customer portal will have their back! By combining all of your buyers’ needs into a single customer portal, you may see an increase in ongoing customer engagement and satisfaction.

Setting up an efficient customer portal improves your customer satisfaction scores.

Since a customer portal enables users to create and track support requests as well, they’ll feel more confident about the fact that their concerns and questions are being heard and addressed.

As you can see, access to a customer portal helps to bring buyers deeper into your ecosystem and plays an important role in improving your relationship with them in the long run.

What’s in it for your organization?

Well, your customer agents will feel the positive impact instantly, as customer portals take a weight off their shoulders. Routine questions can be solved quickly via the portal so that agents can focus on more complex issues.

Furthermore, your organization can track the interactions of users within the customer portal. This way, you’ll be able to highlight repeat issues or identify new needs.

A customer portal is also quite handy as you acquire more customers, since it enables you to manage customer relationships in a more scalable way.

Some companies are even evolving their customer portals into interactive communities. This way, customers can seek help from each other and respond to each other’s questions. By enabling customers to benefit from your community and keeping track of your relationships more efficiently, you can improve your services. This way, you can keep your existing customers content and even turn some into brand advocates!

Finally, let’s not forget the fact as well that customer portals can be integrated with the organization’s primary business systems, such as accounting, ERP, and CRM. This way, you can enable an automated transfer of information between the systems and reduce costly manual entry tasks.

How to design the perfect customer portal?

If you think that any customer portal will yield the above benefits, we’ve some bad news for you: in order to motivate your customers to use your self-service portal, you need to create an engaging environment. Let’s see how to design a customer portal users will love!

1. Create a responsive design

In today’s world where consumers order lunch, pay their bills, socialize with friends and even do some of their work on the go, a responsively designed and mobile-optimized customer portal is simply a must!

Choosing a responsive WordPress theme might take some weight off your shoulders. However, if you’re not familiar with the building blocks of a responsive web design, we definitely recommend hiring an experienced developer!

Create a responsive design for your self-service portal.

2. Customize your portal

Your customer portal should feel like a natural extension of your brand. Make sure to edit the logo, headline, brand color, and accent color accordingly!

3. Personalize customer experiences

Your self-service portal should enlighten your customers with a personalized customer experience. What are some of the best techniques?

First, make sure to address each customer by name whenever they log in. Additionally, keep a record of their products or past services and display relevant topics of expertise. Use information from their past problems to help them locate what they need.

Finally, you can use your customer data as a cue to create content that addresses new needs and issues.

4. Build an online community

As we already mentioned, building an online community is a game-changer when it comes to strengthening relationships with current customers.

So, let users interact with each other! Use your customer portal as a place to discuss products and services, answer questions, and solve problems. You may even invite external service experts to write blog posts and participate in forums.

5. Provide users with exclusive information & updates

People won’t use your customer portal if they can get the information elsewhere. The second bad news is that fewer users mean fewer answers in your knowledge base, which in turn decreases the value of your community. How to break this vicious circle?

Make sure to provide exclusive content and updates within your community! Do you have a new product rolling out? Did a prominent expert join your company? Are new product features on their way? Don’t forget to share the latest news on your customer portal!

Additionally, to make users aware of this exclusive channel, make sure to inform them about your customer portal on your thank you page after payment and email receipt.

6. Create a secure website

No matter how much effort you put into increasing the all-around customer experience, if your customer portal is not secure, you’ll quickly lose the trust of your buyers.

Consequently, make sure to use encrypting practices by using HTTPS via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS). Additionally, protect login information by enabling reCAPTCHA on your secure forms. To prevent DoS attacks and limit web scraping, you can use rate-limiting. We also recommend using whitelisting and/or blacklisting to control access.

Additionally, it’s also recommended to use the single sign-on (SSO) authentication method in bigger enterprise environments. Furthermore, don’t forget to create an effective password expiration policy to decrease your risk exposure.

To highlight the above measures for your customers, make sure to place security trust seals in strategic locations of your customer portal!

Should you build the portal yourself or use a pre-built solution?

There’s a dilemma most startups face: divert their own resources to build a customer portal or use a pre-built solution?

The answer is clear: the first option slows down your business by taking the focus off your core product. This, however, raises our next question: which pre-built solution is the best one to choose?

Stripe’s Billing portal might be the ideal product you’re looking for. Billing portal is a secure, Stripe-hosted page that lets your customers manage their subscriptions and billing details. It allows your customers to update, cancel and pause subscriptions, view their active subscriptions and current as well as past invoice history, update payment methods and billing information and download invoices, among others.

Stripe’s customer portal allows users to manage subscriptions and invoices.

Furthermore, you can customize the portal to match your branding by editing your icon, logo, colors, and business information.

You can customize the appearance of Stripe’s customer portal.

Additionally, users automatically see localized versions of the portal based on their browser settings. The customer portal also works with Stripe Tax which automatically calculates tax on your transactions and helps you stay compliant with EU VAT rules.

If you’re specifically searching for a WordPress customer portal and are using Stripe as your payment gateway, WP Full Stripe’s self-service portal is another great option!

It allows you to choose from two authentication schemes: one-time login code sent via email or WordPress authentication. The latter can be used when you’d like to use your WordPress user accounts as customer accounts. In this case, you can use the WP Full Stripe Members add-on that will find each customer in Stripe by using their email address.

The customer portal can be embedded into any page or post by using the [fullstripe_customer_portal] shortcode. To learn more about the configurations, click here.

WP Full Stripe offers a pre-built customer portal solution.

Customer portal - Key takeaways

People today want to be in the driver’s seat of their own experiences. That’s why setting up an efficient customer portal is indispensable to leaving a lasting and positive impression on your customers. Make sure to enlighten users with a mobile-friendly, secure, and community-focused customer portal that lays great emphasis on a personalized customer experience!

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