Client convenience comes first. That's why companies use a variety of tools to satisfy the audience's needs rapidly. Customer web portals or self-services are irreplaceable here. They allow people to make transactions, check balances, and even generate documents in minutes. Enterprises need this instrument to provide around-the-clock interaction with customers and boost their Customer Experience. Inspired by their popularity, XME.digital has tried to discover more about self-service portals from the business and technical sides. Let’s see how that turned out.
What Is a Customer Portal: Definition, Features, Examples
In a flow of online sources, we can easily confuse a customer web portal and a website. Anyway, you can find lots of articles about the distinctions. Talking in a nutshell, a website is just a visual tool that contains general information about an enterprise, its goods/services, etc. It helps to attract an audience.
Meanwhile, a self-service l is different. A company creates it to serve existing clients. So, due to it, users can access internal entity's data and make some actions to receive services. The shining example here might be a bank customer web portal. It's enough to log in there to open a personal account and receive a statement in a few clicks. The same concerns web portals from Internet providers. It is a certain dynamic environment where a customer can get data or service by interacting with the internal company's systems.
Thus, the customer web portal is an online instrument, helping clients access limited information and interact with an enterprise's internal components 24/7 to satisfy their needs timely.
Why Business Should Change 5+ Years Old Self Service
Digital innovations always support businesses. Therefore, companies strive not only to implement new products but also actively update old ones to keep up with the times. Of course, a client's web portal improvement is necessary when the company objectively needs it. Meanwhile, sometimes it's better to get ahead of it and boost software before its irrelevancy harms.
So yes, self-services need to be changed or updated periodically. Otherwise, you will not be ahead of the competition. This is the case when chasing the technology's popularity is essential. First, because new tools always make the product better. They allow the app to process requests faster, provide smart services, and ensure data protection. A customer portal developed with old technologies cannot compare with a new one in quality.
Moreover, engineers are constantly trying to switch on a popular stack to remain demanding. Experts working with old technologies become unicorns. This means a legacy customer portal maintenance is not only ineffective but also costly.
Another significant disadvantage of such self-services is their size. Nowadays, many companies choose Amazon, Azure, or other web servers for data hosting to improve internal IT infrastructure. In turn, an old portal will take up a lot of space and it's difficult to transfer it to web servers. Thus, the legacy component will get out of the general concept and slow down the development of the enterprise.
How To Recognize Robust Customer Portal Solutions: 5 Criteria
Above all, a customer portal must minimize the client's actions delivering maximum results. Thus, a good self-service provides users with all the tools and opportunities to get benefits from the usage, like clear UX/UI, convenient navigation, personalized tips, and real-time response.
Here simple registration and login are also mattered. Well-designed portals allow customers to register and log in with social media and email accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, etc. It takes a few seconds and does not require additional effort from a user.
Since the portal operates both clients' and the company's sensitive data, it has to ensure high-level identification and protection. An enterprise should know which users and in what way are accessing information.
A self-service environment should be displayed equally perfectly on any device and through any browser.
#4 Stability, Speed, And Scalability.
A web portal is a gateway through which the client and the company can interact and exchange data. However, customer activity should not negatively affect employee performance. A high-quality portal allows different users to work with it autonomously.
Thus, self-service can enable any user to perform certain actions or receive data quickly and uninterruptedly 365 days per year, regardless of how many requests it processes simultaneously.
For real-time service provision, an app should be integrated with ERP, CRM, billing systems, product catalog, databases, etc. It means that any changes to the existing portal will make adjustments to related internal components' work.
How To Create And Update A Customer Portal
When management decides to update or completely change client web portals, it asks: "From where to start"? A company can choose from a variety of applicable solutions. For instance, it can just update the self-service UI and not change the business logic. One more option is to migrate to new portals gradually, creating a new one for a certain category of users. However, it's determined by the enterprise's current situation and the portal itself.
A self-service's structure and complexity vary depending on the business niche and the range of services. For example, the telco customer portal menu comprises a dashboard, initial wizard, profile, tariff packages, services, devices, financials, and requests. Thus, an operator provides clients with access through any device to profile, settings, service information, actual balance data, invoices, and payments as well as responses to requests 24/7.
The first stage of portal creating or updating contains internal research and project planning. So, if a telecom company decided to initiate this process, it should determine what the existing portal lacks. Maybe some features are outdated or require improvements. It is often necessary to expand the range of services by adding new components to make the interaction more convenient. Thus, here it is principal to define how many resources an enterprise is ready to invest to receive a new self-service. Considering these data, management can choose one of the following ways to get/update the web portal:
a ready-made solution purchase (Accelo, SuiteDash, MOXTRA, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, etc.),
development on a low code platform (Zoho, Zendesk, WordPress),
a web portal creation from scratch,
development with the fast code platform XME.digital.
And so, if an enterprise acts during any scenario other than the first one, step #2 will be a product architecture creation. Here both business and IT-side decide how the portal will look, what it will contain, and what to integrate with. Next comes the development stage itself. Depending on the chosen method, its complexity and duration can vary. The testing and deployment procedures end the cycle.
Now let's go back to the above 4 action variants.
The SaaS purchase is the easiest. It’s suitable for small and middle-companies that want to get the desired result quickly and on a budget. They should just choose the most suitable product and pay $39+ per month for its usage. Implementation time is about a few hours.
Enterprises use the second variant to get a customized product with a minimum investment. This way is suitable for many companies, which determines its popularity. However, low code platforms do not provide an opportunity to develop a 100% custom web portal and limit its scalability.
Developing from scratch is always a great idea and requires a lot of resources. Companies receive the best customer portals that are worth the effort. But, unfortunately, not every business can afford to wait for the self-service so long and spend a lot of money for its development/maintenance.
Self-service development with the fast code platform is a cross between the second and third options. However, it only contains their strengths. The platform is an environment that provides a set of modern tools and a collection of real company experiences for rapid product development. Thus, the client should not waste time learning how to create the web portal in the right way. The company can use any provided template, fully adapting it for itself. The result is a new custom product without any restrictions and significant loss of resources.
One more platform’s benefit is vendor lock absence. The enterprise is free to use and change customer portals any time and in any manner.
With XME. platform, corporate customers can always receive efficient results quickly. The environment helps to check a hypothesis in brief terms, allowing to create an MVP in a matter of weeks and test it on users. They will advise how to boost the prototype so that the final product fully meets their requirements. Using the existing template, the company can get a robust, ready-to-work self-service in 4 weeks. It reduces development time by 60%.
A modern customer web portal means a lot for businesses. It helps the company to remain a quality service provider 365 days a year, without wasting employees' work overtime. A user-friendly interface improves not only the client but also the employee experience, boosting productivity. As a result, everyone gets what they want: clients - fast round-the-clock service, employees - a balanced work without work, the company - an increase in client LTV and the service activation level.