:: By Larry Alton, @LarryAlton3 ::
Does your company’s website incorporate a client portal?
A portal isn’t necessarily appropriate for all businesses, but if you specialize in finance or another industry that handles sensitive client information that shouldn't be discussed on public forums, like social media for example, it might be time to create a portal function for your website. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is a Client Portal?
A client portal creates an individualized account for each person with whom you do business. Upon logging in, clients have access to information and personal files, which are stored securely and shared with your organization. A portal is also a great way to communicate with clients, and many have messaging or secure request features. In many cases, clients can also pay their bills online through a portal.
Why Implement a Client Portal?
There are a few different reasons why creating a portal might be a good move for your company.
First, a client portal reduces customer support costs. When your clients or customers can track information and get their questions answered in one consolidated online location, you’ll have fewer calls coming in. Many clients actually prefer self-service to phone conversations because they can find answers quickly without having to wait on hold for a representative.
Second, a client portal creates a central location for all the information and tools your customers might need. Instead of juggling multiple logins, a portal allows clients to consolidate their information. As a result, customers are more engaged and have an overall more positive experience.
Finally, client portals make it easier to forge personal relationships with customers, no matter the size of your business. If your company has a growing client base, it can be hard to manage and sustain these relationships such that consumers always feel like you’re paying enough attention to their needs. By using a portal, you’ll have a scalable solution for managing relationships with customers.
Does a Client Portal Make Sense for My Business?
Even if you’re not in the financial sector, your company may benefit from implementing a portal. For example, many law firms use client portals to collaborate with clients and share files relevant to a case. By the same token, medical patients can often log into a portal affiliated with their physician’s office. Through this portal, clients can pay bills, request medication refills, communicate directly with their healthcare provider and more.
A client portal is also a wonderful tool for a company that conducts most or all of its business remotely. For example, remote landlords might benefit from working with a property management company to keep track of tenant information and payments, which can be done through a client portal. When you can’t be there in person to manage affairs, the client portal facilitates communication.
Clients Speak Out
A client survey conducted by Amdocs, a customer care organization, showed that customers prefer online self-service for their support needs. However, it’s important to note that online support needs to be effective at solving problems and answering questions. 75 percent of surveyed consumers would only opt for online support if it were reliable and accurate.
Additionally, because more than 40 percent of customers contact a call center if they can’t find answers to their question online, it’s clear that when businesses provide effective online customer support, the need for phone calls goes down significantly.
The Takeaway: Do It, and Do It Well
An online customer portal could be an invaluable tool for creating and sustaining relationships with your clients. However, a simple portal isn’t enough on its own; you’ll also have to make sure you’re providing the same level of quality service online as you would over the phone. If your portal isn’t making a measurably positive impact on customer relations, it’s time to rethink your approach.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.