Support teams often experience customer questions and interactions that are quite memorable. However, many customer calls are routine and cover basic questions about the status of an account, payments, or updated contact information.

Many of these basic interactions can now be handled with online tools, instead of phone calls that interrupt your day-to-day activity and drag down productivity.

One popular tool that can help you boost your productivity rapidly is the self-service customer portal. Here’s what a customer portal is, and how it can help your business.

What is a self-service customer portal?

A self-service customer portal is a private and secure information channel between your business and each of your customers. You can link the portals to customer profiles and set  permissions on exactly what customers can see and do.  

How does a self-service customer portal work?

Instead of calling you up (or waiting in a phone line), customers can log in to the customer portal from anywhere, at any time, from a link on your website. Inside, the customer can access information, such as current invoices and purchase histories.

A customer portal not only helps customers meet their own needs, it also educates people about your products and services – and it does so 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can feature an arsenal of videos, tutorials, and other resources to help customers explore all your features. The quicker your customers can access your business, the more you become ingrained in their everyday life, increasing ‘customer stickiness’ - the chance that the customer will use the same product or service again.

The system also collects updated customer information, such as the name, address, shipping and billing information of customers. As people use the portal, they feed personal information into your customer relationship management (CRM) tool so you don’t have to enter this data yourself.

Does a customer service impact your personal touch?

Using a customer portal can actually increase the effectiveness of your personalized service. Inside the portal, you can create a link to live chat support or conferencing so customers who are struggling can quickly connect to your customer service team.

Because the portal tackles basic questions, your support team is free to focus on more complex problems. This not only helps satisfy customer needs, it also saves you money as support calls cost $1 per minute, according to Kompareit.com. This is four times more than the cost of web-based self-service tools at $0.24 per transaction, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found in an empirical analysis of customer web-portals.

Are the customer portals personalized?

Yes. When a customer logs in, the person is greeted by name. The portal is integrated with your customer relationship management (CRM) tool so a customer can see the personal information you have allowed them to see. You can also permit your customer support team to view the information along with the entire history of interactions with that customer. This personalized experience helps strengthen the customer relationship.

How do portals impact customer satisfaction?

The customer portal helps keep your customers happy. Today, 70% of customers expect business websites to have a self-service option, according to digital-business author Steven van Belleghem in his report, “The Self Service Economy”. With lower customer service costs, a more efficient call-center, and highly personalized customer interactions, a self-service customer portal has a wide range of benefits that can aid in growing your business.

How can portals help you market more effectively?

As a customer uses the customer portal, it collects information. You can use this data to find trends you can apply to your marketing. You can then target customers based on the information you have collected and send them the appropriate marketing materials. This helps you drive your sales.

Why customer portals are good for business

Providing customer portals allows you to empower your customers to help themselves, focus your support service on the customers who really need help, and exceed customer expectations with a personalized touch. 

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