Even before the pandemic 90% of consumers in the UK expected brands to offer some form of online self-service capability, according to Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Services report. That number is likely to have risen even further since restrictions took hold and accelerated the shift online across every sector.
For organisations providing an ongoing service and businesses eager to build consumer loyalty, a customer portal is becoming an increasingly important part of their self-service offering. Today’s consumer values the convenience of portals – the ability to buy goods with the swipe of a finger (hello Amazon), manage services from their kitchen table and have their questions answered swiftly.
Whatever the size and nature of your business, whether you’re a tech giant or providing a regular local service, a portal has a role to play and is a crucial part of many digital transformations. No two organisations and no two portals are the same, but there are several themes the best share including these six:
UI DESIGN DRIVEN BY UX
In other words, digital customer experience shapes interface design. Consumers will only use a portal if it makes life easier, and they’re quick to shift allegiances online if it doesn’t. In fact, Microsoft found 58% of people will sever their relationship with a brand due to poor customer service.
In practise that means focussing on the user experience above all else. What will help them navigate to the product, service or information they need as smoothly and intuitively as possible? Start by making sure it’s clear and obvious how to access your portal from your company website.
Once inside the portal, the trick is balancing attractive design that reflects your brand, with swift and simple access to key information. User journey mapping and usability testing will help you define what this looks like while ongoing customer data generated by your portal will enable you to refine it.
These aren’t just for show. Features such as chatbots help customers resolve queries quickly themselves. Younger generations in particular are drawn to them – customer service products provider Comm100 found 52% of millennials prefer the ease of text over other forms of communication.
Personalisation is also a great way to boost customer loyalty and direct them to products more likely to suit their taste. If you’re a clothing brand, for example, you could suggest a season-specific outfit based on their previous searches and purchases.
Consumers are increasingly integrating physical and virtual shopping too, looking up products online which they then shop for in person. A clever portal feature that moves the sales process along could seal the deal.
ACCESSIBILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
These should be a core part of your portal’s design. If not you risk shutting out a large percentage of the population that lives with an impairment, and putting off the rising number of conscious consumers who make buying decisions based on a brand’s sustainability credentials.
There are a number of ways to build accessibility and sustainability into your digital presence, which we discuss in this blog. In a design sense, accessible and sustainable portals share lots of attributes.
They’re simple to navigate, do not rely on rich carbon-hungry media or include unnecessary content. That’s good for everyone, improving usability and keeping pages nimble and fast to load.
MULTIPLE PLATFORM AGILITY
Mobile commerce sales are expected to hit the £100bn mark by 2024, according to Statista. That means portals need to be able to function seamlessly on a range of devices from desktops to tablets and smartphones. People are shopping on their commute, in bed or over a coffee – they want an equally good customer experience wherever and however they’re accessing the internet.
Meeting the diverse demands of your users may require a range of digital solutions from websites and portals to apps. That’s why companies are increasingly turning to digital architecture such as headless content management systems that can supply content to any platform from one place.
It’s something we implemented for Sovereign Housing Association when we redesigned their corporate and sales websites and customer portal. For a closer look at that project, watch this webinar.
BUSINESS EFFICIENCIES AND INSIGHTS
A portal gives you the opportunity to automate tasks that prevent your team from focussing on other aspects of their job.
If simple queries are taken care of by the chatbot we mentioned earlier, that leaves your contact centre team with more time to focus on trickier customer issues. Equally, if the majority of a housing association’s residents are using digital tools to manage their accounts, staff will have more capacity to help vulnerable residents who need one-on-one assistance.
As users interact with a portal they’ll drop clues about what’s working and what could be improved. By effectively gathering this data you’ll generate the knowledge you need to develop an even better service.
From payment details to medical records and other sensitive information, portal providers collect lots of personal data and are responsible for keeping it safe. Data breaches cause harm to consumers and considerable reputational damage for companies.
There are several elements that create a secure portal such as data encryption, two-step verification and regularly updated firewalls. It’s worth putting in place a security strategy to make sure your portal is under lock and key. A good portal will combine all these elements into a streamlined, user-centric experience. That means your customers are less likely to be tempted away by a competitor and your business will benefit from the efficiencies it brings.
MMT are specialists at implementing each element, but most importantly we know how to tailor our web development and software engineering solutions to the specific needs of your business.
If you’d like to find out how we can build a portal that improves your organisation’s customer service and drives its growth, get in touch.