Before we dive into the benefits of client portals, let´s take a look at where they live. An extranet is a private network which allows partners, vendors, clients, and other stakeholders to gain access to part of a company or institution.
Extranet users do not have access to the rest of the organization’s network other than what is granted. An extranet is often a hived-off part of a company website. It is restricted to pre-approved users only through user IDs, passwords and other authentication methods.
Customer portals sit within extranets and act as a system of engagement and service-fulfilment for your organisation’s clients.
What client portals do
Client portals are highly useful in a number of organisations from banks to tour companies, universities, healthcare providers, and retail chains. Many businesses and industries use client portals. This technology is very useful in making the lives of customers easier. Imagine how different the world would have been without client portals during Covid-19.
Benefits of client portals
There are many benefits that both service provider and customer can reap from a client portal. Here are some to consider:
You can provide your clients and partners with personalised and specific pieces of information that may be useful to them. This could be a shipping company advising their customers of truck or airplane departure times so customers can place their orders using this information.
Portals give clients easy access to relevant information such as FAQs, troubleshooting tips, company and product details, and much more. With well-managed portals, all this information is correct and up to date.
3. Present customised content
Imagine a bank telling you about a specialized interest rate or product offer when you open your banking app. This is personalised to you. Without the banking portal, you may not have known about it.
4. Connected devices
Client portals make clients’ lives easier by making information available to them on a variety of devices. This keep them connected wherever they are. There is no need to stick to traditional working hours. In many cases this flexibility is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have.
5. Better communication
Client portals save the time it takes to authenticate if the client is who they say they are. Because the authentication will have taken place up front, it now only takes a successful login for a customer to be able to communicate with their service provider. This breaks down communication barriers that can sour a customer relationship.
6. Builds customer loyalty
Client portals can enhance customer experiences by offering extra channels for communication. When you make accurate, on-time information available to your customers, you are seen to be responsive to their needs. This gives you a much better chance of retaining that customer.
7. Improved customer service
One of the biggest benefits that client portals have brought about is that they allow the customer to resolve their own queries. This is a boost for customers who do not want to spend endless time on the phone to their service provider. It is also a boost for the service provider who is able to save on labour costs.
8. Increased productivity
Key documents such as contracts, estimates, and project plans can be accessed via the client portal. These can be accessed by internal staff and customers alike. This cuts down on the number of emails related to these subjects.
9. Reduced margin of error
By centralizing company information, only the latest versions of documents with the correct branding and signatories can be shared. With good content management, there is a vastly reduced chance that the incorrect documents will ever be on the client portal.
10. Cost effective
There are definitely set up costs to be considered with a client portal, but these need to be weighed up against the cost savings that can be achieved. Cloud technology is getting ever cheaper as new players enter the market to spark price competition. There are also economies of scale which are constantly driving the costs downwards as greater adoption of cloud technology takes place.
Not to mention the inherent cost savings to be achieved when processes are streamlined through improved productivity and greater access to the correct documentation.
11. Increased responsiveness
When you give round-the-clock client portal access to your customers, it can improve responsiveness for you and your partners. Customers are no longer bound by working hours and can transact with you outside of normal business hours. Even collaborative working with clients can happen better when people are able to operate when and where it’s most convenient for them. In a world where remote working is on the rise, this is vitally important.
A useful benefit which results from client portals is that of greater oversight and visibility. If you have many clients spread over large geographical areas and multiple time zones, being able to see the full picture is a bonus. You can analyse this information and draw conclusions about customer behaviour which can inform your strategy.
Cloud-based client portals utilise top-notch security systems to make sure your company’s information is safe. Technologies such as firewalls, end-to-end encryption, and malware and virus protection are all modern tools which fit well with cloud services.
Client portals are very good at many things such as communication with clients and document management. Powerful collaboration is also easily within reach, and this leads to better customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Business processes such as placing and tracking orders is much easier because client portals are built with the customer in mind. Client portals also have great knowledge management capacity as they can house large numbers of important documents in secure and organised formats. With costs coming under control too, there really are no downsides, but just benefits to having a quality client portal.