Customer services portals have really changed the way that businesses interact with their customers. A customer portal has many uses, depending on what you want the portal to achieve.
Understanding how to build a customer portal requires a good knowledge of how such portals are used internally for support, and how your customers can benefit from their use.
In the following article, we will talk about what a customer portal is and some tips and tricks for creating a successful customer portal with SharePoint.
What Is a Customer Portal and Why Do You Need One?
A customer portal provides customers with total visibility into all their interactions with your business. They can keep track of help requests, and other data like easily shareable reference materials. It contributes to improving consumer relationships and offers a safe, open venue for discussion.
Having a customer portal allows you to customize the content to the information that is important to each customer, which is one of its many advantages.
High-performing customer service teams are those who consistently stay on top of changing consumer expectations, according to a poll of 1,900 customer service leaders performed by Salesforce. The teams that “acknowledge the urgency” of resolving customer issues are those. Additionally, 90% of consumers, according to Microsoft, expect customer service to be available online.
Access to a customer portal plays a significant role in encouraging customers to become more integrated into your ecosystem and in assisting with their long-term retention. Customers want self-service more and more as technology advances and our lives become more interconnected.
A portal is an extension of your customer service capabilities, which are in many ways predicated on trust and accountability. Although the software might make it more practical, it’s up to your company to make the customer portal experience worthwhile.
If you have SharePoint, you may have read somewhere that you can create the customer portal using Microsoft tool, so you can decide why not put my current investment to good use and work the portal internally with the IT team.
But the real question is “Can I build a customer portal with SharePoint?” and the simple answer is “no”. Some time ago, it was possible to create publicly accessible portals with Sharepoint, but starting in 2017, Microsoft decided to eliminate this functionality due to low usage. Therefore, Sharepoint-hosted sites cannot be accessed by people outside the company.
The only way to manage to create some kind of portal is by building a SharePoint instance that is only used for external sharing, this way you can securely expose your content to other parties without worrying about losing control over it in any way. Giving partners and sellers access to parts, files, media, and contents of your website are known as external sharing. It enables other organizations to control and edit stuff that you’ve given them access to.
The problem with this is that while it’s a great way for collaborative projects that include a third party, or even to create an HR portal for your employees, It’s hardly ideal for creating a customer Portal, since you will not only have to create SharePoint that is only used for external sharing, but you will also have to deal with SharePoint group users, user permissions and accesses.
Next, we will talk about the types of permissions that exist and how to use them to give access to certain groups of people.
There are 33 user permissions available in the SharePoint Server, and they are grouped into different permission levels. Except for the Limited Access and Full Control permission levels, you can modify which permissions are included in each permission level or establish a new permission level to incorporate a certain set of rights for some user groups.
For example, you can make a SharePoint group which in a nutshell is a set of users who share the same site and content permissions. This allows you to conveniently grant the same permission level to several persons at once by using groups as opposed to granting rights to one person at a time.
Depending on the objects to which they can be applied, permissions are divided into three categories:
- List permissions: Give access only to lists and libraries.
- Site permissions: This kind of permission only applies to certain sites.
- Personal permissions: These permissions are only for specific objects, like private Web Parts and personal views.
With all this variety of types of users, permissions, accesses, and levels of content visibility you can create un space where all your users and clients only have access to what is necessary for them and nothing else, so they will not have to search incessantly to get the information they need.
If you want to know more about SharePoint site permissions, you can click here to know everything about Customize site permissions.
Do you still believe it’s a smart idea to build a client portal using SharePoint knowing everything you need to know about the process, how it may be rather complicated as it includes many manual processes and may be challenging to repeat on a large scale.
I Still Need a Portal, What Should I Do?
Since you are currently familiar with the fundamentals, your next step is to identify the best way to create a client portal that is ideal for both your business and your customers.
Undoubtedly, it’s a crucial step to take because if you use the wrong tool has the potential to ruin your customer connections and internal operations while the right one may empower your employees and consumers to their fullest potential.
If you need to create a portal where your customers can upload information securely, File Request Pro provides you with expert client-facing upload pages that can be used to gather any kind of data from customers and team members. All uploaded files and material can be transmitted directly to your SharePoint, organized in folders of your choosing.
Customers can immediately upload any kind of file, or multiple files or directories can be gathered at once. Also, you can rebrand upload pages to match your corporate identity, in this way you will increase client confidence in the way you collect content.
As we mentioned before, the integration with the SharePoint interface is a crucial feature of File Request Pro.
Some other important features include:
- Get your documents in OneDrive and SharePoint.
- Upload folders that you can share
- Organize new uploads automatically by generating a subdirectory inside the folder of your choice.
- Utilize custom form fields to gather extra data.
If you want to know more about the integration between SharePoint and File Request Pro you can read how to do it in our frequently asked questions section by clicking here or you can also use our app together with Microsoft Power Automate to automate some workflows. We leave you here the information about it by clicking here.
What Features to Include in Your Customer Portal?
A strong customer portal will help both your clients and your techs to have perfect insight into tickets and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks in addition to providing a basic user-friendly interface.
Features You Must Have to Create the Best Customer Portal
A username and password are powerful indicators that your customer onboarding process has begun. Customers will know that you intend to store all their information safely.
Your customers can benefit from secure access to a customized interface with your company after it has been built. Allow clients to choose “remember me” so they may log in automatically the next time and finish the onboarding process.
Important documents and signed contracts.
Make available for customers access to signed contracts and other crucial files. This can alleviate typical complaints and contacts.
Version histories for agreements may be included in this feature, allowing the customer’s legal team a simple way to track the development of the agreement and previously mentioned reference terms.
Hosting the contracts in secure client portals promotes consumer re-visitation of your website. Additionally, customer portals are an excellent place to save customer renewal contracts that they may review and sign later. In today’s customer journey, this additional convenience has developed into a crucial component of customer service.
Updated Activity Dashboard.
An internal dashboard with updates on all group activities is a terrific way to keep everyone on the portal informed. Using filters for the type of ticket, the tech who worked on it, and other criteria, such as a dashboard should enable you, your techs, and your customers to keep track of the status of all open and closed tickets.
Tools for Collaboration.
Working cooperatively in real time is really advantageous and makes working remotely much simpler. A top-notch client site should make it simple to reassign tickets, move them to different queues, and keep everyone informed about their roles in the process.
Digital transactions and billing information.
Potential and recurring customers may be rapidly turned off by a bad payment or invoicing experience. By integrating billing data and controls through your customer portal, you may eliminate friction and increase the flexibility of your payment procedure. By providing a convenient location to access their billing history, you can demonstrate to your clients that you believe in corporate openness. Reduce the number of support tickets connected to billing by allowing customers to amend their credit card information in their customer portal.
Tracking Tickets and Customer Care.
Automating routine processes, streamlining service requests, and connecting your client to the appropriate resources are all made possible by integrating customer support into your client portal. By easing the workload on live customer care agents, this functionality can also enhance the level of client service you provide.
Customers can quickly use their customer portal to look up a previous service ticket that previously addresses their query if they repeatedly ask the same questions.
A client portal can be more customized and has a more unique feel when branding features are added. Custom logos, color schemes, and a custom domain URL are a few examples of such features. If your services feel comfortable for your clients, they are more likely to use them.
Self-Help and Q&A.
Users of the site may occasionally have inquiries about features or functioning or problems with the portal’s technological infrastructure. To prevent your tech from frequently having to spend time retraining consumers in the usage of some of the fundamental tools and functionalities, you should offer some form of Q&A or FAQ or help the area to act as a resource.
Create A Customer Portal and Build Better Relationships with Its Customers.
The biggest benefit of using a customer portal is that it puts your customers in control. In almost all cases they won’t need to arrange a meeting or request an internal ticket before speaking to someone, they have access to reliable information, and they can track their own incidents or review their past interactions with the support team.
There are many features that you should include in your customer portal, but the most important ones are those that will make it easy to use and navigate, as well as provide the information and tools that your customers need. If you can provide all these things, then you will be well on your way to creating the best customer portal possible.