If you’ve ever been stuck on the phone trying to update an order or get an answer to a query, you know how frustrating it can be. Mistakes and problems happen, so rectifying them shouldn’t be a time-consuming and challenging experience. Customer portal software provides an alternative to dealing with inefficient call centers, providing users with quick and easy access to the answers they need, while also relieving pressure on your service team.
This guide will help explain what customer portal software is, some of the key features it offers, and how popular it has become—ultimately illustrating the many benefits of customer portal software for MSPs.
What is a customer portal?
A customer portal is a central hub typically located on a business’s website, providing customers with a single point of access for company information. Customer self-service portals usually also allow customers to establish quick and direct contact with the company. A basic customer portal may not require a customer login, but might simply serve as a source of general information available to anyone who visits the website. This type of portal might include a FAQ page, video tutorials, or a blog full of useful information.
More sophisticated portals, on the other hand, are accessible only via a username and password. This means they’re more secure, allowing companies to share private, account-specific knowledge with users. From the customer’s perspective, customer portal software provides them with a one-stop-shop for online self-service support, enabling them to solve issues on their own when possible. For MSPs, customer portals are a cost-effective way to support customers by giving them access to relevant information—even outside of office hours.
What does a customer portal likely include?
Standard customer portal software will typically offer the following features:
1. A KNOWLEDGE BASE
A knowledge base is simply a collection of content containing relevant information regarding a company’s services or products, enabling its customers to access details that might otherwise require a phone call or other outreach. Your knowledge base should be organized so it’s easily searchable by customers. Articles might include how-to blog posts, troubleshooting tips, and guides for getting started.
A FAQ page is a list of questions customers typically ask about a company’s services or products. These questions are paired with the relevant answers, often reducing the number of customer calls received by your support team. Questions and answers might cover a range of the most common customer queries that are easily resolved—for example, your FAQ section might help explain how customers should utilize a self-service password reset feature.
3. COMMUNITY FORUMS
Community and user forums are an important part of your customer portal. This allows customers to interact with each other in a way that’s beneficial for everyone involved—asking and answering questions, sharing insights gained from personal experience, and exchanging best practices. Support agents are usually able to monitor community forums and provide answers to questions when appropriate.
4. TICKET SUBMISSIONS
If customers are unable to find the answers to their questions elsewhere, they should also be able to use the portal to establish contact with a support agent by submitting a ticket. This streamlines the transition between customers searching for information themselves and requesting assistance, mitigating the likelihood of them becoming frustrated or feeling unsupported.
Customer portals also provide a great way of collecting customer feedback, encouraging customers to make suggestions for product and service improvements. You can discuss customer ideas on a forum dedicated to feedback and suggestions, giving you ongoing access to a source of market research and audience insight. Surveys conducted via the customer portal can also provide valuable insight into technician performance and can help you identify areas for improvement.
The rising popularity of customer portals
Modern consumers are increasingly self-reliant, and many prefer to find answers themselves instead of calling a support line. This means the demand for customer portal software has increased dramatically over the past several years. Here are some useful statistics that demonstrate just how popular customer self-service portals have become:
- According to American Express, 60% of U.S. customers say their main channel for simple customer support questions is a self-service utility
- Knowledge bases are the most used source of self-services, as reported by Forrester
- Dimensional Research found that 98% of consumers have tried a self-service solution
- According to Microsoft, 90% of global consumers now expect companies to offer an online self-service customer portal
MSP benefits of using customer portal software
If you’re still unconvinced, it’s important to remember customer portal software has huge benefits for you as well as your customers. Here are some of the key MSP benefits to keep in mind:
1. IMPROVED CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
Of course, it goes without saying that when your customers benefit, your business benefits too. One of the most notable benefits of using a customer portal is it offers a seamless self-service and support experience by giving customers access to up-to-date information 24/7. By making it easy for customers to access support around the clock, customer satisfaction is likely to improve.
2. INCREASED ENGAGEMENT
When customers have access to a one-stop-shop that allows them to communicate with other customers via a community forum, they’re given a greater sense of involvement in your business. This increases engagement, empowerment, and long-term customer retention.
3. REDUCED WORKLOAD
Customer portal software helps reduce agent workload by allowing customers to help themselves, check-in on the status of their tickets, and update tickets when necessary. This significantly reduces the number of calls and tickets received and results in time savings for your technicians.
4. LOWER SUPPORT COSTS
Although implementing a customer portal requires an initial investment, it can be much more cost-efficient in the long-term. Because customers can establish contact outside of your usual working hours, there’s no need to allocate additional resources to extend working hours or hire more support staff. Coupled with your technicians’ reduced workloads, you’re likely looking at cost savings across the board.
If your MSP is looking for reliable customer portal software, SolarWinds® MSP Manager enables you to deliver fast and proactive service, allocate resources effectively, and bill customers through a single interface. It features defensible invoices for rapid approval, intuitive and lightweight ticketing, integration with an all-in-one solution with SolarWinds RMM, scheduling, and more. To start reaping the benefits today, a 14-day free trial of MSP Manager is available.