What Is A Self-Service Customer Portal?

A self-service customer portal has a lot of benefits from the perspective of business process, customer experience, and service efficiency. Today, customers have high expectations that self-service will be available whenever they need it (up to 88% of us expect it as a global average), and the corresponding positive impact for organisations in supplying these options can be very significant.  

A key strategic consideration here for businesses is automation. The focus should be on minimising high touch human interaction and repetitive tasks around services. In addition, by automating the delivery of information and experiences for the customer, organisations can tick several UX boxes and achieve numerous benefits for both themselves and customers. That’s the power of a high quality self-service customer portal.

But what are they exactly? Customer self-service portals are essentially websites that allow customers (or even groups like strategic partners and customers) to get key tasks done with ease. Gartner’s definition is useful: “Customer self-service and support is a blend of customer-initiated interaction technologies that are designed to enable customers to service themselves. It includes electronic records management systems, chat and knowledge bases.”

By using self-help and self-service functions, customers can search for and download information packs, lodge requests for specific services, and register issues which require attention and resolution - all within the platform. It’s all about empowerment through the use of smart and modern web interfaces with a quality user experience. 

How Do You Know If You Need a Self-Service Customer Portal?

The reality is all organisations develop through the various stages of digital maturity with a unique set of circumstances. Sometimes manual processes and live service proliferate well past their use by date, and in other cases a digital service platform is adopted early on with some efficiency based benefits. Universally speaking, bottlenecks, customer complaints, teams being over capacity, high cost centres, and other such pain points tend to reveal the need for a more all-encompassing self-service customer portal. This article will explore some of these pain points in more detail to help you consider whether customer self-service is right for you.    

The core advantages delivered by digital technologies have become more and more obvious to companies, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has forced people to work from anywhere with strong digital capabilities. A self-service portal relieves some of the pressure associated with the shift to remote work, allowing teams to assist customers through a combination of hands-on live service and digital service automation.

The Self-Service Portal Business Case and Benefits are Compelling 

Customers Want Self-Service If It Saves Time

It’s clear customers want both sales and service - and any issues around them - to be resolved quickly and easily. Forrester has found that more than 65% of customers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. So the service process should be easy, effective, and in the context of the customers’ user journey with your business. The analyst points to several major self-service portal benefits including: faster issue resolution, increased customer satisfaction and engagement, and increased customer conversion and revenue. 

Meanwhile, Gartner argues that a reduction of live channels and a boost to self-service channels will pay off for organisations. It’s a win-win for customers and businesses. The analyst claims that live interactions cost 80-100 times more than a fully self-service resolution, while service executives report that up to 40% of their live customer interaction volume could actually be resolved solely in self-service channels.

6 Best Practices for IT Leaders to Enable Effective Self-Service

Despite the growing need for customer self-service, many businesses lack an intentional approach and vision to implement it in their web portal effectively, resulting in disjointed experiences. To combat this, IT teams should utilise these 6 best practices during implementation to ensure a cost-efficient and scalable customer service program.

Download the Whitepaper >

7 Signs You Are Ready For a Self-Service Customer Portal

We’ve examined some of the use cases and benefits of a self-service portal, now let’s look at the primary triggers for deploying one. For those companies that do not yet offer self-service portals to customers, there are a number of signs they should look to, that will perhaps suggest the time has come for them to do just that.

1. Are Your Customer Service Costs Too High?

One sign your business might need a self-service customer portal is that customer service costs are becoming too high. When compared to live service interactions, the costs associated with self-service are significantly lower as indicated by Gartner’s findings above.

This makes it possible for companies to support more self-service interactions, ultimately leading to larger volumes of customers being helped at a significantly lower cost. In the long run, the costs saved will make any initial investment in a self-service portal worthwhile.

2. Have You Noticed Issues with Productivity?

Some companies may find that the productivity of their employees is not what it could be. This may not be through any fault of their own, but simply because they are spending so much of their time having to answer the same questions over and over again.

Making use of a self-service customer portal would mean that employees do not have to take part in these repetitive tasks, thus freeing them up to deal with more complicated queries and assisting customers to develop improved experiences.

3. Are Your Sales Flagging?

If sales are flagging, a self-service customer portal can help turn around the fortunes of a company due to the superior customer experience it helps to provide.

Customers who have better experiences with a business are more likely to not only return to make more purchases or use that service again, but also to recommend that business to their friends, families, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Automated portals help to provide more efficient services to customers, leaving them with a more positive impression of the business. This will not only have a positive impact on the reputation of your company, but also on your sales figures.

4. Do You Lack Insights Into Your Customer Behaviour?

Many businesses are on the back foot today due to a lack of insight into the behaviour of their customers, as well as a general lack of understanding of what it is their customers actually want and need.

Self-service customer portals are a great way to redress this imbalance. They not only offer a better customer experience, but they also provide businesses with greater ability to track customer behaviour and acquire additional key insights. For example, your business can gain significant insights from seeing which articles, questions, or topic areas are being viewed more, or what questions are being frequently asked.

These insights help companies determine the most common questions and problems customers may have, and take action to deliver the corresponding information. This helps you deliver a superior customer experience and continually improve on the services and products you offer.

5. Are You Struggling to Get Recommendations From Satisfied Customers?

If your business seems unable to gain much traction via word of mouth or recommendations from satisfied customers, self-service customer portals could also help to address this particular shortfall.

Today a significant number of customers, particularly those in younger age groups, have a preference for self-service. The younger generation is more likely to make use of FAQ pages to try and find solutions to their problems before they get in touch with customer service. As a result, self-service portals will be of particular appeal to this demographic.

Customers who are particularly impressed are much more likely to leave positive reviews, discuss a company, and recommend it to the people they know.

6. Have You Had Issues with Content Delivery?

Some businesses struggle with delivering content, including visuals and videos, to their customers. One of the key benefits of self-service customer portals is having a unified channel to deliver content, ensuring customers know exactly where to go when looking for useful content.

When customers are able to easily navigate and find the content that solves their issue or answers their question, it will encourage greater levels of interaction with your business and help them to gain a greater understanding of the nature of the products and services that your company provides.

7. Do You Have Poor Website Traffic?

If the traffic numbers to your company website are poor, self-service customer portals can be a good way to increase them organically without having to pay for advertising on platforms like Facebook or Google.

When customers are able to automatically access a method that allows them to gain knowledge on their own, this increases the likelihood they will go to your company website and actually see your published content. This experience is repeated and shared, and over time, provides a positive way for your business to build credibility as an authority within your industry.

What's Next in Your Self-Service Portal Journey?

In this article, we’ve looked at some of the signs that it might be time for a business to make use of a self-service customer portal. The good news for businesses is that it is a simple process that can nonetheless make a vital difference to any company that wants to make customer support one of its biggest priorities.

For further reading, check out this blog post focused on the benefits of ecommerce portals, of which self-service forms one component. The impact across a business can be dramatic, in terms of improving the customer experience but also accelerating sales and business growth.

Interested in getting hands-on with your own personalised demo? Finally, if you’d like to explore everything that Liferay’s self-service customer portal has to offer, you can book a demo at your convenience.

Key benefits of Liferay’s self-service solution include reducing customer service costs, improving customer satisfaction with a unified experience, and measuring self-service adoption and analysing all the areas you can improve.

Thanks for reading, and all the best on your self-service journey!

Comments