A self-service portal can improve customer experience and free up your employees to concentrate on more complex, higher-value tasks.
It’s undeniable that there has been a significant shift when it comes to how customers want to interact with businesses. Users are able to access a company on multiple devices at virtually any time of the day. Because of this, consumers expect a digital experience that is streamlined and convenient.
Self-service capabilities give more power and convenience to customers, consequently improving digital experiences with a business. What was once a nice feature for a company to offer, is now a standard expectation.
Today, 88% of people expect organisations to have an online self-service support portal. In addition, the demand for access to online self-service options is only expected to continually increase. Within two years, Gartner estimates that 85% of all customer service interactions will begin with self-service and that self-service will make up the majority of all customer engagement.
Let’s discuss the basic components of a self-service portal, how it functions, and how it can positively impact your business when properly implemented.
The Basics of a Self-Service Portal
Put simply, a self-service portal is a customer- or employee-facing website or app that helps users resolve issues or complete a task. The portal’s main job is to address the users’ needs without requiring external assistance. 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. An effective self-service portal is fast, simple, and accessible.
Two common types of portals are customer self-service portals and employee self-service portals. These portals offer very different experiences but they generally serve the same purpose of helping users address common needs with both speed and accuracy.
Elements of a customer self-service portal may include:
- Access to comprehensive FAQ articles
- Access to online discussion forums
- Option to communicate with company technicians
- Ability to change passwords
- Ability to amend account details
- Option to download new software or updates
- Option to reorder products or services
- Access to 24/7 support
Elements of an employee self-service portal may include:
- Ability to update personal data
- Access to streamlined employee onboarding
- Option to select and update benefits
- Access to time cards and attendance records
- Access to handbooks and company policy information
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.
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 develop new skills and 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.
How a Self-Service Portal Works for Your Business and Your Customers
Customers enjoy the convenience of a self-service portal because they’re able to save time and don’t have to be solely dependent on direct interactions with customer service teams. 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.
From a business perspective, the customer support team benefits from fewer tickets to resolve and the ability to put their time and energy into more complex tasks. 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.
Because of these benefits, self-service portals have become essential for digital users. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages both consumers and businesses can receive from an effective customer web portal.
Help Your Customers Help Themselves with Self-Service
Each self-service portal will look slightly different depending on the organisation’s goals and needs, but the majority are likely to enable or contribute to the following benefits.
1. Empower Customers to Find Their Own Answers
Self-service portals are a great way to address common needs of your customers. These resources can include community forums, a FAQ section, or troubleshooting guides. 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 also much more likely to leave positive reviews, discuss a company, and recommend it to the people they know.
2. Reduce the Number of Customer Service Tickets
Each time a customer interacts 1:1 with an employee, your business spends both time and money on that interaction. Self-service portals allow the customer to immediately address their challenges, helping to reduce significant investments of time from your employees.
3. Give Customers Visibility to Account Information
Customers can keep track of their historical interactions and receive automated updates on tickets they’ve logged to their account. They can also retrieve past information about products or services they have purchased. With account visibility, they’re able to simply log in and check the status of an item at their convenience whilst also having access to other important account features such as contact details, password resets, and more.
4. Provide 24-Hour Customer Service
Even when your business is technically offline, a self-service portal can be accessible at any moment. This allows customers to get the answers and resolutions in urgent situations at a time that’s most convenient for them.
5. Consistently Deliver Content For 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.
How Self-Service Portals Impact the Bottom Line for Businesses
The key benefits of self-service portals are focused on providing better and faster support at a lower cost for the business. Here are additional ways that implementing self-service options can enhance customer experience, while also improving the bottom line.
1. Reduce Costs for Your Business
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. A portal can reduce support costs by requiring fewer people to solve common, everyday issues in person or on the phone. Similarly, storing product and service information online allows users to download digital documents, reducing the cost to print and mail these pieces.
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 an initial investment in a self-service portal worthwhile.
2. Improve Customer Satisfaction
Self-service is fast, efficient, and convenient, which ultimately empowers customers to interact with your businesses on their terms. This leaves them with a more positive impression of the business which contributes to a positive impact on the reputation of your company.
3. Optimise Staff Utilisation
Making use of a self-service customer portal would also mean that employees do not have to take part in repetitive tasks. When a self-service platform is available, sales and service representatives have the availability to tend to more complicated customer service issues that can’t be addressed easily with self-service and assist customers to develop improved experiences.
4. Improve Data and Analytics Insight
Aggregating and analysing search behaviour is a valuable way to improve user experience and make required adjustments to your self-service portal. Portals provide feedback and data to businesses about what users engage with, what they search for, and whether or not they ultimately find the answers they need using the portal. 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. Increase 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.
6. Improve Overall Sales
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. This can have a positive impact on company sales in the long-term.
Self-Service Best Practices
Even with all of these benefits at hand, a self-service portal is only advantageous if it is functioning well. You can ensure that your business portal is working for you by implementing these self-service best practices.
- Create a user-friendly design. The best self-service portals are built with user experience mapped out well in advance to ensure ease of access to the right information. In addition to the design being well-organised, end users should be able to complete a task or solve an issue with the least amount of steps taken as possible. This ensures that the self-service portal is making efforts easier for end users.
- Offer multi-channel support options. Ideally, there is more than one way for a customer to receive the help that they need. This can include a community help forum or a FAQ section that they can refer to for common problems. All content should be easy to read, simple to understand, and, if relevant to your business, offer translation or multi-language features. Keep the content up to date and relevant as time goes on.
- Measure the performance of the self-service portal. This can be done by analysing user feedback, offering user satisfaction surveys, looking at web analytics, or performing customer interviews with focus groups. The data collected can also be used to improve and personalise the customer experience.
- Provide user roles. Enhance individual customer experiences based on the user who has logged into their account. User roles offer a more customised experience geared towards the specific tasks and functions that they would need to perform.
Increase Customer Satisfaction with Liferay’s Self-Service Portal
If your organisation has been considering putting a self-service portal to work, now is a great opportunity to explore what solutions will work best for your business. An ideal place to start is assessing whether it is the right time for your organisation to implement a new platform.
Liferay can help you launch effective self-service portals that will provide your business with more streamlined processes. Our self-service solutions reduce customer service costs and improve customer satisfaction with a seamless user experience. Once implemented, self-service adoption should be monitored and measured so your business can analyse which areas of the platform are working best and which areas need to be improved. This will help to benefit your company as well as your customers.
If you’re ready to empower your customers or clients with more flexibility and convenience, take a look at this whitepaper to learn more about the long-term benefits of implementing self-service as well as best practices to build a successful self-service portal.