What is a customer portal?

A customer portal is a personalized website offering customers a single point of access to relevant company information and self-service options.

When problems occur, questions arise, or issues related to your products or services need to be addressed, your customers depend on you to provide reliable service and support options. Contact centers and support agents can help ensure fast and effective remediation. However, sometimes the effort of picking up a phone, sending off an email, or even reaching out through social media can end up negatively impacting the customer experience. After all, customers want low-effort solutions, and often, that means handling things on their own.

Customer portals place the customer in the driver’s seat, offering a single, personalized location where they can access the entirety of your business’ self-service functions. Through the customer portal, users can view and update account information, submit and review cases, access your knowledge base, interact within your community, and submit common requests from a catalog of service and support options.

Gone are the days of the passive customer; modern customers are capable, informed, and tech-savvy, and they want answers on their time and are comfortable using self-service options. In many cases, customers who reach out to support agents only do so after attempting their own troubleshooting and online research. These customers want fast answers and straightforward solutions that won’t require them to stay on the telephone or wait for an email response.

Today’s customers expect a certain level of self-service availability. At the same time, they expect consistency and ease-of-access, regardless of the channel (or channels) they use. Successful businesses are those that are able to consistently meet or surpass customer expectations, making good customer self-service a competitive necessity.

Customer portals take self-service further, eliminating barriers, bringing resources and channels together in a single location, and personalizing experiences for individual customers.

By providing a centralized location from which customers can conduct their own service journeys, customer service portals provide a number of business and competitive advantages:

Improved agent efficiency and productivity

Self-service options deflect issues that would otherwise become the responsibility of service agents. This frees up agents to focus more of their time on new, more complex and work-intensive problems and work-intensive problems.
Graphic showing the benefits of customer portals

Reduced support costs

Although implementing a customer portal is an investment, it’s one that can quickly pay for itself. Self-service portals allow businesses to continue to provide customer support resources even during non-business hours, and to easily scale to meet changing needs. This means fewer support costs overall.

Increased customer engagement

Customer portals that include community forums and social-media functionality connect customers with others who share their interests. These communities of customers can share ideas, troubleshoot issues, make suggestions, and more, creating a more engaged customer base in the process.

More effective automation

By incorporating digital workflows into customer portals, businesses are able to automate many important processes. This includes not only automatically creating and managing cases, assigning resources, and providing updates; it also includes automating transactional types of common customer requests—changing an address, applying for a loan, upgrading a plan, and so on.

Improved analytics and visibility

Customers who pursue their own research away from your platform can offer you no additional insight into their needs or expectations. By providing a secure customer portal website, you can track their journey and analyze how effectively you are meeting their needs, allowing for ongoing improvement of your essential business processes.

Enhanced customer satisfaction

The end goal of employing a customer portal is simple: increasing customer satisfaction. By meeting customer expectations and allowing them to address issues how, when, and where they are most comfortable, you enhance the customer experience.

There are many different kinds of customer portals across nearly every industry, each with their own focus, functionality, and processes. That said, there are certain elements that are common throughout the most effective customer portals.

Knowledge centers

Comprehensive and easily searchable, knowledge centers provide clear access to content to assist customers and agents in resolving service issues. Knowledge base articles could include guides, FAQs, troubleshooting tips, manuals, tutorials, downloads, and other helpful information.

Pre-defined service solutions

A service catalog provides customers with a virtual storefront where they can submit common requests for products or services. This allows customers to engage directly with relevant departments with workflow-driven solutions, empowering them to do even more through self-service.

Chatbots

A major step up from keyword-search knowledge bases, AI-assisted chatbots allow users to use natural language to explain issues. The chatbots can then retrieve relevant information or automatically perform other appropriate tasks.

Community forums

Self-service doesn't necessarily mean handling everything on your own. Built-in community forums allow customers to reach out and connect with each other for added support, troubleshooting, and collaboration.

Feedback options

Customer portals are designed to improve the customer experience, which makes customer feedback absolutely imperative. Built-in feedback and suggestion features ensure that when your customers have something to say, they have a reliable voice with which to say it.

Mobile accessibility

With such a clear focus on providing customers with a comfortable set of processes for self-service, it would be counterintuitive to ignore the fact that many users now prefer to use smart devices rather than desktops or laptops when interacting online. As such, the portal should also be mobile friendly; it should function effectively and intuitively regardless of the device the customer prefers to use.

Omnichannel support

The most satisfying customer support is not only accurate and timely, it’s also extremely low effort on the part of the customer. An omnichannel customer portal solution allows users to access important information and resources from the channels they are most comfortable using. Omnichannel incorporates messaging, web chat, telephone, email, social media, and more, allowing customers to move seamlessly across channels.

Seamless escalation

Self-service is an important option, but it shouldn’t be the only option available to the user. When customers can’t find answers or implement solutions on their own, customer portals need to be able to seamlessly loop in live agents to take over the conversation or case. These agents should have access to all relevant search activity, chatbot conversations, case, product, and customer information, so that they can provide assistance without any disruption or lull in service.

ServiceNow provides the essential tools and infrastructure your business needs to create satisfying self-service options and effective customer portals. This best-in-breed solution encompasses a range of anytime, anywhere capabilities:

Service Portal

Service Portal allows customers to personalize the self-service experience across every channel. They can keep track of products and cases, check statuses, and easily and directly access all other available self-service options.

Knowledge Management

AI-enhanced search provides customers with intelligent search suggestions and results summaries. Knowledge management also helps organizations identify gaps in their knowledge base, triggering workflows for new content curation.

Engagement Messenger

When customers visit your site, the last thing you want them to experience is inconsistency. Engagement Messenger allows organizations to natively embed self‑service into web applications and third-party portals for an in-context, consumer-grade experience.

Virtual Agent

Natural language understanding and integration allows virtual agents (AI-powered conversational chatbots) to intelligently answer customer questions, direct users to relevant informational resources, complete requests on their behalf, and identify (and automatically redirect) issues that require live-agent support.

Service Catalog

The ServiceNow Service Catalog gives customers the power to bypass customer service and take their cases directly to the most-relevant departments. Simple online forms powered by ServiceNow workflow ensure that the cases are being routed to the right experts. And workflow not only handles case routing; when combined with integration, it is capable of handling a large portion of the work itself. Workflow can collect relevant information to trigger actions within the system or with a separate department, allowing you to automate effective solutions to common requests.

ServiceNow Customer Service Management (CSM) is revolutionizing customer self service. Built on the industry leading Now Platform, CSM improves support efficiency and effectiveness, and gives customers the expanded self service options and support they crave.

Learn more about CSM with ServiceNow, and see for yourself just how far the right customer portal can take you.

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