Hackernoon logo3 Ways Customer Portals Help Companies Build a Community of Devoted Buyers by@sandra-lupanova

3 Ways Customer Portals Help Companies Build a Community of Devoted Buyers

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@sandra-lupanovaSandra Lupanova

SharePoint and Office 365 Evangelist

Many companies find it challenging to tie customer satisfaction with revenue growth. However, when we consider the positive outcomes of customer engagement, such as high retention, increased upsell and cross-sell rates, and word-of-mouth marketing, the business benefits of outstanding customer experience become much more tangible.
Research confirms that. For instance, Gartner reveals that over two-thirds of customer experience leaders see a direct relationship between customer satisfaction and revenue increase. This clearly indicates that exceptional customer experience is the new currency of success. And customer portals are one of its most essential enablers. 

What Is a Customer Portal?

A customer, or client, portal is a web or mobile interface that serves as a single point of customer interactions with a company. It’s a highly-secure yet readily available communication space where customers can log in to search and track their account details, payment information, past purchases, and other information concerning their buying activities. The platform users can also upload files and share information about products and services with other buyers.
Usually, web portals for customers allow users to achieve the following goals: 
  • Display, download, and upload documentation pertaining to purchase or rental.
  • Look up past payments and transactions, print receipts, and get assistance with invoices.
  • Consult wikis, FAQs, and knowledge bases to resolve problems and find answers to product/service questions.
  • Raise trouble tickets to escalate an unresolved issue to the second-line support.
  • Reach other buyers to seek help and exchange experiences.
Advanced customer portals integrate smoothly with business-critical applications such as CRMs, ERPs, CMSs, and other.

The Benefits of Customer Portals for Companies

Considering that 88% of consumers expect organizations to have a customer portal, these platforms have become a vital tool for companies that want to keep abreast of evolving customer expectations. 
From the perspective of business owners, customer portals deliver countless benefits. Through self-service, they reduce agent workloads, enable faster product discovery and decrease the overall cost of support services. By facilitating online payments, they expedite sales and create more revenue opportunities. 
Customer portals also provide a standardized means for organizations to disseminate critical business information and keep customers updated about new products and services. Finally, these platforms serve the unique goal of building loyal communities of brand ambassadors, who strengthen the brand reputation and offer peer-to-peer support. 

How Customer Portals Strengthen Loyalty and Affinity

Empowered by the digital and mobile revolutions and faced with endless options, consumers have become less tolerant and more demanding of brands that target them. To respond to the formidable challenge of winning and sustaining customers’ loyalty amid fierce competition, companies must embrace immediacy, personalization, and convenience. 
Customer portals are instrumental in delivering on all of these expectations. What’s more, they offer a completely safe environment for growing close-knit consumer communities of like-minded buyers.
#1 Customer Portals Give Voice to Buyers
Emboldened by widening access to information and an increasing choice of goods and services, modern consumers speak openly about their requirements and demands. By carving out a dedicated space that focuses solely on buyers’ needs, companies afford them with an exclusive digital environment where they may share impressions, ask for advice, and give honest feedback on products and services. 
With customer portals, users achieve a sense of agency, transforming from passive buyers into engaged, committed and independent consumers whose voice is being heard and accounted for. Through wikis and FAQ sections, they can research and solve product issues autonomously and at their own pace. Community forums and editable knowledge bases encourage them to contribute their knowledge and experiences to support other members.
These capabilities foster transparent, open conversations between portal users and instigate confidence in them to interact more openly and frequently with a brand. 
#2 They Offer a Rewarding Customer Experience
Modern customer portal solutions provide a centralized repository of all user information, interests, and activities for quick and easy access. They promote consumer activism, helping users accomplish tasks, such as paying bills, filing claims, finding product information, and making appointments, without relying on customer support.
What’s more, all these options are available immediately, at all times, and on any device, which diminishes the lag time between user action and targeted response almost to zero. It’s not only through convenience and 24/7 availability of services that customer portals enhance the overall user experience.
They also contribute to customer satisfaction by streamlining and consolidating the buyer’s journey, providing a single dedicated hub to support all customer requests and interactions for a flawless, all-encompassing experience. 
#3 They Create a Sense of Belonging and Build Intimacy
By augmenting traditional one-to-one interactions between buyers and sellers with an ongoing conversation among users, customer portals strengthen peer-to-peer relationships and nurture user collaboration. As a result, individual buyers come together into cooperative communities that create a unique value for its members, making them feel more attached to the brand and its followers. 
As they rely heavily on genuine, customer-generated content, customer portals are also much more credible and appealing than traditional, segment-centric marketing tools and methods. They keep communication lines open for the users, encouraging open dialogue and honest feedback that brands need to continuously enhance their products and services. 

Bottom Line

In today’s customer-centric world, most companies compete on the basis of customer experience, not price. To be successful, they need to develop a more collaborative, intimate relationship with potential and existing buyers. 
Such self-service, customer-oriented tools as customer portals facilitate this endeavor. They offer a consolidated, readily available go-to resource for consumers to keep track of all interactions with a brand and strengthen connections with other buyers.
Building on centralized customer knowledge, they also provide companies with a unique chance to enrich the understanding of each customer and perpetually refine customer experience with a hyper-personalized offering.

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