What is a Customer Self-Service Portal?
A customer self-service portal is a section of a company’s website that provides customers with a single point of access to company/ product information. Basic portals that do not require a customer login may offer only general information available to anyone, such as knowledgebase articles, a FAQ page, video tutorials etc. More advanced portals accessed via username and password are more secure and enable businesses to share private, account-specific information with their customers.
For consumers, a customer portal is a one-stop-shop for online self-service support allowing them to get information at any time, and solve product or service issues on their own, without any direct interaction involving a company representative. While for businesses, it’s a cost-effective way to support customers with relevant information even during out-of-business hours, when support agents are not available.
The Rise of Customer Portals and Self-Service
Since today’s consumers have become more self-reliant and prefer searching for information online before calling for support, the demand for self-service portals has dramatically risen in the recent years. Below are some of the latest statistics backed by research proving that:
- Knowledge bases such as FAQs are the most frequently used self-service options available today. (Forrester)
- 90% of global consumers expect brands and organizations to offer an online portal for self-service, while 74% have used it. (Microsoft)
- 98% of consumers have tried a self-service solution, including searching a company’s FAQs, help center, or other online resources. (Dimensional Research)
- 60% of the U.S consumers say that their go-to channel for simple customer support inquiries is a digital self-service tool. (American Express)
- 86% of B2B executives prefer using self-service tools for reordering, rather than talking to a sales representative. (McKinsey)
Benefits of a Customer Self-Service Portal for Businesses
Improved customer satisfaction
Customer portals offer a seamless self-service and support experience by providing complete 24/7 access to relevant, up-to-date information – everything customers need in one place in order to find answers on their own at times personally convenient for them. This makes it easy for consumes to search information they are seeking and greatly improves customer satisfaction.
Increased customer engagement
With customers having their own venue to interact with other customers on community forums to discuss solutions and possible troubleshooting steps, as well as share their feedback, ideas and suggestions – customer portals provide them with a greater sense of involvement, increase engagement and empowerment.
Reduced support agent workload
Customer self-service portals help to reduce agent workload. Since customers can easily look up the status of their own tickets, agents don’t have to spend time answering questions like “What’s the status of my request?”. They can focus their efforts and attention on addressing more complicated queries instead of handling minor, repetitive issues.
Reduced support volumes
By having a well-designed, easy to navigate customer portal with a solid knowledgebase, a FAQ section and a well-connected community forum, businesses can reduce the overall number of incoming customer support requests, as customers will be able to find the answers to many of their questions and resolve at least simple issues by themselves.
Lowered customer support costs
Even though implementing a customer portal requires certain investment, it actually pays off more in the long run as it helps businesses to lower their customer support costs. Since customers can contact a company out-of-hours, it means that there is no need to allocate additional resources to extend working hours and hire more support employees.
Basic Customer Self-Service Portal Elements
A typical customer self-service portal may contain, but is not limited to, the following basic elements:
A knowledgebase is a collection of content containing all the relevant information about a company’s products or services and organized into an easily searchable series of articles. Those could include getting started guides, how-to articles, troubleshooting tips and any other helpful and valuable information. Most portals will have a search bar at the top for easy navigation across the content.
An FAQ is a list of frequently asked questions about a company’s products, services and policies – a section where you address the most common concerns, questions and objections that customers might have. FAQs can also include links to the relevant articles in the knowledgebase, blog posts or video tutorials. Generally, FAQs cover less amount of information than a knowledgebase.
3. Video Tutorials
With 69% of users preferring to watch video to learn about a product or service, video tutorials is a valuable part of a business’s self-service offering. As consumers usually find video tutorials easier to understand, quicker to consume and more engaging, creating comprehensive, video-based self-service can greatly improve customer experience.
4. Community Forums
User forums or community forums is an important element of a self-service portal that is increasingly expected by consumers. They enable customers to interact with and help each other – ask and answer each other’s questions, share knowledge and insights, exchange use cases and best practices. While monitoring those conversations service agents can step in when necessary and offer timely assistance.
5. Feedback and Suggestions
The feature allows collecting customer feedback and encourages customers to send their suggestions for future product/ service improvements and even vote for existing suggestions as well as track the progress of their implementation. Customers’ ideas can be discussed on a feedback forum providing businesses with valuable customer insights.
6. Ticket Submission
If all else fails, customers should still be able to reach out by submitting a support request that enables a smooth transaction between searching for help themselves and contacting a company representative. With that option enabled in a customer portal, customers can manage their expectations by viewing the status of their tickets at any time.