What is a self-service portal?
A self-service portal (or client portal) is a digital environment that enables interaction between customers and organisations. We are not talking about a public webshop that everyone can access, but a closed web environment that only customers have access to.
Where a website or webshop is mainly about marketing and brand, a self-service portal is intended for service and sales. Self-service portals were traditionally only a self-service tool but are much more than that today.
Types of self-service portals
1. B2C portals
Self-service portals for B2C are commonplace today. Consider, for example, the self-service section at a webshop where you can view your data, past orders, and invoices, get information about current orders, register returns, and so on.
2. B2B portals
B2B organisations are also increasingly opting for a self-service portal. In a secure digital environment, customers can view their contracts, outstanding invoices and ongoing orders or services status. Where in the past, the telephone lines at organisations used to be red-hot with customer questions, today this can all be taken care of in the self-service portal. This provides many benefits for both customers and organisations.
3. Portals for governments and municipalities
In addition to self-service portals for B2B and B2C, it’s worth considering the benefits of portals for governments and municipalities. At iO, for example, we developed a digital portal for the Municipality of Rijswijk. Residents can now apply for a parking permit easily online, report a change of address or register with the municipality.
The essence of a good self-service portal
A self-service portal is not a replacement for a well-organised back office, sales, or customer service but a supplement to it. A good self-service portal offers your customers the opportunity to arrange their own affairs online with your organisation. Where access to customer service by telephone is only available at set times, a self-service portal is accessible 24/7 - wherever and whenever the customer wants.
In essence, a good self-service portal is all about increasing efficiency and providing better service. This not only has direct financial benefits for organisations, but also benefits customer satisfaction and customer loyalty!
A user-friendly self-service portal in 5 steps
A self-service portal is not a 'one size fits all' solution. It is wise to take a number of things into account during construction. Read our practical tips for building a successful self-service portal in the whitepaper 'A user-friendly portal in 5 steps'. You’ll have a solid foundation and get your organisation off to a flying start with a portal that will yield optimal returns.
What do you need to make a successful self-service portal?
iO creates custom self-service portals. Because, just like customer portals, no two organisations are the same. There is no standard solution.
Despite the fact that every self-service portal is different, there are still general characteristics for success. We'll talk about four of them below.
1. User is central
Customer expectations continue to rise. Excellent quality service and accessible user experiences are inextricably linked to this. In a successful self-service portal, the needs and wishes of your customer are central. That’s why it’s essential that you provide a practical platform that delivers all the information that users are looking for, on all devices, and where they can do what they want, when they want.
Nowadays, a successful self-service portal is more than just an online self-service counter. Customers expect a more personal approach. For example, in a B2B portal you can link to the customer's account manager and offer frictionless contact options.
Use the data your company gathers to get to know your customers better so that you can be more relevant. A personalised approach offers opportunities for sales, because you can show your customers more interesting products or services, and make tailor-made offers based on their order and purchase history.
3. Intuitive design
The most successful self-service portals are designed based on UX best practices, user testing and user interviews. Implementing intuitive design means your customers can use your portal without reading a manual.
During the development of the online self-service portal for cash transporter G4S, for example, we spoke extensively with retail chains to find out how they can gain extra insights into their cash flows. This meant that we could develop a portal that adds real value for the customer.
4. Integrated system
You probably already have data streams that combine payment data, customer data and orders in your web environment. A successful self-service portal allows these data streams to connect seamlessly with each other in one integrated system.
Choosing the technology to support this should not be determined by what is already technically available. Organisational objectives and user needs lead, not the availability of technology. At iO we have extensive experience with different technologies so we can always choose the 'right tool for the job'.
Is it time for your organisation to build a self-service portal?
Now that you know what a successful self-service portal is, it's time to act. Read our practical tips for building a successful self-service portal or contact us and iO will build you the right client portal.
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