Did you know that if you run a business, as many as 90% of your customers might expect to have a website where they can log in, see their transactions, manage their information, source data, and resolve queries on their own?

These are just some basic elements of great customer web portal software (often referred to as a customer or client portal). In this post, we’ll cover what we consider some of the essential features that make the perfect client portal solution.

Why is a great customer portal so important?

Take a moment to think about how you interact with some of your own personal favourite brands online.

  • If you’ve purchased a product from them, did you log in to track how far away it was from delivery?
  • If you subscribe to a membership, do they offer a web portal or app where you can edit your preferences, see your library and/or track your progress?
  • And if you’ve needed to ask them a question, return an item or make a complaint, were you able to do this with a few simple clicks, without needing to dial a phone number or visit a physical location?

If so, then you’re probably in that 90% we mentioned above – possibly without even realising it. Interactive customer portals have become so ubiquitous in the consumer space that their functions are now simply thought of as natural extensions of a company’s web presence.

What are the benefits of client portals?

Some of the benefits of having a dedicated customer portal include:

  • A professionally branded web presence
  • A single point of contact for clients and customers
  • The ability to manage information fast and efficiently
  • Ease of communication with people in that organisation

Of course, when you’re using a customer portal, it’s not easy to pick apart and understand how it works, or how each of the disparate elements come together to make it so successful. It’s also not always straightforward picturing how such a system could serve a business in a completely different sector.

Amazon’s web platform, for instance, is a consumer-focused portal encompassing retail, customer service and content functions. On the surface, it might appear very different to a portal designed to give B2B customers access to in-depth technical reporting tools.

However, they both have the same underlying purpose: allowing a business’s users to solve problems from a single, unified digital location, in as efficient and automated fashion as possible.

Four key elements of great customer web portal software

From flexible working to easy client engagement, these are the top features we think every customer or client portal should have:

1. Online productivity

Many modern customer portals use cloud computing to offer users a space they can log into from any place, at any time, from almost any kind of web-enabled device. These portals also often store vital documents, and can offer a suite of productivity tools tailored to the specific industry being served. When you consider the rise of working from home after the global pandemic, these are vital features that can help your business offer a superior service to competitors.

One example is a client portal we built for NSR Management Ltd. It allowed clients to compile estimates from industry-standard rates on around 50,000 listed items, while also linking the orders to the supply chain, and allowing for the uploading of supporting documents. This allowed NSR’s clients to drastically speed up the process of making maintenance contract orders for projects likes offices, houses and schools.

2. Automation

Another key element of great customer portal software is the ability to automate key aspects of productivity to save users time – and therefore save businesses money.

Take, for instance, the portal we built for UK-based hospitality start-up Smart Space Strategy. Our solution allowed clients using the company’s specialised data analytics services to move away from manually entering data from Excel spreadsheets to an automated approach that pulled data automatically from clients’ in-house systems. They could then use the portal to see, sort and produce reports on that data, allowing businesses in the hospitality industry to understand their business on a far deeper level than previously possible.

3. Collaboration tools

A significant benefit of client portals is that they empower users to work together from afar using features built to encourage and enhance collaboration.

The cloud-based collaborative supplier relationship management system that we built for supplier relationship company SK Euroca is a strong example. This allowed the companies clients, including well-known brands like Fujitsu, Jaguar Land Rover, Network Rail, Royal Mail and the Metropolitan Police, to get more from their supplier relationships.

Our unified digital portal brought together interactive real-time dynamic dashboards and heatmaps, an innovative AI-driven Auto Risk module, and cutting-edge supplier psychometric modelling – alongside built-in chat functionality that allowed businesses to collaborate securely and intuitively, while giving SK Euroca themselves a secure avenue for easy client engagement.

4. Security

Of course, for any software solution to be viable it also has to be highly secure. Customer portals that aren’t secure risk data breaches, losses of client and customer information, and potentially severe damage to both the organisation and its reputation.

Our work with Ark Data Centres is a standout example of a project where security was a primary concern. The company constructs and operates high-integrity data centres used by government agencies and large multi-national organisations. It needed a new customer portal that could allow clients to log in and administer their own permissions and access controls, allowing users within those businesses access to often highly sensitive Ark-held company data.

Naturally, such a system would be far more efficient than the company’s established email and telephone-based process – one which took four days, on average, to action. It needed to be intuitive to use, and allow those with permissions to add additional users at different permission levels. However, the system also needed to allow Ark themselves to grant clients access levels to different service features, depending on their business contracts.

All of this was produced in line with the strict standards of GDPR, with system identity security, future security vulnerability patching, and the ability to add further security functionality like two-factor authentication all factored in.

Customer portals for your business

At DCSL GuideSmiths, we’ve built many customer portals, designed to solve unique problems for businesses across all kinds of sectors – from insurance to education, and IT to government and the public sector.

For more examples, see our complete list of customer portal case studies or visit our customer portal software page to learn how we can work with you.

To get started working with us, or to find out more about what we offer, get in touch today.