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Full Expert Guide on Customer Portal Development and Design

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Clients are the priority and biggest value for every business starting with Apple and Nike, and ending with Lidl and Walmart. After all, only loyal clients can help you boost your sales and promote your brand by buying your goods or services. 

Probably I would not surprise you if I say that all customers appreciate good service, and in the digital era clients expect from companies a little bit of extra. Since most people have a busy life, they sometimes want to be able to use the self service option right on their laptops or mobile devices. And that’s exactly what customer portals offer them. 

In this blog post we would like to talk about customer portal development, point out why it is so important to invest in it, and what crucial features to add to make your solution extremely helpful for your clients. So, let’s waste no minute, and proceed to this interesting topic. 

What is a customer portal and who needs it?

When it comes to customer portal software, many business owners still mix it up with a website that only provides information about the company, its services and goods. 

However, a customer portal is a more advanced solution that can have many options allowing your clients to make orders, open support tickets, make use of the company knowledge base and access all information about a product or service before ordering it.  

The statistics shows that these days almost 90% of customers from the US expect a company to have an online customer portal, and what’s even more exciting, almost 80% of customers already benefited from using the self service client portal and liked this experience. 

Here is an infographics demonstrating the percentage of people expecting brands to provide them with web portals:  

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Image source: Statista

These numbers prove that these days we all got used to self-service, to Googling and looking for the information on the Internet. So self-service solutions like customer portals became a must-have for every company. Let’s just take a quick look at some leading business industries and how web portal software can be of use to them. 


Tourism
with the client portal it can become way easier to manage reservations, perform digital bookings and check-ins, arrange customer support and provide your potential customers with more customized tourism options. 
Real estate
all real estate agencies can benefit from an internal portal combined with a client portal to perform effective property selection, schedule house viewings, see rent conditions, receive and handle maintenance requests, and even complete online payments. 
Education
now in the era of e-learning it is important to provide students and teachers with effective digital tools to exchange information, share courses, and communicate in real time. With the web portal for e-learners you can control membership accounts, access to courses and data, and provide students with consultations and self-education options. 
E-commerce and retail
initially B2C and self-service client portals were used by retail companies to provide effective pre and after-sales service, let clients track their delivery, pay for it online and explore all available goods and services. Now such customer portals have become more advanced and offer a range of other options such as loyalty programs, personalized suggestions and more. 
Online banking
now finance institutions are interested in providing customers with more self-service options and instant support. Therefore they develop their own client portal software to let clients see and manage transactions, payment history, and financial planning, benefit from regular reporting and 24/7 customer support.
Healthcare
for the healthcare industry it is crucial to implement a client portal to provide appointment scheduling, easier access to patients test results and medical data, electronic prescriptions, medical knowledge base and many more. 
Insurance
it’s hard to imagine modern people without insurance which they would like to manage right on their devices. With the help of web portals your insurance company clients can manage their payments, read information about different insurance options, send new requests, and speak to client managers spending way less time. 

Business and client benefits of customer portals

As you can see, client portal software can help you build better relationships with your clients, understand their needs and respond timely to their questions and requests. The power of such solutions is undeniable, and yet you may be still wondering what value they are able to bring to your business and client base. Well, let’s see the list of the main ones. 

What your business gets: 

  • More effective and timely support service which leads to improved customer satisfaction and more sales.
  • Professional growth and improvement of your customer service team that can learn based on real support cases and how they were resolved using customer service software. 
  • Improved analytics and reporting based on real customers preferences and purchases for a certain period of time. 
  • All customer data is located in one safe place where you can access it and use it to generate reports, discover real demand, and drawbacks or advantages of your services and goods. 
  • Ability to provide more personalized information about goods and services and therefore convert more people into your loyal customers. 
  • Possibility to expand organization’s network by implementing B2B partner portal and exchanging crucial information with your suppliers, vendors or else. 

What your clients get:

  • Broad and well-organized knowledge base with all necessary information about products, services, company values and policies. 
  • A bunch of self service options starting with fast order making, convenient tracking, online payment and support options that customers find very useful. 
  • Customers access to 24/7 support and the ability to resolve any problem in hours, not days. 
  • Improved and modern customer experience that engages and encourages them to make buying decisions faster. 
  • Personal account that will store all details about orders, purchase history, preferences, recommendations and more in one secure place that clients access anytime and on any device. 
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Our experts can discuss new business opportunities of customer portal development with you and suggest you the most suitable type of the solution and the best feature set.

Main types of customer portal software 

Client portal became a must-have for big and growing companies that are determined to improve customer experience and meet fast changing customer demands and needs. 

Speaking about the types of customer portals we would highlight the three main ones that are B2B, B2C and support portal. Let’s speak about each of them in detail. 

B2B online portal 

B2B customer portal is used by online shops and vendors to gather all client related data, create new range of services, personalize approach to customer service, and meet the requirements of the existing client base. 

The main advantage of a B2B portal is that it can be used to manage processes and cooperate effectively with your distributors and business partners. It optimizes administration work, reduces the number of errors in documentation, and provides incredible self-service options. 

B2C client portal 

The development of a B2C customer portal is the best and fastest way to form a customer-centered approach in your company. On top of that, such a solution can be synced with your CRM or ERP system to collect as many insights and numbers as needed to generate useful reports based on real data. 

This kind of customer portal allows you to provide centralized access to all the data, create personalized content, encourage active client interaction, create a community centered around your product or service, and automatically handle all requests and queries. 

Support portal 

Such a customer portal helps companies to remove all barriers between them and their clients. Support portals are used to answer customers’ questions, promote new products, create private links for groups of people and let them access certain information either about the company or about products. 

Support portal lets your employees manage support tickets easier, and no client query will ever get lost or left unanswered. Such a high attention level contributes to your brand reputation and customer satisfaction. 

Apart from these two main types of customer portal solutions, we would like to emphasize that they can be divided into 3 sub groups – private, public and restricted ones. Private portals imply that the administrator needs to send your client an invite to register and join the portal. Public customer portal can be joined by anyone who is visiting it. And restricted portals can be joined only via invite link and after the admin manually approves the client account. 

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Related post
Many businesses consider web portals to be their major digital helpers. They invest in development of B2B, B2C, client, employee, and even portals for business partners. Check out this post to find out what web portals are capable of and how much does it cost to build one. 

How to develop client portal for your business 

To develop a fully customizable customer portal, you need to have a certain budget and team of reliable web developers. If you are a non-tech person, then probably you would appreciate more information about customer portal development. And we, as a team of experienced developers, will gladly share all specificities, important aspects and many more with you right away. 

Team composition and development cycle 

To begin with, let’s talk about the technicians that you should hire to build your own client portal software. In case you do not have an in-house team of developers, you will probably need to find a cohesive team like Altamira that offers services of: 

  • Business analysts who complete market research, help you to set clear goals and expectations, and write all necessary tech documentation. 
  • Designer who is responsible for creation of design concept and look of your customer portal. 
  • Web developers who write clean code and perform all integrations with third-party services or your internal CRM or ERP systems. 
  • QA engineers who check if everything functions fine and if the customer portal has great performance and loading speed. 
  • Project manager who will supervise all processes and provide you with all updates, and also make sure that all deadlines are preserved.

Optionally you can hire a DevOps specialist and marketing team to help you set everything up and create different marketing campaigns to inform your customers about your new solution that they can start using. 

As to the development cycle, usually it includes several main steps that are the Discovery stage, customer portal design and prototyping, coding and implementation of services, quality assurance, project release and further maintenance. 

Here at Altamira, we follow an Agile approach that lets us perform iterative development and input any crucial changes on any stage of development. So in the end you will definitely get a customizable solution adapted to all your business needs and requirements. 

We also pay special attention to the customer portal design and security. So we decided to dedicate two next paragraphs to these aspects, since they really mean a lot. 

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Must-read
We have already written a post that helps business owners and startuppers to find and hire the best web developers. It explains where you should look for a team, what questions you should ask and what documentation to sign before starting your project. To read this post, click here

The importance of the design 

Since the customer portal is aimed to make customer experience more pleasant and seamless, it is crucial to take special care of its design starting with software interface and eye-pleasing color scheme, and ending with the right placement of all buttons, notification, sections and responsiveness

So while working on your customer portal design, stay focused on layout and try to provide limited options not to confuse your portal users. Add colors associated with your company, and make sure that the navigation is intuitive enough. Everything should be easy to find and open. 

Our designers highly recommend all business owners to consider the following tips while creating web portal design: 

  • use contrast colors and highlight action buttons;
  • make all elements in one style;
  • add white spaces to make content easy to read;
  • position all elements in right and logic places on the screen;
  • allow support for keyboard navigation;
  • spice up your design with interesting loaders, animations and pop-ups. 

Here is a screenshot of one web portal designed by our specialists to demonstrate you how a trendy a convenient design can look like: 

Security matters 

When it comes to customer portals and customer data, it is utterly important to ensure the necessary level of security. We all know that data leaks cause a lot of problems that result in money and reputation losses. So to avoid this, it is highly recommended to: 

  • incorporate two-factor authentication in your customer portal software;
  • set permissions and provide different levels of access to account information and knowledge base;
  • use SSL encryption to make sure that the data send from the host cannot be read; 
  • let your users create unique IDs and passwords to access their accounts, payment information, and document sharing option;
  • set password expiration option so that your customers can update their passcodes in a certain required period of time;
  • use LDAP authentication protocol to prevent unauthorized tools from accessing information from directory. 

7 must-have features to incorporate in your customer portal

When building your own customer portal software, make it feature rich and add the most trendy and useful options. Your customers will be pleased to have everything they need right at their hand. Here is a short list of top 7 customer portal features that you can consider: 


Online payment
this is a go-to option for every business, since whatever kind of goods or services you sell, customers would like to pay for them in a convenient and fast way. So select a secure payment gateway and let the customers enjoy their buying experience. 
Knowledge base
create and add a lot of articles about your company, products, how to use them, what to do if something is not working, etc. and save a lot of time that was always spent on support and answering the same questions over and over again.
Order management
this is a great self service option that will let your customers place orders, pay for them, track them, or cancel them right in the customer portal within minutes.
Document management
file sharing and saving can be very useful for both your employees and your customers. They can upload or download invoices, catalogs of goods, user manuals and many more.
Support requests
let your customers send service requests and your employees manage support tickets in a smarter way. Your customer service portal may include a ticketing system that will reduce the time of processing requests and managing them.
Community forum
there is nothing better than a forum with convenient chat options for your customers. They can discuss all matters, share their opinion about your products, ask for advice or even give one to the others. Loyal community means a lot and can make your business even more successful. 
Feedback
your web portal users should be able to leave their complaints and opinions using some built-in feedback generator. In such a way you can get and process all information more effectively and use it to improve your business and adjust marketing strategies in the future. The connection with customers is crucial, since they help to define your value proposition.

Customer portal development services of Altamira 

Altamira team provides professional customer portal development services and helps businesses of all sizes to achieve success and boost their sales. Among our services there are: 

  • holistic market and competitors research + Discovery stage;
  • customer portal development from scratch; 
  • modernization of your client portal and integration with CRM and ERP;
  • web portal (B2B and B2C) development and design. 

Apart from these services we offer professional project management, design concept creation, and a range of content and marketing services. We build high quality secure client portals with customers data and customer information in mind. Our software engineers take care of all security features and make sure that all sensitive information is protected on the highest level. 

Speaking about the cost of a custom portal for business developed by our team, it can vary between $30,000-$80,000 depending on the desired feature set, tech stack and seniority of hired developers, portal complexity, and integrations. 

We know that examples speak louder than words therefore we would like to share with you two success stories, two web portals we developed for aircraft brokerage business and a company that provides services for deaf or hearing impaired children. 

Both business owners required convenient solutions to let their clients log in and benefit from a variety of options. For the aircraft brokerage company it was a portal that lets clients check the catalog of flying vehicles, compare them, ask questions using live chat options and place an order. For the company that works with deaf children it was a portal where parents could create and manage their accounts, get information about all available services and necessary payments, manage invoices, school years, children lists and way more. Here is how that portal was designed: 

It has a clean look, all information is visible and readable and navigation is very easy. Also as you can see there are many options included in that portal, so the parents and our client can benefit from this solution to the fullest. 

Whatever business you run, if you need your own portal for customers, we are here to help you. We have worked with healthcare, education, banking, retail, manufacturing and real estate companies and built incredible solutions that last them for years. And your project as well  can become one of those success stories and bring great value to your business.  

Usually you need 3-6 month to build a customer portal from scratch, test it and start using it for your business. However, the development may take a little bit longer if you need a more complex solution with lots of integrations. 
No, website and web portal are two different solutions. While a website is created to represent your brand, provide some ads and information about your products or services, a web portal is used to provide access to more information and let customers perform some actions like creating user accounts, performing order making, requesting support, paying for the goods, etc. 

To conclude

It is hard to underestimate the positive impact of customer portals on businesses. After all, we live in the digital era when we value our time and want to resort to self-service whenever it is possible to avoid waiting. And client portals grant us this opportunity. 

While we, as clients, appreciate fast and convenient access to all necessary information, businesses benefit from other advantages. They can collect and analyze client information and preferences, increase sales, improve marketing, and even predict the future demand and get prepared to meet it. Customer service portal seems a win win solution for both – companies and their clients. 

To build the best client portal software you need a truly experienced team that will wrap up a code in a trendy design and turn user experience to a whole new level. Altamira is exactly this team, so in case you have a web portal  idea in mind, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We will provide you with a free consultation and help you turn your idea into an incredible project in no time. 

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