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5 questions to ask before launching a customer portal

The automation of services is revolutionising the way organisations interact with, and serve, their customers.

At the centre of this transformation is the rise of self-service portals, apps, mobile optimised sites and solutions that enable customers to find information and complete their business online.

Automating routine interactions and shifting them online has clear benefits for companies and their customers, but getting these digital projects right takes planning.

Here are five things to consider when evaluating vendors and solutions to support your shift to self-service.

1. Does it integrate with our existing systems?

Many organisations accrue an array of systems and software over time that don’t ‘talk to’ one another. The end result can be an unwieldy tech stack where vital information becomes increasingly siloed, affecting both the customer experience and your ability to innovate.

Fortunately, you don’t need to start-over to deliver a better digital experience for your customers. Look for a solution that’s made to integrate with your existing systems and connect them, ensuring your data is accessible and up-to-date, rather than one that requires you to ‘rip and replace’.

2. Is it easy-to-maintain and support?

If the aim of your project is to reduce manual labour costs and shift customer interactions online, the last thing you want to do is create more work for your IT team as a result.

When evaluating solutions, consider how much support, if any, will be required from IT and factor this into your overall cost analysis. This includes, who is responsible for managing updates and patching? How often does it need to be done? Does the vendor provide this support? Do they provide support to fix bugs or issues identified by users or does that sit with your team? A whole-of-life cost calculation will give you a better basis for comparing and evaluating solutions.

3. Is it future-proof?  

How flexible is the solution? Are you able to build on it and extend it as new opportunities to add value and functionality are identified? Will your team be to develop additional functionality and features in-house? Or is it a closed system that requires you to go back to the vendor when you want to make a change? A mix of both? Which of those options best suits your needs will depend on your internal capability, budgets, and future requirements.

4. Is it secure and reliable?

Few things pose a risk to operations like security breaches and platform instability. Data breaches, DDOS and web-based attacks are not only costly, they erode customer confidence in your offering and damage your reputation.

Consider whether the solution is built on a robust and secure system that is regularly audited for security vulnerabilities and tested against attack techniques. If data will be hosted in the cloud, consider whether the servers are located in your country, and whether any DDOS monitoring or disaster recovery tools are available.

5. What kind of employee training and/or change management will be required?

We’ve all worked in offices where new software has launched a seemingly inescapable loop of employee questions, complaints, head-scratching and frustration.

Before investing, and during the planning phases, consider how easy the solution is for employees to use and what training will be required.

Related: Get tech adoption right and employees will love you

For channel shift to be effective, frontline employees and customer service staff need to embrace the change and encourage customers to do the same. Your rollout won’t be successful unless those using it every day understand how to drive it.

Bonus question: What’s our adoption strategy?

Having an effective adoption plan is often the difference between achieving your business objectives or delivering an expensive new system that no one uses.

Even though your solution may solve a major pain point, don’t assume that customers and staff will instantly embrace it with open arms. Be prepared with a communication and education plan that makes using the digital service logical, intuitive and effortless.

Evaluating and acting on feedback from early adopters is also a crucial factor in ironing out inevitable kinks that present once your solution is live.

Self-service solutions can deliver incredible savings and unlock valuable new opportunities for your organisation and your customers. All it takes is careful planning and forward thinking.

Speak to a member of our team for more advice about what to consider when taking your customer experience online.

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