Many businesses have already embraced customer relationship management (CRM) systems to enhance their operations, improve customer relationships, and drive more revenue. Based on Resco's report, 74% of companies agreed that a CRM system enabled better access to customer data and led to a 64% improvement in relationship management. Salesforce suggests that a properly integrated CRM leads to an average of 70% ROI.
While leveraging a CRM itself is rewarding, there's even more businesses can do to drive better performance – use a CRM portal. This platform not only houses customer data. It connects your business with partners, vendors, and customers.
Any changes you make in the portal will immediately show up in the CRM, and vice versa.
Table of Contents
Understanding CRM Portals
What is a CRM portal?
It's a web-based platform for external interaction with customers, partners, employees, and more. The CRM portal is tightly integrated with the main CRM system. It means that any data you add or update in the portal will instantly be reflected in the CRM, and vice versa.
For example, the customer wants to update their contact details. Without the portal, they will have to contact the support team and request an information change. The agent then updates the data in the CRM system manually as per request. With the portal, things are much easier. The customer logs into their portal account and updates their data, and the CRM system will automatically reflect those changes.
The core features of the CRM portal are the following:
- A self-service dashboard to manage accounts, track orders, and access resources without reaching out to support.
- Real-time collaboration through chat, forums, or collaborative documents.
- A knowledge base that includes FAQs, guides, and tutorials to help users find answers quickly.
- A ticketing system to raise issues, track their progress, and receive solutions.
- A calendar to schedule a sales or support call with the record of the event in your CRM.
The primary function of this platform is to allow users to serve themselves. Within the CRM client portal, one can check the status of an order, update personal details, raise support tickets, or access documentation or other resources. Also, it facilitates communication between the business and its stakeholders. Partners can collaborate on projects, and vendors can submit invoices, all within the portal environment.
What is the difference between a CRM portal and a CRM?
While both CRM systems and CRM portals aim to enhance customer relationships, they serve distinct purposes.
A CRM is an inward-facing platform. In other words, it's focused on internal business processes. This is the place where you store, manage, and analyze customer data, track interactions, and forecast sales.
Likewise, a portal is an external-facing platform that works as an extension of your CRM. It provides your customers, partners, and vendors with a self-service interface. Here, they can access information, submit requests, and collaborate with your business.
Benefits of Implementing CRM Portals
Enhanced customer satisfaction
The Microsoft report reveals that 54% of respondents have higher expectations for customer service today than they had a year or two ago. And as 96% of customers admit that service has an impact on their brand choice and loyalty, this figure is just too high to ignore. So, what do customers expect from companies in terms of service these days?
Among other things, 88% of customers anticipate the company to have a self-service portal. In fact, many of them find it inconvenient to speak to a support agent and would rather search for an answer or do other activities on their own. That's because using a self-service CRM web portal:
- Offers faster problem resolution time
- Is available 24/7
- Reduces the need for human interaction
For example, Dell launched a TechDirect portal for IT professionals who manage tech support. Here, users can self-log service requests, monitor status, and manage support tasks for their Dell products. This solution enabled them to speed up the problem-resolution process and increase their customer satisfaction.
All in all, 77% of customers say that if the company provides a self-service portal, they view it more positively. So, a CRM portal enhances the user experience and generates more positive impressions about your organization.
Reduced Operational Cost
The Harvard research suggests that the average cost of a live service interaction (phone, email, or chat) is around $7 for a B2C company and over $13 for a B2B company. At the same time, the expense of enabling an interaction with the company without interacting with a human is measured in pennies. Actually, Gartner believes that a fully self-service fix is 80 to 100 times more cost-effective than live resolution. That's because CRM portal automation reduces the need for manual intervention and allows businesses to save on labor costs and other operational expenses.
Additionally, a CRM online customer portal provides businesses with tools to speed up customer service. As support agents have all customer information in a centralized environment, they can resolve issues that require a human touch faster. Which leads to cost-effective resource management and significant savings associated with prolonged customer service interactions.
CRM portals help reduce the costs associated with training, too. Virtual training with a live instructor costs around $1,500 (for up to 6 people) and $2,250 (for 24 employees). These CRM platforms allow onboarding new employees or upskilling staff with minimal human intervention. For example, Marriott International launched its Hotel Excellence! training program portal for travel agents. That reduced the time and resources spent on training.
Increased Sales Opportunities
Did you know that 53% of buyers are likely to abandon their online purchase if they don't find an answer to their questions promptly? A CRM platform is exactly the tool that will help you provide your customers with a dedicated place to quickly find the answers they're seeking. Which may lead to a 50% increase in sales.
But the benefits of a CRM customer portal don't stop at just answering questions. Businesses can also analyze the behavior or interests of users within the portal. This means that when a customer logs in, they might find a special offer on a product they've been eyeing or a helpful tip related to a recent purchase. Along with enhancing customer care, this also creates ample opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
Take Apple, for instance. The company uses its CRM portal to gather data on what its users like or dislike. Whether they're launching a new product or rolling out a new sales campaign, their strategies are always data-driven. Which allowed them to make maximum impact and make $20 billion in the third quarter of fiscal year 2023.
Types of CRM with a Client Portal
CRM portals come in different forms. In fact, there are a few approaches to classifying them. We'll cover some of them and then compare the most popular portal types.
As for the type of user interaction, there are:
- CRM self-service portal – meant to help users find solutions to their queries without the need for direct interaction with customer support.
- CRM customer portal – allows customers to access their account information, track orders, raise service requests, and more.
- CRM partner portal – designed for business partners, distributors, or resellers to facilitate collaborative tasks, track joint ventures, and manage shared resources.
- CRM employee portal – helps internal teams manage tasks, track performance, and facilitate inter-departmental collaboration.
- CRM patient portal – made for healthcare providers and patients to allow booking appointments, accessing medical records, and communicating.
- CRM admin portal – allows managers of CRM systems to manage users, get data oversight, or configure the system.
- CRM developer portal – provides tech specialists with tools, documentation, and resources to assist in creating, customizing, and integrating CRM solutions.
And now let's take a closer look at the most popular CRM portal types: self-service, customer, and partner.
Comparison of Self-Service, Customer, and Partner CRM Portals
As we've already mentioned, these portals differ in the nature of interaction. A self-service portal empowers users to find solutions to their issues or queries without the need for direct interaction with customer support. They typically include FAQs, forums, and other basic troubleshooting tools. So, businesses aiming to reduce the volume of support tickets and provide 24/7 assistance should invest in self-service portals.
Those companies that want to enhance the overall customer experience and loyalty should consider a CRM with a customer portal. It can be tailored for both B2B and B2C businesses. It ensures customers have a one-stop platform for all their needs, from accessing account information to raising service requests.
Partner portals are ideal for businesses that rely on partnerships, have a distributor model, or collaborate closely with other businesses. They facilitate joint ventures, help manage shared resources, and streamline collaborative tasks.
Here's a chart that will give you a side-by-side comparison of these CRM portal types.
|Self-service portal||Customer portal||Partner portal|
|Primary users||Users/customers||Users/customers||Business partners, distributors & other stakeholders|
|Purpose||Resolve common queries/issues||Access account & service info||Collaborate on business tasks|
|Access level||FAQs & basic tools||Personalized to user's account||Deep, with shared resources|
|Integration||Knowledge bases, forums||CRM, billing systems||CRM, inventory, pricing systems|
|Benefits||Reduces support ticket volume||Enhances customer experience||Streamlines joint ventures|
|Works best for||Businesses with high customer volume & repetitive queries||Companies aiming for enhanced customer experience & retention||Enterprises with a distributor/partner model|
How to Implement a CRM Portal Effectively
Choose the Right Portal-Based CRM
First, you've got to decide between an off-the-shelf solution and a custom-built one. If you're a startup or a small business looking for a quick solution without breaking the bank, an off-the-shelf portal might be your best bet. It's ready to use and covers most generic needs. But if you've got specific requirements, a custom-built portal is just for you.
Whether your choice falls for a ready-made CRM portal like Salesforce or it's more beneficial to build a solution from scratch, you should pay close attention to its features.
Basic & Advanced CRM Portal Features
For small businesses and startups, the primary focus is often foundational: establishing relationships and building a customer base. In such scenarios, basic CRM portal features are the go-to. They're cost-effective, perfect for companies with budget constraints, and cater to simpler operations. Plus, for teams that might not be tech-savvy, these basic functionalities ensure everyone can get on board without feeling overwhelmed.
However, as businesses grow, there's a need for a more tailored approach. If your company has diverse offerings or if you're operating in multiple markets, you'll need the segmentation tools and targeted marketing capabilities that advanced CRMs offer. Moreover, modern organizations looking to make strategic decisions based on insights or aiming to deliver a top-notch personalized user experience will find the analytics and AI-powered tools of advanced CRMs invaluable.
So, what exactly should you look for? Find a list of basic and advanced functionalities in the chart below.
|Basic features||Advanced features|
Business Goals & Flows
You've got to have a clear understanding of your business objectives. Are you aiming to enhance the customer experience? Or perhaps you're looking to streamline partner collaborations? Maybe you want a blend of both? The CRM portal you choose should become a catalyst for achieving those goals.
Opt for a CRM portal that allows for customization and can adapt to your business flows. If you already have other tools in your enterprise system (like billing, inventory, or marketing solutions), your portal should gel well with them.
Also, your business will grow. So, the CRM portal should scale with your business to accommodate more users and additional features as required.
The design of the portal is not just about aesthetics. Most importantly, it's about creating a seamless, intuitive journey for the user. Forrester suggests that companies that invest in design get increased loyalty, better stock performance, higher revenues, and larger valuations. So, here are some tips for creating an intuitive and appealing UI:
- Understand your users' needs, preferences, and behaviors. Create a design that will ensure their primary tasks are easy to accomplish.
- Use a clear hierarchical structure in your interface. This means the most important information or commonly used features should be easy to locate.
- Ensure your portal's design aligns with your brand's colors, fonts, and overall concept.
- Don't fear empty space – it will make your portal look clean and organized.
- Use hover effects, transitions, and micro-interactions to give users hints as they navigate the portal.
- Design the portal in components. This makes the design process more efficient and ensures consistency across different sections of the portal.
- Work on a responsive design to make sure the portal functions well on all devices, especially mobiles and tablets.
- Optimize images and scripts to ensure the portal loads quickly.
- Design is never static. Regularly gather feedback, monitor user behavior, and iterate on the UI to continuously enhance it.
Given that CRM portals handle sensitive customer data, robust security features are non-negotiable. As data security, privacy, and application security are among the top security areas in 2023, the solution you're going to use should have a steadfast commitment to them.
Along with that, businesses are also concerned about compliance with data privacy regulations – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). So, a portal CRM should not only adhere to these regulations. It should embed data privacy and security into the CRM portal’s design and functionality.
Here are the best practices for ensuring the utmost security of the portal:
- End-to-end encryption for ensuring data, whether at rest or in transit, is unreadable to unauthorized entities.
- Mutli-factor authentication (MFA) to add an additional layer of security during user login and data access.
- Role-based access control to manage access to sensitive data.
- If your CRM portal interacts with other applications through APIs, ensure they are secure and have proper authentication mechanisms.
- Assure that the CRM portal and its components are regularly updated to protect against new vulnerabilities.
Challenges of Successful CRM Portal Implementations
According to Gartner, lack of talent availability is the most significant technology adoption barrier. In addition, inadequate team collaboration may also stand in the way of the successful deployment of a CRM portal.
When you decide to cover the skill gap internally, you should understand that this always means investing in training existing staff or hiring new talent with the required expertise. Sure, this approach can be rewarding in the long run, but it's also time-consuming and costly. Moreover, internal teams might struggle with balancing their regular duties with the demands of a CRM portal project.
To streamline the process, you may consider partnering with a specialized company like Ergonized. With a seasoned team that understands the intricacies of CRM portal development, you can leverage our expertise to ensure a smooth implementation of this digital solution.
Selecting the right technology stack for a CRM portal is as important as having the right people work on it. However, the challenge lies in selecting the technology that would properly integrate into the overall organization architecture and would deliver the right functionality. Along with that, Deloitte suggests looking at the following non-functional requirements:
- Monetary costs of implementation
- Deployment duration
- Flexibility to react to change and new or additional requirements
- Consistency of data across all systems, synchronization speed, and clarity of integration concept
- Compliance with regulations
When your business opts to handle the technological aspect of a portal implementation in-house, you risk investing in a tech stack that becomes obsolete or doesn't integrate well with other systems. On the other hand, turning to experienced vendors for help means getting guidance on the best technological fit based on your company's unique requirements.
Security & Compliance
The average cost of a data breach is measured at $9.48 million, while non-compliance with regulations can result in hefty fines. For example, Morgan Stanley faced two class-action lawsuits in July 2020 due to data breaches that occurred in 2016 and 2019. Shortly after, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) imposed a fine of $60 million for insufficient measures in following data privacy compliance requirements. In September 2022, Morgan Stanley faced another setback, which resulted in a $35 million penalty. This time, because of selling unencrypted hard drives from closed data centers on auction platforms without erasing them first.
So, ensuring that a CRM portal is both secure and compliant is a technical and business imperative if you would like to avoid those hefty penalties. If you want to manage security and compliance within your company, the team handling this aspect of CRM portal deployment should have a deep understanding of both the technological and legal aspects. They've got to stay vigilant about regular security audits and penetration testing. Additionally, there might be changes to data protection regulations, so they should keep up with updates. While you can build a dedicated team for this, it demands significant resources and continuous training. Alternatively, you can address these issues with Ergonized, which is well-versed in security protocols and compliance requirements.
Only those digital solutions that are able to scale can bring significant value. And not just scale at a slow pace. According to Boston Consulting Group, the rapid scaling process drives near-term gains in revenue, cost, and returns.
However, only 30% of companies have successfully scaled themselves beyond pilots. The rest of the organizations have their digital products stuck and cannot reach their full enterprise-wide potential. It means the majority of companies using CRM portals struggle with increasing data, users, and integrations without compromising performance or incurring exorbitant costs.
If your organization faces this issue and decides to tackle it in-house, you may have a hard time making technology choices that might seem overkill in the present but are essential for future growth. Moreover, your tech department might fail to ensure robust performance during peak loads and integrate new features without disrupting existing operations.
Ergonized offers a forward-thinking approach to scalability. We ensure the system architecture is flexible, and a CRM portal can effortlessly scale up, accommodating new users, data, and integrations without missing a beat.
Future Trends in CRM Portals
To better understand what awaits CRM portals in the future, let's look at the digital landscape in general. The board of directors surveyed by Gartner believes that AI/ML, software enhancement, and data & analytics are the core technologies imperative to digital business success.
These trends will be traced in the development of CRM portals and will enhance their capabilities.
AI & Chatbots
According to McKinsey, AI automates around 50–80% of interactions through self-service portals and chatbots. AI-powered CRM portals and chatbots have become an essential part of the customer communication journey for many organizations.
With the use of AI, CRM portals will become proactive. For example, if a regular customer hasn't made a purchase in a while, the system might flag this and prompt a chatbot to reach out. Or AI will analyze the user behavior, preferences, or previous communication history to curate a personalized dashboard. In cases where the portal can't address customers' issues, there may be an option to use a chatbot equipped with NLP. The bot will understand and respond to user queries in a more natural and conversational manner.
Data & Analytics
Along with AI, data, and analytics are the key elements of a successful digital product. 80% of companies that adopted real-time big data and analytics saw an increase in revenue of up to $2.6 trillion, with the potential for additional financial growth of $1.6 trillion. Moreover, 98% of respondents reported that they increased customer satisfaction, and 60% saw major efficiency and productivity gains.
What are the scenarios for using big data and analytics in a CRM portal? In a partner portal, a dashboard may show sales trends and successful products to spot areas of opportunity. For a self-service portal, the technology can analyze user behavior patterns to predict issues other people may face. For example, if users frequently navigate to a specific help article after using a particular feature, the system can proactively offer this article to future users.
The business landscape is dynamic, and customer expectations are constantly evolving. To stay ahead of the curve, you need a proactive CRM portal for your company capable of anticipating needs and delivering solutions even before they're sought. It will bridge the gap between your organization and your audience, be it customers, partners, or employees.
If your organization still hasn't implemented a CRM portal, now is the perfect time to redefine your existing systems and incorporate a new tool. If you would like to discuss how to create a CRM portal to meet your business objectives, Ergonized is open for a discovery call.