In today’s digitized world, customers and employees are increasingly expecting personalized user experiences. Web portal software offers a single point of access to the applications, services, information and social connections employees or customers need and now expect. In this article, we look at web portal software in depth: what it is and how it can help businesses achieve those all-important personalized user experiences. We also look at some examples of industries that have successfully employed this technology.
What Is Web Portal Software?
Web portal software is the tool for creating a specially designed website that serves as the single point of access to information. Think of it as a gateway to a library of aggregated, personalized and categorized content. A well-designed portal will make it easier for the user to find information because of the way the data is integrated, its search navigation and the personalized aspect.
Web portals can provide a particular look and feel for organizations to reflect their branding and corporate colors. They are accessible from multiple platforms like personal computers, smartphones and tablets. The main features of a web portal include data access, personal content, transactions, security, published content and a search functionality.
Perhaps the most important feature though is that it is capable of presenting information based on the user. It can also allow users to voluntarily personalize the information presented in the web portal. So in much the same way as iTunes or Amazon present the user with a personalized menu based on their previous purchases or browsing history, so the portal software will present a personalized menu and data pertinent to that individual user.
Businesses have found applications for web portal software both in relation to customers and employees as individuals or as teams.
Customer Web Portal Software
Many businesses have been taking full advantage of the possibilities offered by customer web portal software. In particular, being personalized as they are, customer portals are a great way to improve the customer’s experience and so can impact on their loyalty. In fact, making timely, accurate information available to your customers and being seen to be responsive to clients’ needs makes it more likely that you will retain the customer’s business.
Centrally located online forms in the customer web portal such as contact us, requests for support, quotes, invoices, order histories and so on, make it much easier for the customer to do business with you rather than your competitors.
Customer web portals also offer opportunities for increased responsiveness and streamlined processes. Important information such as quotes, product manuals, service requests, invoices and so on can be accessed via the customer portal by both internal staff and customers, thereby providing a single source of truth. No longer will they get lost in the mail or the sea of email traffic. And the margin of error will be reduced as the portal will have the most up-to-date version of those important documents.
In addition, tasks that were previously completed manually can now be automated. So placing orders, for example, can be accomplished through the customer portal rather than by phone or email.
Examples of industries that have made extensive use of customer web portals include:
- banking and finance
- education providers
- real estate
- public relations
- local and central government
- health and fitness.
Let’s go on now to look in detail at how some of these industries have applied customer web portal software in their businesses.
Web Portal Examples
Insurance companies have made use of web portal software to offer customers flexible web designs that enable payments and account management for clients, access to historical records of purchased products and services along with integrated features to facilitate policy payments and renewals. In addition, the portals often feature easy-to-update contact information and communication preferences. Banks have also included features such as the ability to open new accounts and manage day-to-day banking operations.
The health and fitness sector has found that portal software provides a single platform for users to personalize information by specialty, gender or location. It can also feature various subsections for knowledge about conditions and treatments, locations, fitness classes, contact info and FAQs. On top of that, web portal software features the ability to request appointments and refills, as well as filling out surveys and healthcare questionnaires. Being able to quickly and easily update personal information such as a change of address makes life easier for patients. What’s more, patients can also directly review and print off information such as immunization records.
Another sector that has made extensive use of web portal software is legal. In particular, lawyers have been using the technology to manage organizational knowledge. Keeping on top of changes in case law, precedents and legislation, as well as the latest developments in law review articles, is a fundamental aspect of running a legal practice. All lawyers need to have this kind of information at their fingertips and web portal software is an easily implemented solution. Instead of having multiple databases, different document management systems and a range of information sources and reference points, web portal software can be used to create a single knowledge management portal that integrates all these sources in one platform. What’s more, the knowledge portal can be customized to reflect the structure and organization of the legal practice.
An advanced search function using a sophisticated system of filters means that staff members can quickly and easily locate the specific information they’re after, even if they are unsure of the case number or document name. And, it’s a simple process to keep the knowledge updated with the latest developments, which means that lawyers and legal assistants can be confident the information they are accessing is the very latest.
In addition, some law firms have provided customers with limited access to their knowledge portal. It’s a great way to keep clients updated on legal matters relevant to their industry and improves the level of service offered by law firms.
Both local and central government departments and agencies have made extensive use of web portal software. Local government has used it to develop personalized online experiences for both citizens and businesses. What’s more, the single sign-on makes it easier and simpler for citizens and businesses to access streamlined services through the web portal.
The federal government department Grants.gov allows applicants for federal grants to apply for and manage their grant funds online through a common website. In addition to improving the customer experience, from an organizational perspective, the web portal software has simplified the grant management process and has largely eliminated redundancies.
The Marines is another excellent example of web portal software in action. The site features personalized home pages for applicants to access various forms and also offers the ability to submit questions to the Marine Corps and watch videos on demand.
Education providers are another sector to take full advantage of customer web portal software. A web portal can be used to support a variety of administrative tasks such as:
- student enrolment and class registration
- course payments and student account information
- academic advice and support
- teaching and grading
- employment and training
- work-flow enabled administrative functions.
What’s more, it’s also possible to develop personal portal calendars with class times and locations for registered courses. The user can also easily add other campus events or social functions if desired.
The real estate industry use web portal technology to provide personalized experiences for users. Instead of the customer having to input search preferences and locations every time they visit the real estate company’s website, web portal software is used to present the visitor with a personalized experience tailored to their previous browsing history. In addition, the web portal can integrate with CRM software as well as a company or agent calendar to provide a comprehensive, integrated solution that simultaneously meets the needs of customer and employee alike.
What all these practical examples have clearly demonstrated is that for a relatively small investment of time and resources customer web portal software can provide customers with a streamlined and personalized experience. As a result, your business will be more responsive to customers’ needs and you’re likely to find that this is rewarded with greater customer loyalty.
As we’ve already seen, however, the benefits of web portal software can also be applied to the internal customer. So, let’s turn our attention now to looking in detail at what web portal software has to offer staff members.
Employee Portal Software
Do you want your staff members to be more productive, efficient and effective? Of course you do! Well, quite simply an employee portal in a single platform and with one sign-on provides staff members with all the tools they need to get the job done more efficiently and effectively. What’s more, it’s possible for staff members to personalize their dashboards so that the tools and features they use most often are readily accessible from the portal’s home page. Having everything together in one employee portal means that the staff member is not wasting time signing on and switching between different apps and screens, or plowing through paper or email-based systems.
In fact, streamlined business processes are one distinct advantage on offer with employee portal software. Automated online processes are easy to setup with the portal’s in-built forms builder so that an employee wanting to submit an expenses claim, a holiday request form or a pre-appraisal assessment simply logs on to the portal and away you go! What’s more, the employee portal software automatically routes the online form to the relevant manager for action. Automated processes reduce the incidence of inputting errors or information going missing or being misfiled. Staff members will no longer be wasting valuable time trying to resolve issues or rectify mistakes. Quite simply, employee portal software can do away with paper and email-based systems in your organization, making it quicker and easier to achieve tasks and get things done. It also reduces the potential for human error or documents being mislaid and emails not acted on.
Perhaps though it’s the self-service potential of the employee portal software that offers the greatest benefit. You see, employees will be able to source information and resolve issues for themselves without the need to bother their colleagues in other teams or waste time navigating manual filing systems. Say that Bob, a new salesperson, wants to read up on a product manual so his superior knowledge will result in closing more deals with customers. All Bob needs to do is either use the employee portal’s intuitive menu navigation or the advanced search functionality to go straight to the relevant product manual with just a couple of clicks of the mouse. Being able to do so is empowering for Bob, especially as he is a new member of staff that is still finding his feet. Bob hasn’t distracted his colleagues from their work and he hasn’t spent valuable time trying to locate the manual in a paper filing system. It’s a far more efficient and effective way of operating with the added bonus of improving the overall employee experience as well as staff morale.
Indeed, a recent survey from Deloitte has highlighted just how important the employee experience is in today’s workplace. The survey discovered that 80 percent of executives rated employee experience as being important or very important and with increasing pressure on recruitment budgets as well as operational costs, sourcing and then hanging on to good staff members is now more important than ever. Providing a personalized, superior employee experience via the employee portal software will pay dividends in the long run. Increased productivity, streamlined processes, increased staff retention and reduced recruitment costs mean that you’ll very quickly see a significant return on your investment.
Team Portal Software
In addition, it is possible to replicate the personalized user experience at the team level. Portal software is easy to use and implement which means that you can have multiple portals operating within an intranet. Drag and drop functionality allows you to aggregate information for a number of audiences and users.
The marketing department’s portal, for instance, as well as housing the marketing strategy would also include all the company’s branding, logo, advertising templates and marketing materials. It may also include a personalized news feed with industry news and updates directly relevant to marketing employees as well as general company and team news. At the same time, web portal software could enable the experience to be personalized at the individual employee level too. The Head of Marketing, for example, in addition to generic marketing data would also be presented with information and updates that are pertinent to a member of the executive management team.
Web Portal Software: The Benefits
The benefits web portal software can bring to an organization are many and, as we’ve seen, include an improved customer experience and greater productivity from employees. And it’s certainly true that more automated business processes alongside quick and easy access to the information and knowledge staff and customers expect will simultaneously impact on productivity and brand loyalty.
However, another significant benefit web portal software has is the potential to deliver improved internal communications as a direct result of the better dissemination of information afforded by the portal. And improved internal communications will, in turn, have an impact on employee engagement as good organizational communication is one of the key drivers for employee engagement.
It’s possible to improve internal communications and employee engagement in your business with the portal’s news feeds and blogs features. Keep staff up to date with what’s happening both internally and externally and allow employees to comment on and share stories as a way to open up a genuine dialogue. And why not use the portal to canvass employees’ views on any number of issues with a survey, poll or quiz. Better still, use the portal to showcase staff members that have done something special or gone the extra mile with a formal employee recognition program. The possibilities offered by the web portal software are almost endless.
The truth is that there’s a wealth of research that demonstrates engaged employees tend to be happier and work harder. They are also more likely to stay with the same employer for longer than their less engaged counterparts. And so it follows that as a result of implementing a portal, you’re likely to see absenteeism rates diminish and you’ll find your recruitment costs decrease as staff stay longer.
Engaged employees also tend to feel more valued and appreciated by their employers. Utilizing portal software that directly addresses the needs of employees is one easy way to demonstrate to staff members that they are valued as individuals.
All of this can be achieved cost-effectively and with the minimum amount of fuss with web portal software, especially if cloud solutions are employed. Most portal software providers offer a series of pre-built templates that require little technical know-how to get up and running. What’s more, they can be easily customized to suit your individual needs and organizational setup. A fixed monthly fee which covers unlimited numbers of users and unlimited data storage provides much-needed cost certainty in an increasingly uncertain business world.
The bottom line is that organizations which fail to respond to the expectations of customers and employees to offer personalized user experiences will find it increasingly hard to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.
If you’re thinking about utilizing portal software to maintain your competitive advantage, speak today to the knowledgeable team at MyHub Intranet Solutions about the possibilities. Better still why not take advantage of our no-obligation demo or 14-day free trial offer. Get in touch today.