This is the sixth article in a multi-part series on Salesforce Experience Cloud. The entire series can be found here.
Salesforce provides a great set of capabilities with the Experience Cloud (formerly Community Cloud) so that you can move more of your business online. Portal users love it because they can self-service many of their needs. Companies love it too because they can handle mass scale with less effort and do so in a big net-positive, branded, and differentiated way.
This article will cover some of the most popular portal functions that companies use to build their portals and give them an advantage in the marketplace. While a portal can be a blank slate of functions and capabilities, we note some of the most common components that are considered best practices. For more information, we have a whitepaper covering the most common and best practices components you should consider in building a top of the line portal. Here is a high-level overview to get you started.
The most basic portal, Resource Library, provides valuable information to end-users in multiple forms of content such as:
- Blog articles
- Knowledge articles
- Searchable product catalog
- Download center with files (could include documentation, binaries/patches, and more)
A resource library is an incredibly easy and useful way to get started because the interaction is typically one-way and thus does not require any complex workflows and UI considerations.
Customers and partners often come to the portal to get their issue resolved, with the expectation of specific mechanisms by which they can get their questions addressed. They often include:
- Log a case and manage it ongoing using the portal and email
- Interactive discussion with a smart chatbot, quickly addressing their issue
- Live chat with an agent for a more in-depth discussion
- Post a question: If they can’t find the answer in an FAQ or knowledgebase article, end-users often like to be able to log their issue in a forum or “ask the community” facility to learn from other’s experiences
Your company may have a community, whether you realize it or not. Your customers and partners may be “birds of a feather” that would find extreme value in sharing and supporting each other. Creating a portal helps facilitate the formation and nurturing of your community(s). Providing a place for the most passionate users to express themselves and deliver value to each other. Some common functions that seem to help foster communities:
- Newsfeed – Consistently promoting news and events
- Events Calendar – Drive more traffic to your upcoming events to make sure you get maximum participation
- Forums/Discussions – Give people the ability to have threaded discussions
- Member Directory – Help people find each other and create valuable interactions
- Leaderboard – Recognize and promote interaction, and reward your most dedicated users
- Vote – Be able to take the question to the people by surveying them for feedback
Putting your business functions online is one of the first steps towards gaining efficiency while putting yourself in a position to massively scale your business.
- My Orders – Save your customers and partners a phone call or waiting for their next statement. Let your users check out their orders and order status at any time of the day.
- My Payments – Why wouldn’t you want to make it as easy as possible for customers to pay you — putting your billing functions online so that customers can check billing status, see the last invoice, and pay them is a great way to improve collections
- My Returns (RMA) – Even though a customer may be returning an item, most companies see the value in making this a positive experience, and knowing that a return is easy to handle increases the chance that they purchase from you in the future.
- My Repairs – Repairs are often quite process-driven. To return an item may involve checking serial numbers, verifying warranty, and creating shipping and scanning labels so that the receiving department can be hyper-efficient at handling the return. Rather than spending 30 minutes to an hour handling a return, most of the time, it can be handled entirely online.
- Shipping Status – When a customer checks on order status, they can be given a tracking ID for the transportation carrier to check on shipping status. These days the data can be integrated into your portal for a more seamless experience.
- Register Product – If your product is sold through an intermediary, you may not know your customer well. By providing incentives and an easy way to register products online, you gain valuable knowledge of who your customer is.
- Upgrade/Renew – Don’t make it hard for your customers to do more business with you. If they want to renew, or purchase more items, make it incredibly easy for them to do so. Better yet, provide an incentive for them to do so.
Putting customer and partner functions online will help your end-users self-service. This provides incredible value to them 24/7.
- Account Status – The first thing that a customer wants to see is their status, what version are they on, and what does their profile look like? What is their current shipping address? What does their profile say?
- Onboarding – Typically, onboarding requires handling a few steps which may include: form fills, file uploads, e-signatures, questionnaire information gathering, and more. All of these customer onboarding activities can be put online and handled smoothly. Even over multiple sessions if desired (e.g., save and continue).
- Feedback – Customers can be surveyed through questionnaires, NPS requests, etc., so that feedback requests can be scaled.
- Start an Order/Claim – If your business can be diagrammed into a process, then it’s highly likely you can place a good majority of it online.
- Search – Every site should have some form of search
- Store/Map Locator – There are many geo-mapping services that you can easily hook into that enable you to place whatever data points you want in easy-to-use maps so that end-users can find what they need geographically
- Field Service – If you have products, you may need some form of Field Service management. Successful companies have put their repair/requests/scheduling online and then have appointment calendars, reminders, and day before/of reminders that help minimize “no-shows.”
- Project Management – For companies that collaborate heavily, project management functions can be built into Salesforce or integrated with third-party project management tools to handle timelines, resourcing, task lists, document sharing, and more.
- Personalization is a crucial part of making every portal more valuable. Being able to provide “Quicklinks,” “My Alerts,” and “My favorites” enables the specific end-user’s experience to be more efficient.
- Message Center – Email can be messy, and thus a message center might be a more “official” and trackable way to conduct interactions with end-users. Email alerts can alert end-users of new messages and replies.
- Trending / Alerts – Some content is better pushed to the end-user. Important alerts and recent trending news can automatically push the most relevant information faster and more pervasively.
Of course, these portal components, while common and recognizable, do take planning and design. Usability flow, branding, look and feel, and application logic needs to be designed and managed. Luckily, with cloud technologies like Salesforce, implementing these capabilities and launching them can be done in a matter of weeks, not months and years.