Why your business needs a customer or staff portal

April 29, 2019by arc_admin

Customer and staff portals are becoming more and more common these days but not for the reason you think. They may appear to be a business enhancement from a customer or staff perspective, and this is true. However, the main driver for businesses to add a customer or staff portal is to save money.

What is a Customer or Staff Portal?

A customer or staff portal is a secure area where someone can log in and see content relevant to them. This may be a customer login area to view old invoices and quotes, a new client login area to view house plans or an area for staff to log in to view process documentation relevant to their job. A customer or staff portal can look vastly different depending on the problem they are aiming to solve, but essentially they always have:

  • A way to manage the content they contain
  • A way to assign that content so only certain people can see it
  • A way for someone to login via a username and password to view the secured content

A portal, as with anything you purchase for a business, should be seen as an investment. If it’s not going to make the company money by increasing revenue or reducing costs then why do it? Well, you shouldn’t…

There are two ways to reduce costs, one is externally (with customers) and the other is internally (with staff).

1. External Portals (Customers)

Looking at customers, every business I have come across sends something to a client. This may be:

  • Invoices
  • Quotes
  • Reports
  • Site plans
  • House designs
  • Tax returns to sign
  • Mortgage documents
  • A letter of engagement
  • …and the list goes on

How often are these lost, requested to be resent or just plain missed in an email and needed to be followed up on? If you are similar to the businesses we work with, the answer is a lot! A close client of ours with 30 staff estimates half a day a week is spent re-sending lost collateral. This includes the phone call or email for the request, finding the artefact and sending it through. My first question was “how many requests are you getting?”, the answer was 10 (a day, a week???). While this may not seem like a lot, various research studies have discovered that task switching can cost up to 25 mins per task switch. This company was a residential drafting company and charged out around $200 per hour so these follow up requests for lost collateral essentially cost them $800 per week and $40,000 per year. Does this sound high? I personally spend two hours a week on these types of tasks and it costs Arcadian Digital $10k per year.

So what can be done?

A customer portal may sound like the equivalent of bringing a gun to a knife fight, but even the following two tasks can eliminate this lost potential revenue:

  • Allowing internal staff to add collateral to a clients area in the customer portal
  • Sending a follow-up email from the website if the document isn’t interacted with within X days (to remind the customer it is there)

And an added side benefit- you have a great semi-regular reason to send an EDM to customers (e.g. “Did you know you can view your past documents on our customer portal?”)

This will not suit every business and benefits will obviously vary, however, the numbers are high enough for some of our customers (and Arcadian Digital itself) to look for a solution.

2. Internal Portals (Staff)

It might not be as easy to measure internal savings but if your business has staff or tasks then you can save time which equates to revenue. Arcadian Digital is extremely competitive in the web development and marketing space because our systems and processes are (for lack of a better word), awesome! We have a portal where staff can read and refer back to hundreds of tasks such as:

  • How to do timesheets
  • How we forecast work
  • How we manage projects
  • How to create a Statement of Work
  • How to submit a leave request
  • How to set up a new test server
  • Checklists for launching a new Umbraco, WordPress, Sitecore or Magento Site
  • Checklists for integrations research
  • Checklists for small business template selection/recommendations
  • Server cost calculators

By doing this we have more available time, fewer admin costs and in turn, more time to do work which reflects in our costs. This is estimated to save us three days a week across the business, which is $150-200k (per year??). It really is that much time (and money) that this type of staff process portal has freed up.

The same principle applies for architects, research companies, accountants, bookkeepers, draftsman and trade services. The comparison from Arcadian Digital to other professional services companies is probably quite easy but trade services might be a little less clear. Something as simple as a mobile version of a the process to wire up a new house, lay drain pipes, waterproof a wet area or put up plasterboard would save a lot of “standing around” time while the ‘boss’ is on the phone, caught up with other staff or dealing with another issue. This isn’t a “How to do your job” solution, but more so guidelines around the process. People these days do so much at work so it’s no surprise they forget things and a reference area helps even the most experienced worker.

Having a central, structured location to store all of this information is an ideal solution. There are many off-the-shelf solutions, however, with the increasing ease of creating custom online solutions and the uniqueness of every business, a custom customer portal is becoming a better solution. Having an easy location to put all your internal and external business collateral which can be managed internally by ‘you’ is becoming a must-have in business.

Want to know what a solution could look like for your company? Contact us today.

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