Though B2C e-commerce is associated with shopping for consumer goods rather than for services, buying services can actually be more repetitive, and therefore a self-service portal comes as just the right thing for establishing long-term relations with customers.
Indeed, it brings savings and fuels customer satisfaction, but only if it’s designed to do so. Due to service providers’ specifics, custom-built portal solutions definitely outweigh out-of-the box customer portal software. So let’s have a look at the three questions on streamlining a service provider’s business with a custom B2C portal.
What distinguishes a convenient portal?
A B2C portal has to speak the language of customers to meet their expectations and raise a provider’s competitiveness. For such portals, beating competition would mean to offer something no one else does and actively promote it via social networks and alternative online marketing channels.
At the same time, meeting customers’ expectations is closely connected with the portal’s convenience and helpfulness, which is about minimizing their need to call up the support center.
The starting point on the way to a seamless user experience can be to focus on 4 usability dimensions suggested by Nielsen: navigation, response time, credibility and content. Nielsen stated that easy-to-use navigation, frequent updating, minimal download times and relevant, quality content are the usability pillars of any website.
While the must-haves for order placement include a strong search functionality and a catalog describing services and prices, a nice-to-have is a catalog organized along customer psychology. To facilitate cataloging, the portal can be equipped with the system of displaying products based on gestalt principles. The design of a service catalog influences the way people perceive offerings.
Services grouped in categories that are separated with a white space will provide for quick scanning and add to user experience. Use proximity to group hierarchical elements or organize items and product (sub)categories to emphasize their relations. These are just a few options, but further research into the variety of gestalt principles in design would definitely suggest more.
Advanced order placement and management
Once a service is chosen, the road from “buy now” to “thank you” has to be as smooth as possible. Extend the self-service features with advanced order placement, such as custom services (e.g. combining flight tickets on the route in transportation), and service management (e.g. (de)activating a service and changing tariff plans for telecoms).
In addition, enable customers to review their own accounts, prior purchases and (in)active services. The ability to change and cancel services, as well as to get detailed information at any time of the day allows customers to feel more in control and thus contributes to their satisfaction.
Wide choice of payment options
Transactions via a B2C portal becomes more seamless if it accepts a broad variety of payment options. In addition to debit and credit cards, consider providing your system of loyalty points or gift cards to encourage more purchases. Enabling the payment history review, you will let the customer track and analyze payments and settle some, if not all, financial issues by themselves.
Responsiveness plays a significant role in customer satisfaction. Being the gate to a fast and helpful support, a customer portal should enable efficient ticketing and become a channel for relevant responses of your support team, if required.
Such options as a live chat, “request a call” and an F.A.Q. section ensure a higher level of interactivity. Let users leave reviews and don’t forget to respond to them regularly to make customers feel they are heard. Besides, first-time visitors need time to get used to the portal. Quick-start guides or even training videos can help to avoid anxiety and instruct customers to be more self-sufficient in their service management.
Helpful, comprehensive and up-to-date content that feels reliable contributes to customer satisfaction and retention. The information section can include much more than service descriptions and detailed terms of purchase, payment and service rendering. Here’re some nice-to-have options:
- Personalized recommendations for customers about related services, which can help at up-selling
- Curated selection of service-related articles, including experts’ opinions and answers to frequently asked questions
- Announcements about changes in service provision (e.g. service outages, changes in prices) that will help to retain the transparency of the service
The overall idea is to make pages interconnected and capture customers’ attention to offer them more relevant services. People buy when they trust, feel comfortable and believe that buying will benefit them. Complementing services with a valuable content, you’ll shift your image from a mere seller to an advisor and win more loyal customers.
Is a mobile app really needed?
Today, a mobile device is an extension of a human’s hand and mind. According to the SpeechCycle and Echo Research study, 79% of telecom users would view their provider more positively if offered a mobile customer service app. Also research findings confirm that the majority of telecom users prefer their mobile apps to calling the support center.
Whether you provide telecom or other services, exploit the opportunity to benefit from this mobile frenzy too and complement your customer portal with a free mobile app. Thus the portal’s content and functionality will be quickly accessible to customers wherever they go.
To make another point about convenience, such app should be compatible with different platforms and have an appealing look and feel across a range of screens. A user-friendly menu, desktop-like filtering and search capabilities will let users reach tools and information they need just as they could via the portal’s web version.
Apart from the functionality available in the desktop version, the mobile app can allow for extra features based on a device’s capabilities. For instance, the portal’s search engine can be extended with options to scan a barcode, snap a picture and instantly search for relevant information on the portal. For telecom users it will simplify problem-reporting, while a patient portal could provide data about medications or relevant articles.
Introduction of specific features, depending on the company’s core business, enhances customer service. For instance, a patient portal can enable on-the-go uploading of information about a patient’s state. As memory can fail, sometimes correlations between symptoms are hard to notice.
A quick and easy-to-use mobile app will encourage a patient to fill in special forms. Processed later, the data collected by the app will become a valuable source of physicians’ insights. You can also imagine a self-educational portal’s app that provides features for real-time progress tracking and quick language learning based on interactive or gamelike elements.
In addition, customizable notifications will let a customer know about account alerts and service changes or give personalized recommendations based on the customer information collected by the portal or CRM. You can set the app to send notifications about payments and changes in tariff plans, service outages as well as service-specific reminders, such as the ones concerning medications or scheduled appointments for patient portal users.
Should you go for CRM integration?
By integrating the customer portal with CRM, you will collect more customer data, cut down on data processing time and become a better communicator to build a long-term rapport with your customers.
While a user interacts with the portal, the CRM system will automatically collect data and update respective customers’ profiles. Giving a single view of the customer base, CRM adds visibility into customer history and buying patterns, providing the scope for insights and simplifying interaction between customers on one side and sales and marketing teams on the other.
For instance, consider a system that tracks logins to the customer portal and spots out “lost customers” and “heavy users”. Collecting and storing customers’ purchase history, demographic and psychographic information, it will help you offer more personalized services. Once a customer contacts your service support team via the portal’s live chat, the portal-integrated CRM will instantly deliver customer data to their fingertips.
Moreover, despite a common prejudice, CRM is more than a sales tool. Some specific industries, such as healthcare and education, can enhance their service delivery if they put effort into a closer link between their CRM and customer portal.
Let’s take a patient portal as an example. Integrated with CRM, it will offer patients personalized content, send emails or SMS notifications if they miss an appointment, and even assist physicians with a full picture of a patient’s condition in the real-time mode.
Summing it up
A B2C customer portal for service providers appears as a powerful tool to cut costs, win more loyal customers and build up sales.
Yet, self-service web portal development is the challenge, as you have to ensure it is convenient during every interaction with a customer. Current trends show that such portals benefit a lot from customer service mobile apps and integration with CRM, as demonstrated in this article.
We encourage you to opt for a custom solution rather than an out-of-the-box option, as only this way you’ll be completely sure the customer portal perfectly fits your business requirements.