Cool Tech Tools: Customer Portals
If your business requires sharing documents of any kind with your customers, business associates, and employees, then a portal may be beneficial. You can save time and money on customer service, postage, and even labor. Your company will also look more professional while increasing service delivery.
What Is a Portal?
A portal is software in the cloud that allows users to upload and download files from a secure space where only they have access. For each client, you can set up a private virtual filing cabinet where only you and the client will have the key. Your client will have their own user ID and password into their area of the portal. There, they can upload and download documents. Some portals also have secure signature capability to help take the hassle out of obtaining signatures.
How Can I Use a Portal?
Think of all the paperwork that occurs between your company and your customer or business associates. That should lead to several areas where a portal can be utilized by your company. If your business is data-intensive, it will definitely benefit from a portal; imagine moving all of those documents out of email and into a clean, private filing folder in the cloud.
Businesses that would benefit the most include:
- Any small business with remote employees: a portal can be where employees pick up and drop off work.
- Mortgage companies where the loan officers are collecting a great deal of information for the underwriters.
- Construction companies: each subcontractor could access the schedule, estimates, material details, invoices, and certificates of insurance.
- Real estate agents to collect the details of home purchases and sales
- Accountants, attorneys, consultants, coaches, and other professionals who deal with private customer information.
- Web design, ad agency, and marketing companies
Types of documents and files uploaded and downloaded from portals include:
- Contracts, estimates, and legal documents
- Invoices and credit card authorizations
- Instructions and training materials and aids
- Company policies and procedures
- Brochures and marketing materials
- Reports and spreadsheets
- Forms and applications, blank and completed
- Graphics, drawings, and photos
- Receipts, expense reports and documentation
Remember, every client or employee doesn’t necessarily need a portal. Perhaps it’s more cost-effective to use a portal only on your largest customers or vendors, or perhaps the ones who have special documentation needs.
Where Can I Find a Portal?
One of the leading vendors in the portal space is Citrix Sharefile. You can find them at http://www.sharefile.com/. Depending on your needs, the cost can be as low as $16 per month. Your industry may have specific solutions as well, especially if there are regulations such as HIPAA that need to be followed.
Other options include sites such as DropBox and Box.net. These companies offer file transfer, but don’t have a dedicated user area. These sites are useful, but a bit different than a portal.
Look for software that provides each user with their own unique login, and that will distinguish the software as a true portal.
If the decision is made to implement portals for your business, consider private-labeling them with your logo and place a direct link to your portal login page for easy client access.
By using portals your inbox will be cleaner, your employees will save time looking for lost emails and documents, and your company will look more professional in the eyes of your clients. Sounds like a winning situation to us!