How Digital Portals can improve Customer Experience
Digital Experience Portals
Digital technologies have transformed the way customers interact with brands and products. Business-to-business (B2B) customers and consumers increasingly prefer to research products, make purchases, track orders, and manage their accounts or subscriptions online. To stay competitive, companies and their partners need to reinvent themselves as fundamentally digital. Part of this transformation is creating superior digital experiences to win, serve, and retain increasingly powerful customers. And given customers’ proclivities toward self-service, it is critical to incorporate secure, personalized, and fully integrated self-service capabilities into every digital interaction using a new generation of customer and partner portals. Companies need to deliver great web and mobile experiences in every phase of the life cycle with a robust and secure platform for content, transactions, marketing, service, and relationships. In most cases, this means moving beyond old-style utilitarian portal systems to adopt a new, modern platform that fosters engagement and drives customer lifetime value. Digital experience portal technologies are in high demand because they help enterprises achieve their customer retention and lifetime value goals.
A recent Forrester’s study* yielded five key findings:
- Enterprises are investing for revenue and lifetime value. The companies they surveyed get the majority of their revenues (63% on average) from existing customers, so building strong customer relationships is critical. Their main priorities are to increase revenue and improve customer retention and loyalty, and they understand that to do so, they must improve digital customer experiences.
- Digital experience portals are key to achieving these goals. Most companies are actively investing in “digital experience (DX) portals” to enable self-service and meet the needs of digitally savvy customers and partners across every step of their journeys and on any device or channel they choose. In fact, two-thirds of survey respondents expect their year-over-year spending on DX portal technologies to increase by 5% or more in the next year.
- Digital experience portals deliver revenue and operational efficiency benefits. Survey respondents reported the hallmark benefits of DX portals as increased satisfaction, engagement, and retention. These benefits tightly align with key business imperatives for revenue growth, loyalty, and improved customer experiences. Many companies have also seen unexpected efficiency gains such as fewer calls to customer service and better business alignment and visibility.
- Implementation and integration challenges impede goals. Many DX managers struggle with integration and upgrades to their current systems, indicating a lack of flexibility in the underlying technology. These challenges are exacerbated in DX portals — as compared with typical marketing websites — due to the heavy integrations with back-end systems, repositories, and applications that they require. Enterprises need to evolve their traditional portals to alleviate these challenges, and they seek vendors that offer easy integrations and understand their unique business.
- Enterprises seek a portal and partner to help them succeed. Companies use DX portals strategically to support a range of customer and partner scenarios a cross the customer life cycle. Hence, a wide range of capabilities are critical to their success. From cloud hosting and mobile design technology functions, to customer-facing content and personalisation, to analytics and collaboration to support business processes, portals need to be robust. Most importantly, they must ensure customers’ security and privacy. To achieve this, firms need a vendor partner that understands their industry and specific needs. Delivering great web and mobile experiences at every phase of a customer or partner life cycle requires a robust, secure platform for content, transactions, marketing, service, and relationships.
In order to provide existing customers and partners with the same experience benefits that marketers bring to consumers as they discover and explore brands — including emotional connections, efficient task completion, and effective relationships — firms must invest in new digital experience portals. To bring this complete life-cycle support system online with secure services, decision-makers in technology, channel, marketing, and business should:
- Focus on systems of engagement that leverage existing systems of record. One of the most common barriers to successful digital experience initiatives is the ability to deliver a modern web and mobile experience on top of an existing transaction or content system. Tackle this problem by decoupling experience, including personalisation, from the core systems of record (e.g., core business applications like ERP). A digital experience portal gives you the ability to ingest the customer profile needed to deliver a secure, contextual experience, while populating pages with content and transactions drawn from existing systems. Integration with your core systems is the key to this approach.
- Plot a customer journey map to prioritize high-benefit, high-value digital interactions. The objective here is to start with interactions where the customer or partner will immediately benefit, and then use those benefits as proof points for other use cases. For example, mobile-enabling your most common interactions and valuable services first will bring evidence and urgency needed to drive additional investments. A journey map is a convenient tool to visualise the interactions. A lightweight evaluation of customer benefits and business value — aligning interactions with broader revenue and loyalty goals — helps you build support for where to fo cus first: marketing, service, loyalty, distribution, and so on.
- Work across functional and corporate boundaries to empower practitioners. The study found that stakeholders from IT, marketing, channel, loyalty, service, products, and line of business all contribute expertise and funding. This cross-functional sponsorship represents a new vision for modern DX portals that elevates the importance of the end user experience while still ensuring critical back-end functionality. To coordinate the work of these people in servicing customers and partners, the digital experience portal must empower all employees who work with customers and optimise their own experiences. That means collaborating across boundaries — and sometimes with your ecosystem partners.
- Work with a technology and implementation partner that knows your industry and business. A digital experience portal is not a project — it’s a program of activity, a living platform to deliver great experiences. That means your investment and your need for technology support is continuous. Agile development, distributed content responsibilities, delegated customer management, and unique integrations all point to your need for a technology partner that is ready to support your unique needs.
* Digital Experience Portals: A Modern Approach to Secure, Multichannel Customer Experiences, by Forrester Consulting (February 2016).