What is a client portal, and why do you need one?
The client portal has turned from a nice-to-have feature to something most companies heavily rely on. It helps them streamline their operations, message back-and-forth with clients, and strengthen their brand.
As this type of software has become increasingly more popular, so has it become more diverse. You can find client portals for different niches, such as SPP for agencies and productized services, while others focus on law firms.
Let’s take a closer look what a client portal is, what its benefits are, and how you can find the best client portal to give your clients access to everything they need.
What is a client portal?
Client portals are cloud-based software that clients can access via a website through their web browser. Most portals are configured to be accessed via a subdomain (clients.yourdomain.com), so that it looks like it belongs to your company. The main goal is to make interacting with clients smooth while gathering all information in one central place.
To be able to exchange sensitive information securely, most portals require clients to sign up with an email address and password, and secure the connection via SSL encryption. Once logged in, clients are able to access digital files, manage subscriptions, access private links, and more—all from an easy-to-understand dashboard.
Further reading: why you need a client portal
Client portal benefits
One of the most important benefits of a customer portal is that it centralizes all information—for both the client and the company servicing them. From invoices to automatic email notifications, clients know when changes are made and if they need to provide additional information.
For companies, the portal is not only the single source of truth, modern client portal applications are also able to generate reports. Those can be used to identify recurring issues, and prevent them from happening. For instance, if customers ask the same question repeatedly, add it to your FAQ in the client portal.
Here are a few more benefits you can enjoy:
invite collaborators to deliver services more effectively
track invoice payments and send payment reminders
ask clients to fill out intake forms after payment
securely share sensitive files with customers
embed external reports individually for each client
improve your customer support with a FAQ section
Different types of client portals
The main goal of a client portal is to improve the customer experience, which is why apps usually focus on enabling specific features, for instance:
Document & file sharing: Need to share files with your clients, or allow them to upload them? Find a customer service portal that manages files, and makes it easy to securely access documents in the future.
Invoice & subscription management: If your goal is to allow clients to self-service their subscription to your services, and download invoices, certain portals connect to payment gateways such as Stripe. Clients can easily upgrade their subscriptions, or cancel them if they wish.
Client onboarding: If your services require certain hand-holding, but you don’t have the resources to do it yourself, use a client portal that helps with onboarding. It could display videos, detailed documentation, or other tutorials.
Besides the aforementioned types, some solutions tailor explicitly to specific businesses. For instance, SPP targets agencies and productized services by offering the most important features those companies need. The software helps with the order management process, it provides a white label portal on certain plans, and is fully customizable.
Another way to distinguish customer portals is by the way they operate:
CMS plug-in: Some portals are available as a WordPress plug-in that integrates with your existing website. Of course, they require your website to run on the world’s most popular CMS.
Cloud hosted: Solutions such as Service Provider Pro are fully cloud hosted and managed by the developer. You only need to subscribe to their service, and get access to your own workspace.
On premise: Those who want to manage their own instance can either develop their own client portal, or find a solution they can host themselves.
What defines a secure client portal?
Any company should have security measures in place that prevent data from being accessible to third parties. While any client portal software should be secured via SSL, some industries have higher needs when it comes to dealing with customer data. Those might be required to host the software on their own services, instead of relying on the developer to manage it.
An often overlooked security measure is app monitoring and redundancy. A modern portal should have failovers in place that reduce downtime and ensure that the performance of the software remains solid, and reduce the chance of data loss.
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Of course, customer databases should always be kept separate, and they should be encrypted. Account password should never be saved in plaintext.
Speaking of passwords, the best customer portals make use of additional security measures such as two-factor authentication for staff accounts.
Frequently asked questions about customer portals
How much does a client portal cost?
We’ve gone into detail on client portal pricing in this post, but generally speaking, this type of software can less than $100 per month, or several hundred, depending on your requirements. Some software providers have priced their software on a per-user basis.
Do client portals provide bank-level security?
Yes, modern apps should encrypt their data with the same standards as financial institutions (256-bit encryption). We recommend to check with the developer if they’ve been independently audited, though.
Why should you use a client portal?
A modern client portal allows you to centralize all information, and handle most of your tasks from one place. They can usually be extended to work with other software you use, thanks to webhooks, integrations with Zapier, and API’s.