Organizations face many challenges in building and administrating customer portals. These challenges involve satisfying customer information needs, reducing costs, maintaining accurate data across multiple systems and applications, and ensuring security.For me, I'm always excited to find well designed application interfaces focused on the customer—going well beyond the basics; kudos to those that excel in this area! With online technologies continuing to evolve year after year, it's clear—customer expectations for user friendly interfaces, self-service tools, relevant data, and high security are essential.
Some of the first engagement experiences customers have with an organization come via the web or an embedded online application. A well-designed and executed application interface that allows customers to effectively access information is what customers want.From the customer's perspective, an effective self-service application must provide a rich experience. If an application is not well received by customers, it can be a costly undertaking for everyone. It must be efficient and provide needed services customers expect.Information relevant to the customer should be consistent, accurate, and should quickly allow them to view their information seamlessly in a single application. Their view of information should be unified and leveraged from a common platform of components. Fast access to needed information enhances the customer experience tremendously.
Aside from having a great UX/UI, reporting has to be my next favorite area when it comes to online interfaces. I realize it's not everyone's passion and I'll admit it, I like data. Raw data is great, but the real value is accurately analyzing and interpreting the data into meaningful and cognitive clusters of information. Given the need to provide meaning in digestible chunks, being able to look at current data as well as historical data is critical.Beyond basic reporting of historical and current data, customers expect data aggregations to help with understanding trends. Single data points work well when looking for specific instances but when it comes to patterns. there's no better way to see those patterns other than via aggregated variations.Beyond data aggregations is the ability to visualize the data graphically. Like 80% of the world's population, seeing the information right in front of you in a well-constructed and meaningful format speaks volumes in terms of being able to understand the data.
As the global economic market continues to explode, taking a laid back approach to decision making is similar to abdicating control over a company's future in a highly information intense and dynamic global economy. Businesses operate around the clock; access to tools and information should also be around the clock.Self-service is inherently part of the overall customer experience and as a result, increasingly part of a customer's preference to be able to use tools, access information, and improve their productivity. With tools and information at their fingertips, customers are better positioned to compete economically.One of my favorite productivity features is being able to self-select report delivery. Knowing I'm going to have a report delivered to my inbox every Monday morning is efficient and cost effective.SecurityAt the top of the list in terms of application security is the need to ensure all application customers have their own “named” accounts. As one of the first rules of online security—don't share your account credentials should be emblazoned in everyone's mind.Too often I've heard people provide others with access to their online accounts by providing their user names and passwords. I'm not exactly certain if it's done out of convenience or trust. Whatever it may be—sharing an ID and password can have incredibly dire consequences. In most companies, sharing credentials is a serious undertaking and can lead to termination.A portal with two-factor authentication enabled, secure protection of all data and information is provided. Two-factor authentication effectively protects accounts from compromise by employing the customer's phone as the second factor of authentication. As a result, companies are able to maintain higher security without increasing complexity or costs associated with traditional methods of authentication.
The Take Away
The expectation is for several elements to be available online so organizations can make decisions in real-time—that's the nature of business today. Help organizations make decisions in real-time, the following three areas are essential for web and online applications:
Traditional portals address the basics by providing simple utilities in terms of bare bones functionality. Forward-looking organizations put the necessary technology and infrastructure in place to help their customers succeed and compete in today's fast-paced economy.