What Is a Self-Service Portal? A Quick Guide To Choosing the Right One for You

Most customers want to resolve simple issues on their own. Here’s how to choose a self-service portal that will help your customers help themselves.

January, 2024. Time to Read: 11 Minutes

Our research shows that 61% of customers would prefer to use self-service to resolve simple issues. But how do you know if your customer self-service portal is delivering a next-level customer experience?

Let’s take a few minutes to review what self-service portals are, why they matter, and how to choose the right platform to meet your needs. (If you’d like to skip ahead, just use the table of contents to jump to whichever section interests you the most.)

Table of contents

What is a customer self-service portal?

A customer self-service portal is a branded website that allows customers to access information, perform tasks, and find solutions to their queries or issues without requiring direct assistance from a service agent. Typically, these portals are authenticated, meaning customers need to log in. Key features may include:

  • Account management tools: Customers can view and manage their account information, update personal details, and track transaction history.
  • Knowledge base: FAQs, tutorials, and knowledge base articles enable customers to find answers to common questions and troubleshoot issues.
  • Task management: Enable your customers to complete tasks on their own, like applying for a credit card, submitting a loan application, or monitoring the status of a support ticket.

Together with a help center and customer community, a customer self-service portal is one of three key self-service channels you may want to adopt. While this article focuses on self-service portals, let’s briefly define the other two self-service channels to differentiate them.

  • Help centers: Also known as knowledge bases, a help center is often the first place customers visit when trying to solve their issue. Help centers are repositories of helpful articles and FAQs, and may also include videos or diagrams. Creating a useful help center has become easier with generative AI, which can write the first draft of knowledge articles or FAQs. (Be sure to have a human review any AI-generated content for accuracy before you publish.)
  • Customer communities: A customer community is an online hub for peer-to-peer support. Customers come here to share experiences, ask questions, and help one another.

Why are self-service portals important? Check out these 4 benefits

Self-service isn’t just good for your customers — it’s good for your business, too. Here are just a few of the ways that a customer self-service portal can add value:

1. Deflect more cases by giving customers the right information, fast

A customer self-service portal offers detailed answers to popular topics like order history and loyalty status, increasing case deflection and driving revenue back to your business. Self-service also aligns with customers’ preference for solving simple problems on their own, which can boost key service metrics like customer satisfaction scorecustomer effort score, and Net Promoter Score.

Be sure to include links in your portal to other support channels – your help center, your customer community, and your service agents – so customers can quickly access help if they can’t solve their issue on their own. Embedding a customer service chatbot is also a great way to support your customers on their self-service journey.

2. Personalize the customer experience

A logged-in, authenticated experience that reflects a customer’s interactions with your company is more personal than a public site open to everyone.

This is where the power of data gives you a major advantage. In your portal, you can address each customer by name and display a record of their past purchases. You can serve up relevant offers based on their activity history, such as perks and reward programs they might qualify for.

By surfacing recommended actions relevant to each user’s experience, you can use your self-service portal to deliver proactive support so your customers can complete common tasks in less time.

3. Give agents time to focus on bigger issues

A customer self-service portal takes care of common, routine questions and concerns. The more customers use your portal, the more adept they become at solving similar issues in the future. This allows agents to devote their time to customers who require more assistance.

4. Deliver 24/7 support while keeping costs low

One of the primary advantages of a customer self-service portal is its round-the-clock availability. Customers can access information, submit inquiries, and resolve issues at any time, eliminating the constraints of traditional business hours.

This level of accessibility caters to the diverse schedules of today's consumers, providing them with the freedom to engage with your brand when it suits them best. This convenience contributes significantly to customer satisfaction and loyalty — all while delivering substantial cost savings.

How do you choose the right self-service platform?

Make no mistake: not all customer self-service platforms are created equal. Here are the must-have features that will make your portal as efficient, effective, and user-friendly as possible.

Make it intelligent

Your customer self-service portal should be powered by generative AI. Here’s why:

  • AI can recommend groups, experts, and files based on the customer’s preferences and previous actions.
  • AI can highlight related questions, articles, and topics based on what your customer is currently viewing.
  • AI can increase customer satisfaction by surfacing the most relevant answers faster.
Social interactions strengthen relationships with current customers, attract new ones, and help the business get a better feel for common issues.

Choose a platform that’s easily customizable

Can you customize the portal yourself, or will you need to hire experts to customize it for you? That gets expensive — and can be tough to maintain. You should be able to update your portal or community in no time using clicks instead of code.

For example, you can use Experience Builder to style your site, create and customize pages, and deliver a personalized experience for your customers. It’s a low-code way to get your portal up and running in no time.

You can also use Service Catalog to curate a list of common business practices and expose those workflows directly to the portal with drag-and-drop functionality — making it easier to deliver automated customer service.

Keep your data unified

Your data is your most valuable asset, so don’t make the mistake of scattering it across a patchwork of incompatible systems. With a unified platform, you should be able to transfer data seamlessly back and forth between your customer relationship management (CRM) system and customer self-service portal. That way, any changes made by your customer will be automatically reflected in your CRM system.

Discover more ways to elevate your self-service game

When self-service is done right, it’s a win-win: your customers can resolve problems faster, and your agents can focus their time and attention on more complex issues.

The tips outlined in this blog can help you get there — but that’s just the beginning. If you’re looking for more ways to refine your approach to self-service, this this free checklist identifies the 30 essential elements of a great self-service experience.


Discover everything a self-service portal can do.

See how they:
  • Satisfy customers
  • Improve brand reputation
  • Grow your business



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