Business-to-business (B2B) enterprises can sometimes be so focused on generating new sales that they neglect to nurture relationships with existing customers.
Compared to B2C transactions, B2B customer relationships are complicated, involving a much larger average order value (AOV) per transaction and complex, highly customized products. Consequently, companies must focus more on the post-sale customer experience rather than exciting presale functions.
Customers can also access other self-service options, including:
Manage account information.
View the product catalog, place orders and track order status.
Receive custom quotes and discount structures based on their contract.
Submit support tickets and access user documentation.
Generate reports and track order history.
Customer portals should be accessible on both web and mobile — ideally through a companion mobile app.
The best self-service portals enable users to complete tasks most important to them, such as reordering items, updating their account and requesting support. Personalized portals also hide any information irrelevant to the customer based on their user profile.
When given a choice between contacting a support rep and self-servicing, 81% of customers will choose the latter, according to Harvard Business Review.
A B2B customer portal empowers customers to manage their accounts independently. They can track order status, review invoices, make payments and review their existing contract on a 24/7 basis.
Customer self-service offers convenience and flexibility and reduces dependency on manual assistance.
Inventory and order management features give customers real-time visibility into product stock levels, order status and shipping details. This empowers B2B customers to make data-driven decisions regarding their ordering process as well production schedules and workflows.
Customers can also receive alerts about inventory updates, order confirmation and more.
B2B businesses can curate custom product catalogs to upsell and cross-sell existing customers. These product suggestions feature the customer’s unique requirements and preferences based on the existing contractual agreement while excluding products that don’t apply to that customer’s needs.
The catalog may highlight new releases or promotions and even offer individualized pricing to reward customer loyalty. Customers can check stock levels, lead times or backorder status for items in their personalized catalog.
B2B clients must protect their clients’ intellectual property, trade secrets and other proprietary data. Consequently, B2B customer portals must protect sensitive data and adhere to regulatory requirements.
Here are a few must-have security features:
Authentication: Secure access controls prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Features such as multi-factor authentication and single sign-on (SSO) enhance safety.
Data encryption: Encryption protects data from unauthorized access during transmission and storage.
Role-based access controls (RBAC): RBAC limits access to sensitive data and prevents users from performing actions beyond their authorized scope.
Data privacy: B2B customer portals must adhere to data privacy regulations and industry-specific compliance requirements.
Reporting tools enable users to track key metrics such as lead times for order fulfillment and order volume per quarter. Enable users to generate custom reports using parameters and filters.
B2B customers will appreciate the convenience of exporting their data and integrating the portal with other software systems — enabling finance, procurement and executive management teams to use the data as needed.
Customers should be able to request immediate support from a dedicated representative instead of going through a generalized customer support channel. Portals centralize customer communications, enabling the business and the customer to maintain a communications log.
The portal should offer the following support features:
Help desk and ticketing system: Customers can create support tickets and track the status of their requests.
Knowledge base and FAQs: Offer articles, tutorials, user guides and other documentation to enable customers to resolve common issues independently.
Live chat: Customers can initiate chat sessions and receive immediate assistance.
Integration with support systems: The portal should be configurable with your CRM system or help desk software for efficient ticket management.
A B2B customer portal is not one-size-fits-all. Offer industry-specific features so customers can find necessary information, access custom pricing and meet regulatory requirements.
Customers in the fashion industry often need to request swatches or samples to evaluate the quality, texture and color of materials. Make it easy for customers to do this via the online portal. Customers should also be able to communicate with sales reps, distributors and account managers.
Finally, B2B portals for the fashion industry typically provide trend insights such as trend reports and other industry-specific content to help customers make informed product selections.
The portal should offer personalized pricing based on contract agreements, bulk ordering or loyalty programs. The health and beauty industry is subject to various compliance requirements.
The portal can provide information regarding product compliance, certifications, safety data sheets and ingredient lists. If training is needed to use and sell the product effectively — especially in the case of medical equipment — provide training resources, product guides and tutorials through the portal.
Customer portals for the food and beverage industry should provide a comprehensive product catalog with detailed product descriptions, nutritional information and packaging details.
Real-time order tracking and delivery management are key features, especially for transactions involving perishables. Customers should be able to find information about product certifications, quality control and food safety measures via the portal.
Customized items and parts are the norm in the manufacturing industry. Enable customers to request customizations or configure products according to business requirements via the portal. This includes selecting dimensions, materials, finishes or other features.
The customer portal should be a central repository for detailed product documentation, including technical specifications, user manuals and safety information.
A B2B customer portal for the automotive industry should feature a high-quality parts catalog with detailed product specifications. Offer a vehicle identification number (VIN) lookup feature that allows customers to retrieve a list of compatible parts for a specific vehicle.
The portal should also make it easy for customers to manage warranty claims, return requests and product exchanges.
B2B customer portals are an important ecommerce solution mutually benefiting customers and businesses. They automate part of the sales process for existing customers, reducing effort for B2B buyers and freeing up sales reps to focus on building long-term customer relationships.
Self-serve capabilities enable customers to manage their accounts independently, discover new products based on tailored suggestions and request custom quotes.
Given the complexity of B2B purchases and the need to nurture long-term customer relationships, customer portals are vital in customer retention, satisfaction and recurring revenue.
Yes. CRM integrations offer many benefits, including data synchronization. All customer interactions via the portal are logged in the CRM, providing a 360-degree view of the customer and allowing the business to track the portal’s performance regarding user engagement and goal completion.
As such, self-service portals are a key part of any digital transformation process.
In addition to providing industry-standard security features — multi-factor authentication, data encryption and role-based access control — businesses must ship regular security patches and software updates.
Regular penetration and security audits can help identify vulnerabilities attackers might exploit. Implement regular data backup procedures to safeguard customer data.
Companies can measure the success of their customer portal using KPIs. Pay attention the following criteria:
User adoption: Increasing user adoption over time signifies the portal's success in creating customer value.
Self-service utilization: Measure the percentage of customer inquiries or transactions completed through self-service features on the portal.
Conversion rate: Increasing the order conversion rate demonstrates that the portal is facilitating successful transactions and driving revenue.
Customer satisfaction: Gather customer feedback through surveys, ratings, or reviews to assess their satisfaction with the portal’s ease of use, functionality and overall user experience.