Your website is a significant component of your brand identity. How the customer views interact with your website plays a huge role in your overall customer experience. The cost of putting together a professional, highly branded website has been driven so low that a customer would be highly suspect if the experience was less than the industry standard.
We all remember those terrible experiences (sadly, some recently) where we went to a company website, and it looked like it had not changed in 10 years. We still run into online applications that look like a web front-end to a desktop application—you can just tell by the fonts, font sizes, screen layout and application flow. We occasionally run into a website where we have to log in a second time with different credentials, or we might access a website through our phone and find that the formatting is not optimized for mobile.
These experiences are clunky and can be damaging to your brand. It makes the customer wonder why the company could not invest just a little bit to make the experience smooth, intuitive, clean and professional. Worse yet, if your competitors are up to industry best practices, it makes your brand look dated and less valuable.
The Experience Cloud
Cue Salesforce Experience Cloud (formerly known as Community Cloud). It is a great Salesforce product that enables clients to create branded portals for almost anyone—it could be your customers, your developer community, your partners, your franchise owners or even your employees. Communities provide great out-of-the-box features, including modern templates, so that you can have a modern system ready to go in weeks rather than in months and years.
It is also filled with features right out of the box, including online case management, a searchable knowledge base, forums and more.
Take it a step further by adding programmable chatbots (that can be configured to use automatic artificial intelligence learning to improve their effectiveness over time) so that the most common cases can be handled without ever involving an agent. Single-sign-on integration enables users to utilize their existing login without having to remember multiple usernames and passwords.
The Experience Cloud is part of the Salesforce platform and is therefore extendable. Companies can build custom pages and automated flows into the Experience Cloud, creating unique experiences to differentiate you from the competition. One of our clients put their entire application flow, which they previously did via phone, email and fax, onto the Experience Cloud. At a high level, the flow worked like this:
- Welcome—Hi! We are going to walk you step by step through the entire application process.
- Fill out the main part of the application. Feel free to hit <save> at any point to save your work and continue the application later.
- Please upload supporting documents (.pdf, .jpg and .docx accepted)
- Please e-sign the application
- Please come to the portal anytime to check status until approved. We will send you a notification if there are any questions and once the application is accepted.
By putting this flow online, the company saved countless hours spent walking customers through this process, while at the same time providing convenience to applicants—they no longer had to call during business hours and potentially be on hold for 10 minutes. Instead, customers could interact with the process at any time of the day. Company staff could focus less on the boring repetitive tasks and instead focus on troubleshooting exception cases.
In addition, because it was designed using modern, responsive design techniques, it was immediately available on a mobile phone as well—a nice added capability for the segment of their international customer base, which primarily uses phones.
This example shows how businesses who go online have a distinct advantage over competitors who are slow to act. Other great flows to put online are customer onboarding, partner onboarding, and start a claim or repair request.
The experience is everything
Designing a customer-centered experience can create incredible advantages, while at the same time putting in the foundation to massively scale the business. Design principles to consider are:
- Highly branded design that seamlessly blends with the rest of your site so that you can’t tell the difference between your customer portal with your website or with your application
- Responsive UI design so that customers have a clean experience, don’t require training and the application can be used simultaneously on a mobile device
- Custom pages that remove all extraneous links, capabilities and information so that the customer can focus only on what’s relevant
- Minimal branches—keeping things straightforward with sufficient but minimal options, keeping things simple and making the experience less confusing
Customers expect their online customer experience to be top-notch. There is a significant downside if you don’t have a competitive website. Salesforce makes it easy to get one up and running and fully integrated with the rest of the Salesforce platform. We have a rapid deploy package that gets you up and running in weeks, starting with a custom, best practices implementation. We would be happy to see if it is a good fit for you—just let us know.