It’s a common problem. You dutifully set up portals for all your clients, but come tax time, your clients still want to exchange documents via email or, even worse, hard copies. When clients get accustomed to one way of doing things, it can be hard to switch directions. Email is convenient, after all. And some people just can’t break the paper habit. So once you’ve committed to increasing efficiency and improving security with portals, how do you promote client portal usage?
A recent whitepaper, 7 secrets to portal success, outlines best practices for implementing portals. When you implement portals in your firm, success depends on a number of factors. Low client portal usage is possibly the most important cause of a problems. You can’t force a client to use a portal, but there a few ways to plant the seeds for success.
1. Make sure clients know they have a portal.
Your portal probably automatically generated a welcome email for all users when it was created. However, it’s possible to suppress this email if you want to notify clients some other way or at a different time. For clients who are used to paper communication, some firms prefer to send a hard copy mailer first. If you suppressed the automatic welcome emails, make sure you remember to manually send them later. And it wouldn’t hurt to send a reminder email once a year before tax season if your client has not been regularly using the portal all year.
2. Make sure clients can find the portal.
Your firm’s website is often the first place clients look when they want to contact you. Make sure your portal is integrated into your firm’s website so clients can easily find it. This could be as simple as a link in the corner of the home page or a dedicated login page that integrates the Portal login screen. Offering a mobile app is a great way to add convenience for clients with smartphones and tablets. Depending on the circumstances, mobile apps can actually offer more functionality that your website, like the ability to upload an image from the client’s mobile phone.
3. Make sure clients know how to use the portal
For the most part, a portal should be intuitive enough to use without a lot of training. However, some clients who aren’t as tech-savvy may need a bit of help getting up to speed. A link to a simple user guide on the log in page and in the welcome emails can be a welcome resource for these clients. You’ll have the best results if your portals don’t require clients to download any special browser plug-ins or complicated navigation.
4. Make sure your staff uses the portal
The more your staff uses the portal to communicate with clients, the more comfortable your clients will start to feel. If clients need to log in to the portal regularly, it will start to become routine. Your staff will be more likely to use portals when they are easy to use. That means being able to publish documents with a simple mouse click and being able to roll uploaded documents into the document management system easily. If you are only using portals once a year to deliver tax returns, your clients may never realize the added value a portal can provide.
5. Acknowledge that some clients may never use the portal
No matter what you do, some clients will have more trouble with portals than others. While some firms require all business to be conducted through the portals, many other firms make exceptions. How hard you push your clients to use their portals will vary depending on your firm’s goals and your client base. You may consider a formal policy for opting out of portals or look at each client relationship on a case by case basis.
Regular client portal usage is one of the most important factors in successfully implementing portals. To learn more, download our whitepaper, 7 Secrets to Portal Success.