Salesforce Customer Portal vs. Communities: You Must Know It

If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably heard of Salesforce or you may even be using one of their products to run your business. 

Talk about CRM or Customer Support and the first three names imaginable will definitely feature Salesforce. 

It’s not rocket science but they’ve been in this industry for more than a decade and are known for offering products that complement CRMs and offer perfect flow and ease of communication. These complementary products are basically portals and communities. 

Since 67% of today’s customers will certainly choose a self-service system over speaking to customer representatives – according to Nuance enterprise – customer-oriented companies will definitely picture the Salesforce Customer Portal as the ideal tool for their business. 

But Salesforce isn’t done yet. Unfortunately, they stopped the customer portal in the distant 2013 introducing a new offer they called “communities.” 

The introduction of this new product has spurred questions and confused many business people. 

No longer! In this post, Hanna Shnaider breaks down this complex puzzle into minuscule bits and points out the differences and unique features of both products. Without further ado, let’s kick off. 

Salesforce Customer Portals

Generally, customer portals help relieve the workload on the customer service reps by directing the customers to an online channel where they find answers to their pressing needs without the help of any customer representative. 

Image credit: Crmjetty

The presence of portals didn’t only ease the burden on companies or even change users’ interactions with brands, they also helped educate customers allowing them to explore information and grow at their own pace so they don’t need help from customer service reps every minute. 

Before 2013, Salesforce presented the customer portals which was intended as:

 an online support channel for the customers allowing them to resolve their inquiries without contacting a customer service representative. 

These portals were practically designed to open up Salesforce functionality and CRM data to customers, providing them with greater customer experience whilst also becoming the new communication channel between a brand and its customers. 

When it comes to financing customer portals, there is more than one way out. One option may be equity release which provides a company with needed funds at no or low-interest rates and can also reduce debt service costs over time.

The customer portals offers top-level features and comes with different functions:

  • Allow customers to access the knowledge articles, case studies, and similar data.
  • Customers can access the company’s internal processes
  • Supported reporting features while also showing other relevant website content that may interest the customers.
  • Customers can access the company and its products or services easily,
  • Allows easy integration with third-party applications.

Back then, Salesforce had three major portals which includes:

  • Self-service Portal. Customers are directed to FAQs, blog posts, articles, technical documents, videos, and so on. This basically rid the customers of dependency on customer support reps and allows them to solve issues on their own. 
  • Customer Portal. Customers are provided with an online communication channel that allows them to communicate complex issues to customer service executives. This allows the company to provide 24/7 support to their customers despite geographical barriers or time zones.
  • Partner Portal. Exclusively for sales and channel partners, the partner portal is designed to provide partners with both lead and customer conversion opportunities. 

The portals were a great way to deliver fast customer support providing an overall top-level customer experience and build credibility with customers. 

But Salesforce didn’t just stop here, they aimed for more branded portals to change the ways brands interact with their customers. 

Hence, they come up with a platform that allows companies to collaborate with people and share information quite effectively. This platform is called “Community Cloud.”

Salesforce Communities: What’s So Special?

Well, looking at the name given to this special feature, you can begin to imagine it being a chat group for customers. However, it’s not only about chatting, it’s basically a portal that combines the amazing features of the former Salesforce portals – self-service, partner, and customer portals – with new and interesting features. 

The community cloud is a modern, branded online space for customers, partners, and employees and generally allows brands to create help forums, support sites, intranets, portals, HR central, and many more. 

With this community cloud, you’re able to communicate with customers and partners more effectively displaying and receiving necessary data. 

Data is collated from customers and partners based on their inquiries and it’s been displayed directly from your Salesforce database. 

The salesforce community can accomplish a lot for any business some of which includes: 

  • Offering self-service supports to customers via FAQs and a knowledge base
  • Streamlined and effective communication with prospective customers
  • Sharing important messages and best practices with partners.
  • Setting up custom modules with lightning
  • Customer service reps can talk with customers and resolve questions and support cases.
  • Easy third party integration and more 

Like the former Salesforce portal, the new Salesforce Community is also available in three tiers:

  • Customer Community. Best for support and feedback offering FAQs, discussion pages, blog posts, videos that help the customers with their answers. Priced at $2/login or $5/member. 
  • Customer Community Plus. Useful for online collaboration, HR, IT teams, or handling internal employee communities. Priced at $6/login or $15/member. 
  • Partner Community. Allows B2B businesses to track revenue, create flow for quality leads, and provide product training. Priced at $10/login or $25/member

Because of the added interesting features, high scalability, no coding requirements plus rich scalable templates available in the community clouds, its demand is quite high and it’s taking over the marketplace at a break-neck pace. 

So what’s the difference between Salesforce Communities and the former customer portals?

  • Both portals and communities come with similar structures but differ in the way people can interact with them. For instance, customers can now find answers by looking through knowledge articles and blog posts or chatting with other customers who encountered similar issues. 
  • Salesforce community cloud introduced Chatter which allows externals users such as partners or customers to communicate with each other. Portals, on the other hand, don’t support Chatter.
  • Community cloud allows brands to connect internal users in the Salesforce database whereas portals only allow external users to access Salesforce.
  • Portals are more reasonable in terms of price than communities
  • When it comes to visuals, Communities offer top-level high-quality graphics that are visually captivating and easy to navigate whereas portals’ visuals can look a little obsolete. 
  • Community Cloud allows the integration of for web content management, android, and iOS version together with Salesforce Einstein enhanced security and many more.

Final Words

While the world keeps advancing and new tools and technologies are being added daily to adjust to the needs and desires of a new generation, it’s basically the same set of principles that is being played out. 

The emphasis here between the Customer portals and communities is on collaboration as well as ease of communication; they are pretty much the same thing.  

Overall, the important message Salesforce is trying to pass across is that “communities are the news portals.” They revamp the old portal and add some little spice of features, making it more compelling and appealing. 

Should you ever need help with setting up your community, contact our experts here at FortySeven Software Professionals and we’ll help you with your journey towards better communication.