Your organization has invested in Salesforce and now you want to take this further by offering robust customer self-service. You can create a custom solution built in-house or choose one of the many available pre-built third-party solutions. While in-house development might seem like a good option, especially if you feel that you have the required resources, there are some unexpected and obvious challenges with custom-built solutions. This blog post will take a closer look at things to consider when building a customer portal connected to your CRM.
One of the biggest differences between in-house development and pre-built third party solutions is the initial cost. Developing an in-house solution requires you need to invest both money and developer hours into the project before it can start bringing value to your business. This includes: designing the solution, building the architecture, creating documentation, testing and finally deploying the software. With all these factors needed to be completed before the time of deployment, the estimated time of completion is difficult to gage.
On top of the initial development cost, you will need to determine storage costs, software licensing costs, hosting (if applicable) and maintenance costs, which includes support resources. That might not seem like a lot compared to the initial development, but as more users engage with the portal, you will need to allocate more resources and money to managing your portal.
A typical project would start with defining your requirements, but defining requirements from scratch is challenging because every department within your company will have contradictory needs. You will have to prioritize needs for the features that you include in the product now and in the upcoming updates. For example, you want to automate your support process by allowing customers to submit the cases online and search the knowledge base to find the answers. That might be not hard to develop, but what about future requirements? What if you need to securely share files with your clients? Or create a public forum where they can discuss your product or services? Every new feature will require additional development and it is better to outline the full list of current and future requirements before the start of the project. By trusting a third party cloud vendor to take care of your customer portal, you would be able to quickly adapt the best practices, launch more quickly, and benefit from the cloud vendor’s continual enhancements and upgrades.
This is probably the most challenging part of planning the development project. On one hand, it is not always easy to project future requirements, the number of users, or features that need to be pre-built into the solution. On the other hand, building the solution that is scalable moving forward requires more resources and time than focusing on the features your business needs right now. While your custom solution might fit into your needs at this point in time, future business requirements will either lead to another long development project or force your company to look for another tool to better fit into the business change.
Modern organizations are moving towards offering services available 24/7 to their customers. Small organizations cannot invest tons of money in sophisticated technology stacks that offer load balancing, redundancies (ie. hardware, network, internet service), backup servers, disaster recovery etc. Therefore, when something goes wrong in one of the servers in an in-house solution, your services may be down for hours, or even days, before the services can be resumed. On the other hand, cloud solutions guarantee close to zero downtime because the third party vendor is designated to ensure the smooth running of the portal. Cloud solutions have the exact infrastructure and resources required to provide high availability of services to their clients.
Nowadays, data security is becoming a major requirement for your business. Keeping sensitive business data safe from threats requires major investments into the right technology, expertise and trusted monitoring of your services. Provisioning security is also very time-consuming, dragging a big part of your IT resources. On the other hand, major third-party vendors are compliant with modern security policies out of the box, allowing you to save on cost, resources and administration.
Nowadays, technology is constantly evolving. Your custom-built solution needs to be updated on a regular basis, otherwise it will fall behind. When it comes time to make changes to your customer-developed portal, you need to get back to the original developers or consultant agency that did the work for you. During this period of time, you might lose access to such employees or original developers, making the upgrade process more complicated and expensive. This exposes your business to risks as you aren’t able to deliver the latest technology, security and functionality to your clients in a timely manner. Securing additional resources who are knowledgeable on in-house or customer-made solutions is much more challenging in comparison to well-established cloud vendors with a large community support.
In the blog, we have covered some of the hidden and most important challenges to consider when creating a customer portal synchronized with your Salesforce. However, you need to consider all options, specifically available third-party apps with native Salesforce integration that were designed for customer self-service. We have put together a research that analyzes and compares in-house development versus pre-built third-party solutions for your customer portal.