salesforce communities vs portal

Salesforce Customer Portals Vs. Communities: What to Choose?

When we talk about CRMs or portals the first thing which comes to our mind is Salesforce. They are and have been ruling the industry for more than a decade now. The reason for their success is that they understand their market deeply and have been known to launch products that complement their CRM creating a perfect flow for customer communication for their clients.

The complimentary products that we are talking about here are portals and communities. If you’ve been following Salesforce or have been using it for a long time now, then you might be aware of what they are, their functionalities, and how they benefit organizations.

In this blog, we are going to discuss:

  • Types of Salesforce portals and their functionalities
  • Salesforce communities
  • Difference between Salesforce Portals and Communities
  • Which one to choose?

Today almost every organization we interact with is through Portals. Believe it or not, it’s true.
These portals have taken up the market and revolutionized the ways people interact with companies and vice versa. According to research done by Nuance, 67% of people prefer to use self-service portals instead of getting on a call or emailing with company employees.

Portals not only changed the way users interact with the companies but they also gave users a chance to learn and explore things on their own.

And these portals are not limited to customer interactions. They go beyond.

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Three major types of Salesforce portals:

Self-service portal

Nowadays customers prefer to solve their problems even the technical ones on their own. Self-service portals help them by redirecting them to the right FAQs, blog posts, technical documents, videos, etc. so that they can resolve the issue on their own. This reduces the communication between your customers and customer support while creating a win-win situation for both. Your support can work more productively and customers don't need to wait to get their answers.

Customer portal Customer Portal provides customers with an online channel to communicate with customer executives and solve their issues. They help to streamline communication and provide easy and fast solutions. Portals are also helping companies to provide 24/7 support to their customers regardless of time zones and geographic shortcomings.

Their customer portal is somewhat similar to the self-service portal except that you’ll be providing your customers with a different interface to interact with you rather than doing it directly from your website or web app.

Partner portal

Salesforce partner portal is for your sales and channel partners. They have access to the core features of Salesforce CRM. The partner portal also provides partners with leads and customer conversion opportunities.

Portal is a neat way to communicate with different entities associated with your business. But, this is not all where Salesforce stopped. They wanted to make portals more branded, collaborative, and bring a change in the way users and companies interact with each other.

Hence in 2013, Salesforce introduced Community Cloud with an aim to share information and collaborate with people more effectively. It provides companies with the tools to create online communities by connecting with customers, external partners, and employees.

Salesforce Community Cloud is available in three tiers. They are:

  • Customer Community
  • Customer Community Plus
  • Partner Community

Depending on your company’s requirements you can purchase any one of the licenses. The customer community is useful for support and feedback. For online collaboration, handling internal employee communities, HR, or IT teams, the customer community plus is useful. Lastly, the partner community is useful to B2B businesses as you can create a flow for qualifying leads, tracking revenue, and providing product training.

Community clouds are taking over the market due to its high scalability, no coding requirements, libraries filled with rich scalable templates, easy third party integrations, and custom made components, and more.

You can build communities based on the entities you interact for different purposes.

Now let’s look at the differences between Salesforce customer portal and Communities:

Portals and community clouds have the same structural features but differ in the way people interact with them.

  • Portals provide external users the ability to access Salesforce whereas community clouds connect the internal users together in Salesforce.
  • External users like partners or customers can communicate via Chatter in Communities. While on the other hand, portals don't support Chatter.
  • Communities are visually appealing and have easy to navigate user interfaces while portals’ user interface might look a little outdated.
  • Cost-wise portals are reasonable as compared to the Salesforce community cloud.
  • Portal is an extension of your CRM and users can access or view information limited to their account. Whereas, communities reside inside your organization and can be accessed globally.
  • Various portals like the knowledge portal, a self-service portal, customer portal, partner portal, etc. are used for different purposes. Whereas, communities provide one platform to share knowledge with users, easy communication between users, employees, and partners, drive more sales by connecting with distributors and resellers, enhance user engagement, workflow, and content all from one place.
  • Community cloud comes with the integration of for content management, android and iOS version, integration of Salesforce Einstein, Chatter, enhanced security, and many more.

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Now, comes the main question, what should you use: Salesforce Customer Portal or Communities?

Even today Salesforce portals are the most searched and most used products. But, over the course, they will soon be replaced with Community Cloud. So if you are a company using a customer portal for a few years now, then it might be time to start looking to switch to the community cloud.

But if you are a company that’s just starting out or is just starting to scale then the Salesforce portal is the right option.

Portals and communities are the same in some ways and a lot different in others. The right decision lies with knowing your requirements, the stage your company’s at, and especially, what your customers expect from you.


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