When you set up a business, customer experience isn't always at the top of your list. Only when you repeatedly start fielding the same support requests do you start thinking about implementing something more official.

 

Portals are a great way to give customers a central place to access everything they need. This prevents them from clogging up your support inbox, which helps your team's workload and gives your customers a great experience.

 

Finding the perfect customer portal can be a minefield. The best option for you might not be the best option for the next person. That's why we've scoured the internet and found what we believe to be the 6 best solutions (including the pros and cons of each) that fit a wide range of use cases.

 

Table of contents

 

What is customer portal software?

 

A customer portal is a type of self-serve software that gives your clients a central point of access to files, resources, and updates. You could use a portal to allow customers to submit support requests, access invoices, and promote additional products or services.

 

Customer portal graphic

 

The best part is that everything your customer needs is in one location. Even if you use a smorgasbord of software, you can keep all your existing tools together under one branded portal so your customers can access everything from a single place.

 

What's the difference between a customer portal and a client portal?

 

Customer portals and client portals are often used interchangeably, as they both refer to the same thing: a portal that keeps everything together.

 

E-commerce brands with a high volume of low-touch customers tend to say customer portal, while service providers working with fewer high-touch clients would say client portal.

 

For this article, we will focus more on portals for customers rather than clients. Still, you could apply the same recommendations to both.

 

Why do you need a portal for your customers?

 

Portals have many benefits – both for your customers and your business. With a portal, you get:

 

  • 24/7 access for customers. If you have a global customer base, you don't need to worry about having a support team in every timezone. Your customers can log in and get what they need no matter where in the world they are.
  • Professionalism, no matter the size of your business. It's not just Amazon that has access to the technology for customer portals. Small and medium-sized companies can also benefit, which levels the playing field and makes you look good.
  • Less pressure on your support team. If your support team constantly deals with small, repeatable requests, they have less time for the customers who need personalized help. A portal can reduce your support tickets, cutting your overhead costs.
  • A single source of truth for everyone. Your portal can collate anything that customers need to access repeatedly. Whether it's a link to a help doc, a training webinar, or even just an invoice, your customers will have one place to access everything.

 

Real examples of customer portals

Despite there being no one standard type of customer portal, we've created a couple of examples of what a customer portal could look like for you to take inspiration from.

Example portal 1: Digital Downloads Shop

example of a customer portal for a digital download shop

 

In this first example, we've created a portal for customers who have purchased digital download templates (like brochures, logos, or social media templates). You could use WooCommerce to sell these templates and Client Portal to give your customers access to the downloads along with tutorials, and other useful information.

 

Check out the live Digital Downloads Shop Portal

 

Username: tompickle

Password: customerportal638

Example portal 2: Custom Furniture Shop

 

example of a customer portal for a furniture shop

 

In this example, we've created a portal for a business who created custom furniture for their customers. You can use this portal to share questionnaires, specifications, photo updates, and more.

 

Check out the live Custom Furniture Shop Portal

 

Our 6 top picks for customer portals in 2024

 

 

Customer portal software Annual starting price Key features Our verdict
Client Portal $199/yr
  • Built for WordPress
  • Unlimited clients and unlimited portals on any plan
  • Unlimited clients and unlimited portals on any plan
  • Secure portals and extra protection for sensitive file uploads
  • Custom branding and white labeling
  • Priority support and product updates are included
  • Email notifications for you and your customers to keep projects on track
  • WooCommerce integration
Our top pick. If you are looking for a simple, easy-to-use portal and use WordPress as a CMS, this is the best option in terms of price and features.

 

Client Portal doesn’t tie you into any project management tool–it’s a portal to use with your existing tools.

 

The portals are well-designed and have a small learning curve for non-tech-savvy customers.

ZenDesk $540/agent
  • Ticketing system
  • Comprehensive reporting
  • 1,000+ integrations
  • Many paid add-ons are available
  • Includes AI-powered knowledgebase
The most comprehensive solution with a focus on handling support tickets.

 

This is an enterprise-level option and not best suited to small to medium-sized businesses due to the cost and complexity. However, this option is best if you need a solid help desk system with a portal add-on. Pricing is per agent which can add up quickly if you have a team.

MyDocSafe $192/yr
  • Unlimited storage
  • Quotes and proposals included
  • In-app messaging is available
  • Audit trail
  • Digital signatures
One of the least expensive options for a portal. If you just need to upload files for your customer, this could be a great solution. The design of the portal isn’t as sleek as some of the other options.
Notion Free plan, then starts at $84/yr
  • Inexpensive and you can use Notion in many other areas of your business
  • Free plan allows up to 10 clients (guests)
  • Allows uploads (5mb on the free plan)
  • Very customizable
If you already use Notion, this is a great DIY option. However, setting up and maintaining portals will be time-consuming. There are probably better long-term solutions than this, but it could work in a pinch.
Clinked Lite plan starts at $948/yr
  • Option to white-label your portal
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Files uploads (up to 100 GB on the Lite plan)
  • Unlimited guests with any plan (100 member limit on the Lite plan)
  • Zapier integration
Best for those who need a very custom portal, as they offer a bespoke setup service. The price is one of the highest, but many features are included.
Softr Limited free plan, then starts at $588/yr
  • In-app messaging
  • Accepts payments via Stripe and PayPal
  • All plans integrate with Airtable, Google Sheets, SmartSuite, and HubSpot
Best for those who use a lot of spreadsheets or databases and want these to turn into portals. The free plan is pretty good, but the price jump to the paid option is exceptionally steep. So make sure the free plan has what you need.

 

What should the ideal customer portal include?

 

Customer portals are unique to your business. There is no one-size-fits-all. That's why we recommend creating an outline of what you need your ideal portal to include and anything nice to have. This will help you narrow down the options.

 

 

However, there are four things that every portal needs to include as standard. These are:

1) Customizable branding and white-labeling

Your portal must look like a part of your business. Your customers already trust you and your brand, so your portal needs to integrate seamlessly.

 

This can be as simple as choosing a portal that allows you to upload your company logo and select custom colors (most do). You should also be able to host the portal on your domain or subdomain and remove any third-party branding.

2) Integration with the tools you already use

Ensure the platform allows you to use programs you already use. When implementing a portal, you want to keep your workflow the same. Changing too much at once will confuse your clients and risk locking you into the software.

 

So, if you currently use Google Docs, Google Sheets, Trello, or any other tool, make sure your portal can accommodate that and doesn't force you to switch to their version of these tools.

3) Private and secure access for your customers

We all know that security is essential, especially when handling sensitive data. Portals must be completely secure and only accessible to customers with a login.

4) Good product support so you have help when you need it

One of the most significant benefits of using a third-party portal tool over building your own portal is that if anything goes wrong or you need help, you can access a responsive and helpful support team.

 

To ensure you'll get good support when signing up, check their website for any reviews that mention support, and even consider emailing a question or two to check their responsiveness.

 

How to choose the right customer portal for your business

 

Choosing the right portal depends on your company's particular needs. For example, a graphic design shop selling digital downloads will have different priorities than a business selling custom furniture. When looking at your options for portals, consider the following questions:

 "Does this portal look easy to use for my customers?"

One of the biggest failures is introducing software to non-tech-savvy customers. Make sure the learning curve is manageable for everyone. If you choose a 'kitchen sink' type of software that attempts to do everything, your customers will likely feel overwhelmed. The reality is they simply won't use it, which is a waste of money.

"Does the portal look like an extension of my business?"

Familiarity is vital for your customers, and this starts with branding. Check that you can white-label the portal, which allows you to customize the platform to suit your branding.

"How active is the development of the software?"

When choosing third-party software, you must be confident that the company behind it is actively providing updates and support for the product. This is vital when dealing with potentially sensitive information, so ensure you can see a changelog of the product's updates.

"Does the software offer good support?"

It's important to have access to real people who can answer questions, log feature requests, and help with technical issues.

"Does the portal fit within my budget?"

Portal prices can range significantly. Ensure the one you choose fits comfortably in your budget, as they are challenging to remove once you've started offering them.

 

It's better to sacrifice new nice-to-have features for a reasonable price than to use up your entire budget, leaving little to no wiggle room.

 

A word of caution: beware of free plans that require you to upgrade to access certain features. You could spend a lot of time integrating your portal and then realizing you need to use the paid plan to access something crucial—these can be expensive. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can comfortably afford their paid plans if you need to.

 

Now that we've discussed the benefits, key requirements, and things to look out for, let's begin our comparison so you can choose the best portal for your business.

 

Overview of our top 6 customer portal solutions

Client Portal

Screenshot of Client Portal's customer portal

 

Client Portal is our top pick! Built for WordPress with WooCommerce integration, it offers unlimited clients and portals on any plan. It's completely secure and provides extra protection to sensitive file uploads. You can custom-brand and white-label this platform, and it comes with priority support and product updates. The email notifications allow you and your customers to keep projects on track. It's a simple and easy-to-use portal.

 

If you use WordPress as a CMS, this is the best option in terms of price and features. Client Portal doesn't tie you into specific software, so you can use it alongside your existing tools. It's well-designed, with virtually no learning curve for non-tech-savvy users.

 

Here's what customers say about Client Portal:

 

"I have been using Client Portal with some of my customers and they absolutely love it!"

–Roberto Cornejo Reindl

 

"This is my first day getting this set up and I am very pleased with the ease and simplicity of the tool. It helps keep conversations focused both with my internal team and with my customers. I am very glad I found you. Great job on this.

–Bernard Williams, Owner - Rising Tide Creative Group

 

"Thank you for creating Client Portal! I wish I had this YEARS ago. Everything looks beautiful and has been a breeze to set up. The minimalistic design and options are perfect for what I do!!"

–Kirsten @ecommdesigner

 

Key features:

 

  • Built for WordPress - you can use it on your own domain
  • Unlimited clients and unlimited portals on any plan
  • Secure portals and extra protection for sensitive file uploads
  • Custom branding and white labelling
  • Priority support and product updates are included
  • Email notifications for you and your customers
  • WooCommerce integration so customers can purchase access to portals

 

Our verdict: Client Portal is our top recommendation if you are looking for the best customer portal software. This platform gives an unlimited number of customers an organized and secure space where they can access everything they need from you at any time.

 

The fully customizable Client portal lets you focus on your business while improving your customer experience. Click here to get started today.

ZenDesk

Screenshot of Zendesk's customer portal

 

ZenDesk is a comprehensive solution focused on handling support tickets and reporting. It has a handy ticketing system and over 1,000 integrations. Many paid add-ons are available, and they come with an AI-powered knowledge base. This platform is ideal if you need a helpdesk system for customers with a portal add-on. However, as the pricing is per agent, it can add up quickly if you have an expanding team.

 

Features:

 

  • Ticketing system
  • Comprehensive reporting
  • 1,000+ integrations
  • Many paid add-ons are available
  • Includes AI-powered knowledgebase

 

Our verdict: ZenDesk is one of the best-known help desk solutions. It's highly advanced and comprehensive, making it our top pick for enterprise-level businesses that need a complete support ticket solution.

MyDocSafe

 

MyDocSafe is one of the cheapest portal options and offers unlimited storage. It includes quotes and proposal tools, an audit trail, digital signatures, and in-app messaging. This could be a great solution if you just need to upload files regularly for your customers. However, the portal design isn't as sleek as some other options.

 

Features:

 

  • Unlimited storage
  • Quotes and proposals included
  • In-app messaging is available
  • Audit trail
  • Digital signatures

 

Our verdict: This is a good all-rounder. It has many useful features–like built-in digital signatures–and the price is reasonable. Its main drawback is the overall design and user experience since it's more of a file-sharing tool than a customer portal.

Notion

Screenshot of Notion's customer portal

 

Notion is budget-friendly and can be used in many other areas of your business. It's not intended to be used as a customer portal. Still, it is pretty decent if you have the time to maintain it. The free plan allows up to 10 clients (guests) and uploads (5 MB on the free plan).

 

Features:

 

  • The free plan allows up to 10 clients (guests)
  • Allows uploads (5 MB on the free plan)
  • Very customizable
  • Basic analytics included

 

Our verdict: This is a great DIY option if you already use Notion for other purposes. However, the setup and maintenance of the portal will be time-consuming. The portal feature is probably not a good long-term solution, but it is an excellent way to start.

Clinked

Screenshot of Clinked customer portal

 

Clinked has many features, although it's one of the most expensive platforms. It allows unlimited guests with any plan and a 100-member limit on the Lite plan. You can white-label this portal, which has tracking and reporting functions. It also allows file uploads of up to 100 GB on the Lite plan and Zapier integration with other apps.

 

Features:

 

  • Option to white-label your portal
  • Tracking and reporting
  • Files uploads (up to 100 GB on the Lite plan)
  • Unlimited guests with any plan (100 member limit on the Lite plan)
  • Zapier integration
  • Bespoke setup service (additional fee)

 

Our verdict: Like ZenDesk, Clinked's pricing makes it more suited to enterprise-level companies. However, Clinked is more of a traditional portal than a support desk. As Clinked offers a bespoke setup service, this platform best suits those needing a highly customized portal.

Softr

Screenshot of Softr customer portal

 

Softr has an excellent free plan, but the paid version has a hefty price jump. So you'll need to be sure that the limited free plan has everything you need. Softr isn't an out-of-the-box customer portal solution. Instead, it allows you to turn databases into apps - one of which could be a portal.

 

Features:

 

  • In-app messaging
  • Accepts payments via Stripe and PayPal
  • All plans integrate with Airtable, Google Sheets, SmartSuite, and HubSpot

 

Our verdict: This platform is best suited to businesses that use many spreadsheets or databases and need them converted into customer portals. It's pitched as no-code but requires specific technical knowledge and an understanding of database structures.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I build my own customer portal?

Yes, you can create private pages on your website to create your portal without needing third-party software. Keep in mind the resources required to continuously monitor and fix any issues. When you use a third party, you can access their support and development teams.

Are customer portals secure?

Yes, customer portals are secure. Customers should only be able to access their own portals, and sensitive files or data should be protected.

What is the best customer portal software?

Client Portal is our top recommendation because it's a fully flexible and customizable platform. It's the only solution that is primarily a portal, as opposed to other solutions that have the portal as an add-on.

What are the best practices for customer portals?

A good customer portal needs to be secure, flexible, and customizable. It should present everything a customer may need to access without emailing your support team. For example, a good customer portal could include file downloads, FAQs, company information, and self-help resources.

What's the difference between a customer portal, a CRM, and a project management tool?

A customer portal is an integrated, self-serve platform that gives your customers direct access to dashboards, files, and resources.

 

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool is an internal database with a sales pipeline that allows you to track your leads and manage your customers.

 

A project management tool helps you organize and manage projects using tasks and progress tracking.

 

Final thoughts

 

When choosing the best client portal solution for your business, consider what makes an outstanding client experience. Remember, every client will have their own processes and tools they want to use. So, choose a flexible client portal that allows full customization and doesn't impose limits on users and portals.

 

Client Portal is a simple, secure, and flexible WordPress plugin that you can install on your website today without a developer's help.

 

Why not build your ideal customer portal with Client Portal? Find out more…