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Patrizia CongedoPatrizia Congedo 

customer portal, self service portal and communities...

Hi all,
I need some help understanding the difference in Customer Portals, Self Service Portals and Communities, as I am finding it a little mind-boggling!

We have an Enterprise Edition of Sales only, and I can see that we have a Self Service Portal available in our org. However, provided that it is the right solution, we would consider expanding to have a sign-on portal for our customers.

Ideally, this would mean a personalised account page for the customer to access and where they can retrieve documentation and information from us (a little like the My Account on Amazon). Which one of the three would be the right platform to work on? where can I find further information?

many thanks in advance,

Patty

Best Answer chosen by Patrizia Congedo
Ron KoppelmannRon Koppelmann
Again, my pleasure. You are right, true customers, those who consume your products and/or services are different from Partners who typically resell for you in some way. If you have customers who need to enter Opps (or Orders), Collaborate with you (Chatter), and get support (Cases) your use case may be closer to Customer Communities than to Partner communities.

Salesforce does say this "The Service Cloud Portal is the Customer Portal intended for many thousands to millions of users." I like to say that you have to begin with the end in mind. In the end, if you can reasonably expect to get to many thousand or millions of users, a Customer Community on the Service Cloud might be the right answer. Quote above from this resource:

https://na1.salesforce.com/help/pdfs/en/salesforce_customer_portal_implementation_guide.pdf

All Answers

vamsi krishnavamsi krishna
Hi,
my understanding is that all the portals are being phased out (though the existing ones will still be supported) and all are moving into Communities..
Portals are still available only for the Orgs which started before Communities became mainstream.. I would suggest if you are starting new, then you should look into Communities..
Ron KoppelmannRon Koppelmann
I would recommend using the Community product over the Portal, the interface is much closer to that of Enterprise. You can get more info at the link below on Customer Communities:

http://help.salesforce.com/help/pdfs/en/salesforce_communities_implementation.pdf
vamsi krishnavamsi krishna
and if you are looking for some reading and learning more about salesforce communitites

there is no better place than salesforce docs / webinars and our success community
Communities Overview : http://www.salesforce.com/au/communities/overview/
Communities Chatter Group : https://success.salesforce.com/_ui/core/chatter/groups/GroupProfilePage?g=0F9300000001oDd

you will hit a bunch of videos in youtube
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=salesforce+communities

and there are heaps of comparison articles between portals and communities like this one
http://www.kineticgrowth.com/salesforce-communities-customer-partner-portals/
http://www.shellblack.com/portals/customer-vs-self-service/
Patrizia CongedoPatrizia Congedo
thank you both, Ron and Vamsi - invaluable help! I will start reading up.
Patrizia CongedoPatrizia Congedo

hi guys,

sorry to get back to this, but I am still uncertain that Communities responds to our current requirement! is it possible, through communities, to allocate a personalised page for each customer, in a My Account sort of way? where they can find all the documentation that they need and have been collating through communication with us? As we only have the Sales platform, I wonder if this kind of thing is within the Customer Service platform?

look forward to hearing from you,
Thank you!

Patty

Ron KoppelmannRon Koppelmann
No apologies, this is what this community is here for. The short answer to your first question is yes, however some thought should be given to how much "care and feeding" this approach will mean for you. Let's consider a simple use case. You have a Partner named Nancy who works for a company we'll call Reseller's Inc. You create a Partner account and a contact for Nancy much in the usual way.

Reseller's is made a Partner Account and Nancy is then made a Partner user, screenshot below. Normally by default, when Nancy logs in, all she should be able to see is her account. The Partner sharing model in some respects could be viewed as more restrictive than even the sharing model for "normal" SF users. There shouldn't be any sharing rules in place that would give Nancy more access, but test to confirm by logging in as Nancy. There are ways (Partner Super Access) that you can expand access given to partners but if you never used Partners before none of that should be in place.

Here is where the "care and feeding" comes in. You'll have to setup and manage Partner Accounts and Partner contacts for each and every Partner. So you have to be sure you have the resources necessary to manage the access they should and should not have. At this point they become just like users who will need some training, will have login issues (invariabily doesn't everyone ;-) will need to be disabled perhaps, etc

Your description above is how I've helped other companies set up Partners with limited access to accounts but wide access to Chatter for collaboration and access to documentation via Files. I believe that Partners are part of the Sales Cloud, if you don't already have the Service Cloud, I don't know that I would complicate things but introducing the Service Cloud unless needed. One of the key reasons to give partners access is to have them enter Opps so you can gain visbility to the pipeline they should be building for you. You'd want them to do that in the Sales Cloud.

User-added image
Patrizia CongedoPatrizia Congedo
thank you Ron,
how about for customers, ie where they won't need to log Opportunities, but have a view on their status and access documentation from us? I would presume that it would be a different level of service management for this, provided that the data is up-to-date from our end, right? would that work in the same sort of way?
thank you so much for your help!
Patty
Ron KoppelmannRon Koppelmann
Again, my pleasure. You are right, true customers, those who consume your products and/or services are different from Partners who typically resell for you in some way. If you have customers who need to enter Opps (or Orders), Collaborate with you (Chatter), and get support (Cases) your use case may be closer to Customer Communities than to Partner communities.

Salesforce does say this "The Service Cloud Portal is the Customer Portal intended for many thousands to millions of users." I like to say that you have to begin with the end in mind. In the end, if you can reasonably expect to get to many thousand or millions of users, a Customer Community on the Service Cloud might be the right answer. Quote above from this resource:

https://na1.salesforce.com/help/pdfs/en/salesforce_customer_portal_implementation_guide.pdf
This was selected as the best answer
Patrizia CongedoPatrizia Congedo
thank you so very much. This Community is the best.

Patty
Ron KoppelmannRon Koppelmann
Thanks for marking a best answer, it helps others with similar questions.
Michael SeelingMichael Seeling
Patrizia we are new to SF and we are looking into excalty what you have asked and I was wondering if you ever got anywhere with setting up personalized customer portals/Communities?