With Salesforce.com, your team is managing information about your customers securely. You collaborate on the information internally to facilitate sales, marketing and service to your customer base. The information has great value, yet it relies heavily on you and your team to capture and input details about customer interactions.
Salesforce.com can be extended to be interactive with your customers via a secure customer portal. This allows for your customers to manage information about themselves via a login and view of shared Salesforce.com information.
The standard customer portal allows for Case record management via a self-service portal. When this is set up within your Professional or Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition, users can login to a portal site hosted on your site. They can create new Case records or manage existing records to see progress and resolution on their issues. This is valuable for keeping a place that your customer can see historical and current issues with your company. It provides great value to the business relationship.
If you want to create more self-service for your customers, then a custom built portal would be required. Other data objects and fields, either standard or custom, can be shared out.
Depending on your business processes, you may want to share out invoice and accounting information with a customer. Or you may have project information that is being managed in Salesforce.com that you want to status a customer on and allow for self-service. They can view current status or input comments to the current project information.
There are many possibilities. The value-add depends on what is important in your business relationship with your customers and how it might also help increase productivity for your team.
There are likely opportunities which make sense for creating a portal for your customer with the rich information resident in your Salesforce.com system. Look for the return-on-productivity or return-on-investment to design a customer portal. Feel free to me on Salesforce Consulting if you would like help.
How would a customer portal be valuable for your business?