Customer portals are an effective tool for two-way communication with a company’s partners and to manage customer relationships however, if a portal does not meet customers’ needs, the technology falls flat. Optos Inc., a manufacturer of retinal imaging devices used by eye care professionals, continued to see year-over-year customer growth of approximately 20% and determined that their customer portal required additional functionality to meet the demands of the increasing customer base.
The previous design of the customer portal, Optos says, was incongruous to one of the corporate initiatives at Optos: “Continue to Improve Customer Support.” At the time of the redesign, Optos provided customers access only if their support contracts were up to date—thereby excluding customers. “We not only wanted to make the portal accessible to a broader customer base, but have the portal do more, especially when it came to providing the materials and content that our customers were asking for, and communicating that to them in an effective manner,” says Sharon Shepard, director of digital marketing for Optos.
What helps one, helps all
The primary obstacle to Optos achieving its goals regarding outbound communication was accurate, usable customer email addresses. “If we were going to invest in upgrading our portal and implementing marketing automation, we knew we had to not only clean up the information in our database, but grow it,” Shepard says. “Otherwise, investing in marketing automation didn’t make sense.”
Optos developed a cross-functional task force to investigate and implement the process. “Data cleaning and appending is an infrastructure investment that touches almost every department in the organization. We were fortunate to have management buy-in to expend the resources to get there,” Shepard says.
As Optos moved forward with the data project, they were now ready to investigate updating to the latest Episerver CMS, ecommerce and marketing automation tools. With the acquisition of Optos by Nikon Corp. in 2015, Optos received support for their digital platforms to meet Nikon’s stringent security requirements..
Three years later, with its data meeting the requirements for marketing automation investment, the digital team at Optos pressed forward, Shepard says. “With the investment in resources and procedure, we were able to provide usable, accurate data throughout the organization and with regard to marketing automation, we had grown our email database tenfold,” she says.
Putting the customer first
With their investments in place, Optos began to orchestrate marketing campaigns and automations by sending emails triggered by customer behavior, such as making a purchase through the portal or registering as a new user. Optos also uses the platform to send follow-up emails confirming service appointments and post-service emails soliciting feedback how on the service call went.
The company also has used the platform to orchestrate an email campaign in which it sent notices to customers that their service agreement was expiring and needed to be renewed. The campaign influenced hundreds of thousands of dollars in service contract revenue in six months, Shepard says.
“For us to be able to communicate with our customers in this way has been an extraordinary leap,” Shepard says. “Our communications are stronger and quicker than they have ever been.”
Measurements and pivots
“We knew our customers and prospects were wanting to hear from us, but we didn’t know to what extent,” she adds. “Since we invested in our infrastructure and marketing automation, we are seeing click rates on emails averaging 32.4%, compared to an industry average of 2.25%. Open rates are 60%, compared to 21% for the industry average.”
In addition, Optos boosted the number of registered companies on its portal to 8,000, up from 2,000, in 18 months. The boost was aided by an automated marketing campaign to encourage more users to register.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, Shepard says, Optos saw an opportunity to pivot and use its website to proactively provide customers with information about how to manage their business. The company developed a resource center that includes access to continuing education courses, and webinars. The center provides safety information such as how to clean its medical imaging devices in between treating patients; it also schedules staff training sessions on operating equipment, including refresher courses for staff that had been temporarily furloughed.
“Many of our customers were forced to shut down their offices in March,” says Shepard. “When that happened, we were able to reach out to them about the resources available through our portal and website.”
Driving toward the future
While the upgraded platform enhanced the company’s marketing capabilities, Optos views the upgrades as an ongoing process, Shepard says. Optos recently completed transitioning its websites to Episerver’s cloud-based platform, including Episerver B2B Commerce Cloud, Marketing Automation and Content Recommendations software. “This move will allow Optos ongoing scalability, ease the burden on the company’s information technology department, and meet ever-increasing security requirements,” Shepard says.
“What we have now is the ability to consistently tie together content and marketing communications,” Shepard says. “Customer communications and content, as well as improving and automating our marketing innovation were the primary drivers for us to upgrade our digital platforms.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.
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