A few months ago at the Iron Tech Competition at Georgetown Law School, one of the judges asked one of the teams one the best questions I’ve ever heard and have been pondering since:
What does the system look like from the client’s side?
Yet do you have any idea of how that “client portal” that you set up works from the client’s perspective?
It’s a question that has been bugging me lately as I’ve tried to set up a searchable portal of documents or curated content for my clients and potential subscribers. On my end, I can easily view and search documents, but that’s not always the case for my clients. Sometimes, they only have access to a list of links, other times, they may not have search capabilities.
Likewise, I frequently have common files that I’d like to share, in searchable fashion with different groups of clients. Sometimes, in order to do that, I need to invite clients to a common folder where they can see everyone else who’s been invited – a huge confidentiality breach. On those kinds of systems, the only work around is to set up separate files for each client.
Of course, the only way I even know this is because I’ve had to set up my own “fake” client identity to test these sites. Vendors sure don’t make it easy to see what our clients see. Yet, it’s impossible to trouble shoot or assess gaps without access to the client’s view as part of the demo.
As I’ve complained in the past, I’ve had problems in the past with clients using portals. But unless I can trouble shoot from their perspective, it’s difficult to figure out how to improve the situation. Is it difficult for clients to download documents? Are they forced to sign up for another service to access documents? Can they search and open and navigate documents easily? Unless I set up a dummy account on a different browser, I can’t really test for these problems.
These portals – they’re called “client portals” for a reason. They’re there to serve clients, to make their lives easier. So how about making life easier for me, the lawyer who serves clients, by coming up with a seamless way for me to view the system from the only perspective that matters: that of the client.