Meet Helm CONNECT Portal, the first system designed to allow your customers to place orders directly into Helm CONNECT. Portal extends the reach of your Helm CONNECT, letting you:
- Streamline your ordering process
- Provide continuous updates to your customers and agents, and
- Create better transparency throughout the towage process
Why Helm CONNECT Portal?
We built Portal based on the input from our customers, and many enthused conversations about extending the great Helm CONNECT user experience to a wider audience (namely, our customers’ customers). There’s three main reasons for why we built Portal:
1. Better engagement between you and your customers
As we increasingly engage with each other digitally, we’re enabling your customers to interact with you via a web browser, rather than picking up the phone or sending an email. Your customers can enter requests, track jobs or access documentation, whenever and wherever they want, rather than making a call. This speeds communication efficiency, reduces transcription error, drives down service costs… and makes for a better customer experience!
2. Extending Helm CONNECT with customized workflows for each of your customers
Portal provides a big jump in how we envision usage for our customer base, and offers features beyond the core Helm CONNECT platform. While Portal is built on Helm CONNECT (and shares a common code base), it’s built to support customizations like reviews and ratings, invoice management, customer-specific contractual obligations, and features to help promote and generate additional revenue. Portal can also be configured with a branded user interface, so your customers will see your logo when they log in.
3. Extend Helm CONNECT Use while enforcing data security
Security is key consideration for considering Helm, and extending data to a new set of users outside your controlled corporate environment required careful thought… it’s always been a big focus for us at Helm Operations. While Portal can be deployed to the same AWS environment as Helm CONNECT, Portal users live in a completely separate environment letting you maintain full control over your own data.
The Development Process
To develop Portal, we’ve been using an agile process that involves regularly validating our ideas with potential users and decision makers, gathering feedback, and making adjustments. As we shared pictures and mock ups of our ideas, we listened to your feedback and used it to build Portal into the product it is today. As the product is currently only for Helm CONNECT Jobs customers, the roadmap is highly driven by the adopters of our Jobs module.
The Design and Layout
Let’s start our tour of Portal by looking at its design and layout. When a user first opens Portal via their browser, they’re asked to log in with a unique email and password. Additional security enhancements are configurable: 2-factor authentication, password complexity requirements and lockouts may be implemented, providing assurance that your data is secure. The homepage can be completely white labelled and customized to ensure your brand is represented in the interaction:
Once logged in, a user will see a grid of trips in a simple user interface. The data appears in the portal seamlessly, meaning it is loaded and updated from the data in Helm CONNECT. There’s no additional workload for a dispatcher to keep the portal updated – we’ve handled that all for you 🙂 On initial load, the grid will show trips from any order in the current week, the week ahead and the past week. This allows a user to instantly answer the common questions they might encounter:
- What orders are happening soon? Exactly when are they happening?
- What happened on this order?
- What is the state of this order?
To enable a user to answer these questions even faster, the top of the page has a status bar showing the progress of a trip, with each button also serving as a filter. If someone wants to see only completed trips over the past three weeks, it takes just a single click to filter by time period. The grid has other productivity features, including expanding &: collapsing the view to show / hide orders, and exporting to Excel. It’s also fully configurable per user, to reveal or hide relevant columns and rows.
Clicking on any row in the trip will open a mobile-friendly pop-up of the order, showing all trips consolidated as status-colored cards:
What orders would a user see?
Data privacy has underpinned every feature we’ve developed for Portal, and we’ve approached the challenge from both sides, considering a few constraints:
- An agent should only see orders for their own agency (i.e. your customer), and
- A user works for an agency, and any agent at that agency should be able to see each other’s trips.
Our privacy model accommodates this: any user sees data at the intersection of one primary, and three secondary filters: the primary filter is the division are they in, and the secondary filters are their geographic Area, their Agent Accounts, and the Customer Accounts are they assigned. A user will see only the orders that match their assigned filters. This is represented in the following illustration and screen shot.
What do they see on an order?
So a user can see an order and lots of associated info in the Portal, but to effectively run your operations, there is a lot of information that isn’t relevant or necessary to show externally. Helm CONNECT Portal is highly configurable to meet different workflows by region or service type. As an administrator, you can choose any field, by division, for any trip type to be:
- Shown in the Portal
- Fillable on a new order / trip
- Editable on an existing order / trip
So here, we set up a Berthing to show From Location/To location, but not time. The agent stays informed on exactly what they need to know, and nothing more!
Creating/Editing an Order
Now that you’ve configured what fields a user needs to submit when creating a new order request or editing an existing request, Portal navigates them through a simple form submission:
By design, any data that a user is allowed to interact with requires a manual internal review. Helm CONNECT Portal seamlessly integrates to the Helm CONNECT request manager to accomplish this. A new request, or an edit to an existing request, are all submitted for review by dispatchers in the request manager. The agent is then notified of the status of the request, and of course, they see the state of their order immediately reflected in the Portal.
How You Can Get Involved
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Helm CONNECT Portal but remember, the best way to find a solution that works for you is to help create one!
Let us know if you’re interested in Portal and want to get involved in the validation process. The companies we’re already working with say it’s exciting to see the results of their feedback in the validation demos after just a few weeks, and we’d love to have you join us!
Stay tuned for more blog posts introducing the other Portal improvements. Until next time!