Salesforce Portals vs. Communities

A lot of organizations use online portals or communities to interact with their customers, partners and other stakeholders. These solutions have changed the way in which people collaborate and cooperate with companies. Since many prefer to solve issues and do things on their own, without interacting with company representatives, over 67% of all communication is reportedly done through portals instead of phone calls or emails, according to a study by Nuance. Providing stakeholders with a powerful information resource and with a choice on how to communicate with the business can be revolutionary for your client relationships, bringing you numerous benefits, from saving up on customer care to boosting customer loyalty, and more.

Salesforce has long been at the forefront of improving customer relations management, so it is no wonder that it offers a functionality for portals and communities. In this article, we aim to cover what these two solutions are and how they are different from each other, to help you understand which is a better choice for your Salesforce organization. 

What Is a Portal in Salesforce? 

Portals serve as a source of information and help online. Depending on specifics of a business, this can help to resolve issues and get answers to inquiries autonomously. Salesforce offers three types of portals.

Self-Service Portal 

These portals aid in directing users to the frequently asked sections page, blog posts, videos that present important information, and more, depending on their request. This generally reduces communication between customer support and users, allowing support teams to work with greater productivity. At the same time, users don’t have to depend on customer care specialists’ time zone availability and pick hours to get an answer fast. 

Customer Portal

Similar to Self-Service Portals, Customer Portals present customers with an online channel to be able to interact with customer support and solve ongoing issues. Just like Self-Service portals, they are continuously helping companies provide around-the-clock support to their users, regardless of where they are in the world, or what time zone they are in. Customer Portals provide users with access to Salesforce functionality and critical CRM data.

Partner Portal 

Salesforce Partner Portal allows your organization to provide limited access to certain CRM objects and functionality to your sales and channel partners.


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Salesforce Customer Portal Features

Here are some of the main features that the Salesforce Customer Portal has to offer: 

Integration With CRM

Salesforce Customer Portal is often used to help customers with their problems, and relevant CRM data is vital for that purpose. Luckily, Customer Portal integrates itself with your CRM very easily, which helps to get a comprehensive picture of a customer’s demands, preferences, and level of engagement with the business. In turn, this information raises the standard of your customer support service.

Access To Salesforce Ideas

Salesforce Ideas is an interactive platform where Salesforce users and clients are able to exchange insightful information on any Salesforce-related topic. Customers can join this community through the customer portal and share creative ideas to enhance the platform’s functionality and how client problems are handled. It is highly possible that a suggestion made by a client to address a particular problem will assist other users and clients in better management of their own cases.

Self-Service Function

Salesforce Customer Portal also includes Salesforce Knowledge, Solutions, and Answers for self-service and seamless case management. It also makes it possible to quickly resolve a client’s problematic situation by allocating them to agents with appropriate expertise.

Customer Profile Generation

Salesforce Customer Portal enables you to create profiles that provide customized layouts, list views, and trustworthy field-level security. Additionally, it offers access to unique Salesforce objects to display and gather relevant data for unique applications.

Reporting And Analytics

Salesforce users can access numerous detailed, customizable reports through the software’s interface. This helps them keep track of their activities, understand the nature of their problems, and evaluate the quality of the solutions offered.

What are Salesforce Communities? 

However beneficial Customer Portal may be, Salesforce didn’t stop at it and introduced Community Cloud in 2013, aiming it to be more advanced than Customer Portal by enhancing and promoting collaboration among stakeholders. Communities focus on providing companies with the relevant tools in order to develop online communities by connecting with different users and employees. So, in brief, Community Cloud is a Salesforce-based social platform that enhances collaboration by connecting stakeholders of a single organization with each other, as well as giving them access to the necessary information. There are several types of communities in Salesforce, they differ in functionality and pricing.

Types of Communities in Salesforce

Since Salesforce Communities is designed to improve the connection between a business and its customers, employees and partners, you can create the three respective types of communities:


  1. Customer Community: This community type is there to enable your customers to collaborate, share knowledge, and offer self-service support. With the community’s help, customers get an opportunity to access knowledge bases and other relevant resources, engage in conversations with each other and submit cases.
  2. Employee Community: This community type is intended for promoting internal communication, information exchange, and collaboration among employees. Staff can access company resources, guidelines, training materials, and collaborate with coworkers from other departments or locations through their common portal.
  3. Partner Community: This community type is developed to enhance cooperation and simplify communication between the company and its partners. In this community, partners get access to sales and marketing materials, training materials, and support documentation. On top of that, partners can share important information with the community and organize team team efforts while working on prospects.

Salesforce Customer Portal vs. Communities: The Differences 

Here is how Salesforce Customer Portal and Communities are different:


  • Interface customization. Thanks to Visualforce, Communities allow full control over the interface – you can fully match it to your website, set up different styles depending on user type. Customer Portal offers basic interface customization – fonts, colors, header and footer. Moreover, Salesforce Einstein provides further customization through the personalized content display for each user.
  • Communication. Salesforce communities come with Chatter, enabling your users to better collaborate with each other. This is a great feature for Customer Portal users.
  • Content management. Communities have in-built integration.
  • Pricing. As a more advanced solution, Communities naturally come at a higher price than Customer Portal.
  • Mobility. Communities are available on mobile devices through native apps.

Choosing Between Salesforce Portals and Communities

Despite the fact that Community Cloud was rolled out in 2013, not all users have made the switch and Portals are still widely used. There might be several reasons for that: pricing considerations, and reluctance to burden stakeholders with the switch to a new interface and functionality. Some organizations might simply not see the point in moving to Communities as they are quite satisfied with the current solution and a more basic functionality is just more fitting for their needs and the scale of their business. The right decision depends on your business requirements, scaling needs, and understanding your users’ expectations and needs. In essence, both Portals and Communities help facilitate information access and streamline issues resolution for your users. Communities, however, is also collaboration-focused and besides it is packed with additional useful features, contributing to a digital environment that nurtures efficiency and scalability and drives client satisfaction.


Whether you are a long-time Portals-using organization considering switching to Communities or just need help setting up Salesforce Community Cloud, OMI will be happy to help. As a certified Salesforce managed service provider, we have the necessary expertise to help you make the most of your Community Cloud investment.