Amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, how can a business ensure it keeps up with customer demands while also balancing operational requirements? One word: Collaboration. There is power in numbers, especially during busy months when everyone feels stretched for time. That’s why it’s so important that businesses encourage collaboration to not only streamline operations but also to better meet customer needs into the New Year and beyond.

A time to team up

For many, the holidays also signal the start of year-end reporting and analysis, not to mention planning for the year ahead. When customer volume increases and companies are busy, employee bandwidth becomes stretched and administrative tasks like reporting and planning often get deprioritized in favor of other customer engagement activities. Not only that, but employees are also moving so quickly from task to task that information sharing across teams or business groups becomes less frequent. Documents are saved on desktops versus team share sites and customer insights are being scribbled on a notepad – while the intent is to share that knowledge across teams, it sometimes doesn’t happen. It’s during these times that strong team collaboration becomes more important than ever.

However, it’s also during these busy times that most businesses don’t have the opportunity to pause and evaluate their operational processes in order to drive better collaboration. This is where technology is critical – solutions like Microsoft Office 365 make collaboration a natural part of employees’ day to day work without them having to learn new processes or solutions. Not only does Office 365 bring you the Office platforms you already know like Word and PowerPoint, it is also equipped with a host of added online features like Yammer, the new Microsoft Teams, data encryption and cloud storage. Your team will be equipped to handle anything the new year sends your way.

The Romanian Red Cross knows the value of collaboration tools better than most. In order to enhance collaboration and communication throughout local and international chapters, the organization turned to Office 365, which helped streamline everything from in-house training to disaster management and volunteer administration. The Romanian Red Cross is now able to share and store documents on One Drive, connect across offices with ease on Teams, collaborate on documents for ample productivity with SharePoint Online and access an array of familiar Office products for employees’ day-to-day work.

In addition, Yammer, the corporate social network within Office, allows the organization to connect with the right people across chapters, share information across teams and organize around projects. Office 365 also allowed the Red Cross to broaden security and safety features including service data privacy. Microsoft builds robust policies, controls and systems right into Office 365 to keep your information safe. This added protection allows the organization to be at ease knowing there is physical, logical and data security built right in to the technology its employees use to protect their data and devices.

Adopting Office 365 will allow The Romanian Red Cross to enter 2017 with all the tools, resources and capabilities it needs to continue providing help and top-level care to the communities it serves while also improving day-to-day operations for their employees.

Giving your customers the gift of efficiency

Collaboration solutions give businesses a leg up when it comes to improving their efficiency and productivity, ability to compete and flexibility, but many don’t consider the positive impact these technologies can have on a business’s ability to service its customers. In fact, according to the Boston Consulting Group, 44 percent of business owners said technologies such as mobile and cloud have created more satisfied customers.

With increased customer needs around the holiday season and the new year, UK-based Metro Bank relies on Dynamics 365 to reinvent the customer experience. The bank uses Dynamics 365 to keep track of information on customer interactions, preferences and account info, enabling these insights to be easily accessed by any employee at any time.

With the insights it gains from Dynamics 365, the bank is able to provide its customers with tailored experiences, giving them the specific information they desire and addressing individual customer needs through the channels each individual customer prefers. By utilizing the marketing feature of Dynamics 365, Metro Bank can avoid blanketing its customers with mass-marketing communications, which is not only an annoyance for customers, but can also become an unnecessary expense for the business.

New Resources for the New Year

There is no pinnacle of productivity toward which all companies strive; they all require something a little different. What every business does need is a supportive and reliable toolbox to continue to improve its practices into the new year. With Microsoft’s solutions, businesses have the opportunity to make 2017 the year of collaboration to ultimately better meet (and exceed) customer needs. In doing so, they increase customer satisfaction and enter the new year stronger than ever.

Check out how cloud solutions from Microsoft can help your organization improve business efficiencies and customer satisfaction in the New Year.

David Smith 2016

As vice president, David Smith is focused on working with the Small and Medium Business (SMB) partner ecosystem. In this capacity, he is responsible for a global team of sales, marketing and partner management professionals to ensure Microsoft’s ecosystem of partners delivers technology-based high value experiences meeting the unique needs of over 100 million SMB’s across the world.

Since joining Microsoft in 1998, David has engaged with partners as well as strategic ISVs to develop scalable, agile, real-time, and secure solutions that allow companies of all sizes to realize their full potential.

Prior to Microsoft, David worked at Digital Insight (Internet Home Banking vendor acquired by Intuit) and at Morgan Stanley. David completed his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, San Diego. David is married with four children.