Why Customer Collaboration and Technology are a Winning Combo

Every successful project requires a cohesive team effort; however, getting people to work as members of a team is often more difficult than it sounds. Customer-facing teams such as Customer Success and Sales face an even more arduous challenge of collaborating with customers and vendors outside their organization, resulting in miscommunication and huge loss in productivity. Fortunately, advances in technology now make it easier than ever for organizations to build teamwork and bridge inter-organization communications, encouraging people to strive toward a common goal. Here are some ways that modern technology is enhancing team collaboration in businesses both large and small.

Inter-Organization Communications

Communication that happens outside of your organization, unfortunately, is still mainly through emails.  The problems with email is that communications tend to be in silos and its inability to share information easily without spamming the audience.  Some smarter CRMs, such as SalesforceIQ, integrates directly with Gmail and shares them across the Sales teams, alleviating the pain of tracking communications with the customers and sharing them within the organization.  Some Professional Services Automation and Customer Success tools are also integrating directly with cloud email providers.  Accelo has out-of-the-box email integration as a PSA platform, and ContextSmith automatically tracks every email leaving and coming in from an outside organization.  As email systems migrates to the cloud, we'll start seeing enterprise software bridging the gap of inter-organizational communications.

Bridging Location Barriers

Getting everyone together to collaborate on a project can be challenging whenever team members are scattered. Thanks to advances in technology, individuals no longer have to meet face to face with customers in order to work together. Video and web conferencing software, such as Google Hangouts make it possible for employees to “meet” regardless of location. Internally, we're using Uber Conference, which is friendlier for customers because it doesn't require any downloads or a Gmail account.  The added bonus using a web conferencing software is whenever one person is unexpectedly called away from the office, as he or she can get together remotely with the rest of the group so that progress isn’t stifled. Groups are even free to meet with experts who might be across the country or across the globe in an effort to gather additional information.

File and Document Sharing

Some projects require individuals to perform certain tasks before getting together with the group. It can be difficult for everyone to do his or her part if there is only one set of documents for members to share. Cloud-based computing takes away this obstacle by allowing everyone in the group to access documents and make changes. File sharing software, such as Box, allows individuals (inside and outside your organization) to upload and share documents document and files.  The best part about Box is that it tracks every single versions, so if someone accidentally overwrites important documents, those can be recovered.  Google Docs is also one of our favorites that we use internally everyday, as it allows teams to edit the same document at the same time.

Enhanced Communications Through Shared Inbox

Good teamwork requires excellent communication between all the members, something that can be especially challenging when each person has a very busy schedule to juggle. Unfortunately, communicating with B2B customers still requires emails.  I've personally worked with customers using various different way to centralize all communications, such as Microsoft Sharepoint and SAP JAM, but those require customers to sign up into a new software, which can be challenging if you're working with a large organization.Fortunately, some technology makes it possible to communicate with external customers easily through "shared inbox" concept.  FrontApp is one of the newest kid on the block that uses everyone's inbox to build a shared communications platform to help customer support teams.  Zendesk Inbox is also a new product that embraces shared inbox, and is suitable for small businesses that doesn't require a full-blown heavyweight Zendesk platform.  All of these software claim to make teams more productive, but perhaps the biggest selling point is to be able to scale your customer-facing teams without important information falling through the cracks. 

Efficiency and Time Savings

One of the biggest advantages of technology is the fact that it saves time and allows people to work more efficiently. Documents can be edited and uploaded in a fraction of the time it used to take, and research efforts can also be streamlined. Every piece of software that you use everyday automates a small part of an otherwise mundane or error-prone task.  Not only do teams gain productivity through efficiency and time savings, I'd even go as far to argue that these tools actually also helps build team morale and team culture, something that is highly valued but unmeasurable.These are just a few of the ways that modern technology enhances teamwork, within and outside of your organization. Generally speaking, the more skilled people are at utilizing technology, the more cohesive they become and the better able they are to overcome obstacles in order to meet their collective goals.