We are delighted to welcome Microsoft as this year’s STA Conference headline sponsors. For the next four weeks we’ll be sharing some special tourism industry insights, straight from Microsoft.
Glasgow Whisky Tours is a small, specialist tour company that gives its customers tailored expert tasting tours of whisky bars in Glasgow. The two founders needed a system that would help them stay in touch with customers and tour guides in a highly responsive, professional way. Cloud specialist IA3 recommended Microsoft Office 365 to replace the firm’s existing email system. Now, the founders can run the business from any computer, anywhere in the world, and the company has gained a professional online presence.
Glasgow Whisky Tours gives its customers a cross between an expert distillery tour and a whisky-tasting bar crawl in the heart of Glasgow. Its tours, which are aimed at connoisseurs and whisky fans, are highly personalised to the needs of clients. Its customers are often businesses looking for an unusual form of corporate entertainment.
The two founders—Donald MacLellan and Victor Brierley—were using POP3 and web-based email to stay in touch with each other and with the guides they employ to run the tours when they’re not available themselves. But the firm found that there were some challenges with this solution. “When customers are paying £50 or more per person, they expect absolute professionalism. A properly formatted email from a company email address is just the beginning,” says MacLellan.
Using generic webmail addresses was holding the company back. “We’re selling a premium product,” says Brierley. “You have to get that across to people. It really needed to look professional—brand is everything now.”
In addition, the founders were spending a lot of time bringing new guides and employees up to speed on the business. Among other things, they need to know what the tours include, where to go, and what topics to cover. This often involved exchanging numerous emails, and, ultimately, took up a lot of everyone’s time.
To make matters more complicated, both founders travel extensively for business. They needed a system that would let them stay in touch wherever they went.
IA3, the first Microsoft Cloud Champion Partner in Scotland, recommended Microsoft Office 365. Although many companies manage their own migration to Office 365, IA3 helped Glasgow Whisky Tours make a smooth transition to the new system. Office 365 has several constituent parts and each one offered something valuable to the tour company.
Microsoft Exchange Online. This gives the firm its own email address so that outgoing messages look more professional. By default, Office 365 provides an email address for just a few pounds a year. The company was able to buy its own domain name and use it with the system at no extra cost. It also gives the two founders a shared calendar so that they can plan tours and meetings.
Microsoft SharePoint Online. Glasgow Whisky Tours now has a central file store for customer records, tour information, marketing collateral, and all other documents. This means that MacLellan and Brierley can get new staff members up to speed quickly. The company can use Office Web Apps to edit Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents stored on the SharePoint file library from any web browser. The web apps provide a flexible alternative to their desktop equivalents in Microsoft Office 2010 for Glasgow Whisky Tour employees on the move.
Microsoft Skype for Business. Skype for Business lets everyone stay in touch through instant messaging and audio or videoconferencing. It also helps the owners see when their part-time staff are online, in meetings, on the phone, or out of the office. In addition, it lets them run online web conferences and presentations for their customers to support their sales campaigns.
IA3 moved all the company’s emails to the new system and provided training to show the founders how to use it.
The Microsoft Office 365 system has helped Glasgow Whisky Tours increase security and improve training for new staff. In addition, the firm now presents a professional image to customers.
Security. Office 365 stores all information in a secure data centre. “The whole cloud aspect is great. We no longer worry about losing important data,” says Brierley.
Training. MacLellan uses Lync Online and SharePoint Online to train tour guides in how to run tours. “Conducting training this way is extremely efficient. It’s going to save me weeks of my time,” he says.
Professional image. Now all emails come from a professional company email address, not a generic webmail address. “Microsoft Office 365 gives us a professional presence,” says Brierley.
Mobility. Brierley says: “With the cloud, we can do everything online. We don’t have to worry about servers breaking down and we can access information from any device—anywhere.” MacLellan particularly likes the ability to do everything from a web browser, including access his regular office applications such as Microsoft Office Outlook. “This fast accessibility is vital for our business,” he says.
Growth. Perhaps the biggest benefit of Office 365 is its ability to support growth. It’s easy to add new users and domain names. “In the next two or three months, we’re launching two new tours—one in Edinburgh, followed by one in either Aberdeen or Inverness,” says MacLellan. “With Office 365, it’s just a matter of adding users and changing the domain name.” In other words, Office 365 is perfect for the company at this early, fast-growing stage—and it will continue to be useful and flexible as the company expands.