CRM f Reuben Yonatan

How SMBs Can Improve CRM User Adoption in Their Organization

Customer Relationship Management software, in its modern form, is less intended to address the transactional needs of individual departments and more intended to enable companies to meet the expectations of omnichannel customers. Modern customers interact with brands in myriad ways on myriad devices - shopping on laptops, comparing prices on phones, buying in person, calling customer support on a phone. Along the way, they interact with different company representatives, yet expect a consistent level of service throughout their customer lifecycle.

Technology created the omnichannel customer (a term that applies to all of us) and technology allows us to meet the challenge. CRM software has evolved to unify operations across all major channels - but for their vaunted features, even the most advanced CRMs are only as good as their user adoption rate.

Low user adoption has historically plagued CRMs. A 2013 Merkle Inc. survey of 352 senior-level executives in large organizations found CRM initiatives had a 63% rate of failure. However, organizations with both high revenue and profit growth were 50% more likely than slower-growth companies to view CRM as a “key driver in their company’s success.” The study found four common causes of CRM failure: lack of ownership of customer insight, lack of managerial focus, lack of executive sponsorship, and lack of IT prioritization for the platform.

In this regard, smaller companies have certain advantages over their larger counterparts. Fewer bureaucratic hurdles, more direct communication - these traits among others means a small to midsize business can change course more quickly. If a CRM initiative is ailing due to low user adoption, there are clear measures to take to turn that around. Read on for four steps to take to improve CRM user adoption in small to midsize businesses.

1. Build Consensus for the CRM

A CRM is intended for complete adoption, at least among employees for whom the platform is intended. Functions performed outside the CRM - for which the CRM is designed - detract from the overall efficacy of the platform. Moving towards universal CRM adoption requires a few steps: finding consensus for the CRM, establishing the value of end user contributions, and mapping out the customer lifecycle and CRM-related touchpoints.

Consensus in the platform, awareness of the value of end user actions and a clear sense of each person’s role promotes buy-in among employees and improves CRM user adoption. Managers can identify which metrics corroborate end user engagement - not merely CRM logins, but also opportunities created, activities completed, open tasks by role - and evaluate them within context of the end user’s job functions. Creating clear expectations, measurable performance goals, and a system of incentives and disincentives will help persuade even recalcitrant employees to get on board with the CRM.

2. Get Buy-In from the IT Department

The majority of modern CRMs are already SaaS - only a few providers continue to offer on-premises CRM installation. Your IT personnel are probably well aware of the advantages of software and data stored in the cloud over on-premises servers - less time needed ensuring security and uptime, hardware upgrades, software updates and configuration, self-education on known bugs and troubleshooting, etc. A cloud-based CRM removes the need for a prolonged, hands-on implementation process, which is a huge relief to an IT department. (Not to mention cloud-based CRMs are either pay-as-you-go or available on monthly or annual contracts, so IT staff won’t need to defend pricey software.)

Which means challenges with implementation can be dealt with between the IT department and the CRM provider themselves. But what if you’re already using a cloud-based CRM and struggling with low user adoption rates? In this case, if you’re looking to redesign your existing platform or switch to a new one, you’ll need buy-in from your IT team. After all, unless the new CRM offers native integration to complementary platforms, your IT team will be responsible for developing them. If you opt for an open-source CRM, the IT team will be tasked to customize it for your business use case, and will likely administrate the CRM by training users across departments - the same power users who will, in turn, be effectively deputized to train their colleagues and new hirees.

IT departments do not exist for merely managing technology assets; your IT team can be a strategic differentiator. They will have huge influence over creating the process automations that improve the user experiences for end users in other departments - by enlisting proactive engagement from the IT team, their expertise can improve CRM user adoption by improving the platform from within or by selecting the right CRM for your company.

3. Choose the Right CRM

Ultimately, the key element towards improving CRM user adoption is choosing the right CRM. There are hundreds of options out there, some tailored for specific industries, others geared towards companies of certain size - from freelancers and small to midsize businesses and all the way to the enterprise level.

It seems intuitive that the user experience will shape CRM user adoption. You want your CRM to be a platform, not an obstacle; end users must be able to accomplish and automate a number of tasks from within the CRM without needing to switch often between applications. Which means, if you’re shopping for a new CRM, there are a few traits you should look for. These include:

4. Onboard End Users Effectively

There needs to be an onboarding process for any new platform, especially one as encompassing as CRM. High-level group training sessions involving managers, IT personnel and end users are a good way to introduce key features of the CRM and how it ties into business processes. This is a good opportunity to emphasize the cumulative value of each end user’s contributions through the platform. These features should not be entirely new to the end users - after all, their feedback should have been solicited long before this meeting - but these sessions are a good time to break up any confusion about responsibilities and baseline expectations of employee use.

End users also benefit from resources they can access on their own, like web training videos or how-to articles. Most CRMs have extensive knowledge bases written in digestible formats specifically for this purpose. Power users can be ‘deputized’ to answer questions and help others with their daily tasks within the CRM. Note that this is not a tenable long-term solution - a regular employee shouldn’t be expected to perform two roles when they normally perform one - but again, the proper incentives can encourage users to help each other for mutual benefit and push collective goals. Persuading end users of the benefits of the CRM - automating repetitive tasks and streamlining workflows, for example - while teaching them how to use it will improve CRM user adoption. Meanwhile, prioritizing the CRM onboarding process among your IT team members provides a safety net during the crucial early months of rollout.

End users in different departments and different roles may require separate training sessions to instruct them on the specific processes required for their jobs. The sales team may require training on tracking leads and exporting pipeline reports; the marketing team might need to learn how to personalize email marketing templates, or adjust lead score valuation. The support team may need to be shown how to add temporary users with limited permissions to helpdesk tickets. There are plenty of CRM functions that aren’t immediately intuitive but are essential to proper use of the platform which can be demonstrated in a live training session; onboarding, for that matter, shouldn’t end after a few months. While initial training may briefly disrupt day to day activities, refresher courses progress more smoothly and reinforce what end users have learned while correcting any misuses of the platform.

It isn’t superficial or trivial to choose a CRM partially on account of its aesthetic appeal. (Obviously it must meet your functional needs.) Everyone prefers a platform that’s visually appealing, and the one we enjoy - or at least, don’t mind - looking at, and using, is the one that keeps us coming back. The trick is to find the convergence of high functionality for your business use cases and high degree of user satisfaction in its design and appearance. Following the process of building consensus, getting buy-in from, choosing the right CRM and properly onboarding employees ensures high CRM user adoption and a payoff for your CRM investment. Take advantage of the free trials that most CRMs offer - as with any expense, try before you buy.

For additional CRM overviews, comparisons and user reviews, be sure to check out our expanding CRM Software Comparison Guide.

Originally posted on GetVoIP here.
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