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Chris Bucholtz User Adoption Via Clear Choices and No Alternatives

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By Chris Bucholtz

Users Adopt New CRM Software Without Delay When There Are No Alternatives

Back when I was a cub reporter, the newspaper I worked for had a proprietary, newspaper-industry hardware/software system called Coyote. It was a run of the mill, clunky green-screen program, and it was hard to use but mandatory equipment to get the job done. If you wanted to turn your words into copy that was actually printed in the paper, you typed it into this antique (it seemed ancient even in 1991), pushed the button, and hoped it went where it was supposed to go. It was better than a typewriter I suppose, but not by much, and we had no alternatives.

Because of that last fact, user adoption was never an issue. As horrendous as it was (and it could be horrendous in a plethora of uniquely frustrating ways), it was better than the alternatives.

Now, look at CRM software adoption and the people in your organization. Are there better alternatives to your CRM business processes for their individual tasks? Those of us thinking about CRM as a whole-business discipline enabled by technology would say nothing works to collect, disseminate and rationalize data about customers better than CRM software systems. However, adoption's still pretty spotty in some places, especially in sales. Some sales reps are still clinging to old ways of doing things that may still work for them. Switching to a new CRM system that shares data and makes the sales rep part of a team is clearly a preferable thing for the organization, but for the individual sales rep that leap into the unknown means risking what works right now. In other words, he has an alternative. At least, he thinks so.

In a webinar I hosted with sales expert Ken Thoreson, Ken said something very wise: the first customers your CRM system will engage are your own staff. You need to sell them before they can use CRM system to sell anyone else. In other words, as the CRM champion, you need to change perceptions so that, to your sales reps especially, they are empowered and there is no alternative to CRM.

CRM software user adoption depends on your ability to articulate the benefits to the people who use the system. It's easy to describe the organization-wide benefits a customer management strategy with supporting software can bring, but it's harder to boil them down to the benefits the new system bestows on each person in the organization. But you need to do it – and you need to make those benefits so clear and obvious that people stop seeing any alternative to using it.

Once your people are using the customer relationship management application, those benefits should start to make themselves clear. For those who don't see it right away, find ways to celebrate CRM successes and share them with everyone in the organization.

Of course, you could simply order everyone to use the CRM system at the threat of job loss. That's not the best approach; what you really want are eager users, not people doing the bare minimum to satisfy their managers. That just keeps the old ways of working as alternatives, at least in the minds of your staff.

Once you sell your employees, you're on your way to success. Leaving them with no alternative to using CRM – neither perceived or actual – and making it clear how CRM will help them are basic steps toward user adoption. If you're investing in software automation and counting on it to give your company a sales boost, you have no alternative to taking a customer-centric approach to adoption - with your employees as your first customers. End

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Comments (2) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Joe Weithman
  As a CRM consultant I've incurred dozens of implementations challenged by change management and user adoption. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution to remedy these challenges but there are a number of common options to consider. First, find out if there are specific dashboard views or reports that users would like, and if so, create them. Any time you can find the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) for the users you'll increase adoption. Second, make sure managers are reviewing software utilization reports at least weekly so they know who is and is not using the system. I've seen more enticing methods such as giving lead preference to those using the system or only paying sales commissions on deals that went through the pipeline stages in the system. These can be effective in some companies or pose retaliation in others. I've also found that training programs can impact user adoption. Too many companies make the assumption that all users will benefit from equal training. That's just not the case. After the initial training, some users will still need follow-on or more personalized training. This is particularly true when new software is accompanying changes in business processes. Delivering more focused or topical training for users who may not have absorbed everything in the initial, somewhat generic classroom training, will increase learning, lower resistance associated with apprehension and improve user adoption.

Guest Chris Murrey
  Sharing information is a frequently pursued objective with new CRM implementations. However, sales people are often lone wolfs and not motivated to share their relationships or what they know with others. Not all, but many. Sales people often look at CRM implementations as nothing more than an administrative burden for them to demonstrate to their bosses that they're doing their jobs. Once what they know becomes public, they may also view CRM as a tool for managers to more effectively and quickly onboard new reps, leaving existing sales reps feeling a bit more vulnerable. These fears cannot be talked away because they are real benefits of CRM, for the company but not necessarily for the reps. However, these issues are misplaced compared to more strategic objectives that are fruitful for the company and sales reps alike-think better customer communications, more time spent selling, better coaching from sales managers, accelerated sales cycles, higher win rates, and most importantly higher commissions. It's these later benefits that must be brought forward and supported with specific plans in order to win over sales reps and conquer user adoption challenges.


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CRM software user adoption depends on your ability to articulate the benefits to the people who will use the system. It's easy to describe the organization benefits a customer management strategy with supporting software can bring, but it's harder to boil them down to the benefits the new system bestows on each person in the company.


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