Saturday, February 25, 2012

Tactics to increase CRM User Adoption

Linked in is an outstanding resource for industry expertise. Michelle Horn from the CRM Experts Group asks:

What are some tactics that you have seen to increase user adoption for CRM systems?
User adoption is one of the top reasons for a CRM implementation to fail. How do companies encourage user adoption?

To date there are 134 responses and here are the highlights!


CRM adoption is a challenge and everyone has given very thoughtful ideas. Couple of things come to mind.

1) People are different. Some don't pay attention until they need something. Then they will ask, how do I do that? Some will take notes and try to learn. And there are others who think CRM is a waste of time. List goes on. So, one plan does not fit all. Make plans to fit the users. It may seem a lot of work but it's worth the effort.

2) People need to see immediate benefit from CRM for themselves - not for the management or for the company. While most people appreciate when company or management benefits from CRM, they want to know how CRM can increase their earnings without having to work any more than what they are doing now.

3) If you are in charge of the CRM implementation, you should be a user yourself. That's really hard. Because even if you are a CRM user, you are playing one role only. How do you play multiple roles? So, you listen to people and appreciate what they have to say. Even play their role for a day or two. I know this is hard to do since you are also very busy.

4) So, the bottom line is CRM must be saving people time. They are already working hard. When they hear they have to do something more, they are not going to embrace. They need TLC from you! You need to feel them at different levels at different roles. You need to think like them and work hard. It's not easy but someone has to do it. Make sure your manager knows how hard a job it is.

Manu Das


I had been the CRM implementation manager in Asia Pacific ( +400 users ) in different countries. To enhance user adoption, there are many ways. 1. Get the stakeholders of each BU aligned and involved with support from company top managment. 2. Assign a CRM champion from each BU, who coordinates the execution of the CRM program. 3. Assign power users ( about 5% of user population ) as the contact point for use of CRM. 4. Measures CRM user adoption in both quantitative, eg. log-on frequency, number of Opportunitities and qualitative manner eg. ( the content of the info. entered in the system. ). 5. Award given to CRM champion who entered quality customer info.

Keith Man-fai Leung


There are two more ways to streamline the adoption:
1. Ease the learning curve. The faster employees start working, the better will be the effect.

Nice implementation of this idea can be seen in BPMonline CRM ( When you start working with the solution, you tell it how to react on your actions. E.g. you tell it to automatically create an opportunity record, schedule a meeting and send an e-mail each time you have a new lead.

Thus, you put all the logic right into the system and employees don’t have to study all the details of the new working process, because the system will remind all the necessary steps.

2. Engage your employees. The example here is Assistly ( They reward employees with virtual bonuses each time they study a new feature. This stimulates users study more.

Bob Zabiyaka


Access to the system as simple as possible through providing Web, Windows Desktop and Mobile (iPad, Cell, Smartphone) access.

Keep the CRM process and system simple to use for the user base and don't over complicate things from the start. Phased implementation both in terms of functionality and across different teams is a good approach, and try to get a CRM advocate in place within each team (Sales, Marketing and Service) to drive user adoption and deal with any early issues.

Give information back to the users that will help them in their everyday tasks and not just dashboards for the management team. The CRM system should be a tool that assists the whole business not just isolated users.
Mike Richardson


Trying to get buy-in after the fact is a much, much harder task than building the system WITH the end-user base from the ground up. However, given that we have what seems like a system implementation in place with perhaps limited end-user involvement to this point, you have got to start with answering their question, "Why?"

Simply, if there is no burning platform, in other words, no compelling reason why the users should adopt the system - whether it be solving THEIR problems (as users, they're IT's customers) or increasing their sales productivity (given proof that their productivity doesn't meet benchmarks) - then you're simply up against some quite impossible odds. If you've got to force users to use a system, the plot has surely been lost by IT and the pain will be endless from here on! In simple terms, and perhaps not quite the right example, a CRM system has got to be as much of a 'must have' as e.g. an iPad is, to be most effective.

If there is a burning platform, then the task is largely a done deal, and minor coaching can be put in place to encourage adoption, because the system will be solving a problem for the users.

Ultimately, most implementations fail because of poor business involvement in solving THEIR problems rather than anything IT did, in spite of what are often superb implementations, which are probably rare enough in themselves!

Guy Pearce


Here are a few things we have seen/recommend.
* Develop a comprehensive User Adoption Strategy long before the system goes live.

* Assign a senior executive with ownership for both user adoption and for measuring the business value/ROI realized from the use of the system.

* User adoption needs to be measured and managed over the life of the system. Many people make the mistake of focusing on adoption just at go-live, only to find that 1,3,5 years down the road adoption has dropped and the system is not delivering any value to the organization.

* There are often organizational barriers (outside of the users’ control) that prevent users from adopting the system, even if they want to use it. These need to be identified and removed for the users. Beware if you hear people talking about “user resistance” when in fact there may organizational barriers that prevent adoption.

* Regardless of how much you plan, train, and communicate up front, there will always be challenges and needs emerge after go-live. You need a structure and process in place to identify and respond to emerging user adoption needs.

Jason Whitehead


Below are four phases of a CRM project, after phase 1 when you have decided what technology you are going to use comes phase 2 "transition". This phase focuses on taking your existing processes and implementing in your CRM. Stay on this phase until you get it working, it involves working close with the BU of the CRM. Avoid moving to phase 2 to quickly, people do not like change unless they come up with the idea.

Phase 1 – Different CRM products evaluation, cost and budgeting [Select a market leading tool if you don’t have core skills, find out what your competitors are using.]
Phase 2 – Transition [Introduce a CRM in your organization, implement as is process and only implement few quick wins [to be] which can help you to demonstrate the future capabilities to business.]
Phase 3 – Process Transformation [Pick critical areas or processes affecting strategy and operations, automate, integrate and transformed in CRM, introduce better ways of service delivery.]
Phase 4 – Customer Transformation [Introduce different channels, introduce different ways of service delivery, build an integrated service delivery approach.]

Pat Hinds


User adoption is a symptom of a much larger problem. It's nice to talk about including the users so they get ownership, but include them in what? I'd suggest that before a business makes a substantial capital investment in technology, that they look really hard at the level of CRM capability they have regarding the outcomes they are seeking as a business. The software will not make those happen for you; it's only a tool (and often a bloated & cumbersome one at that).

- Identify the maturity of your organization across the domains of CRM (and they are not Sales, Service and Marketing - think lower level than that, the drivers of value creation)
- Determine what level you can achieve now and build those competitive organizational capabilities now
- Make them part of your organization's DNA - which takes time.
- Backfill this OpEx investment with technology that supports your capabilities, and nothing more.

These capabilities you build are the drivers of success in CRM, reduce the risk of failure and greatly enhance the return on your efforts. A well implemented piece of technology is money wasted, and opportunity lost, without it. If the organization has built their capabilities and integrated them into the culture, there will be little push back from "users" if the tools provided are easily leveraged by the capabilities they should already have.

The true driver for CRM failure is not understanding the true drivers of Customer Relationship Management.

Michael Boysen


This is a simple but effective tool, “Human Change Management” most CRM’s fail due to human acceptance not technology limitations. Human change management is about helping the community of users accept the use of a new or change-out of a CRM in the early, mid and latter stages of the project. This is often an overlooked step that either results in failure or success of a project.

John Stadler


Adoption planning needs to start not just early, but WELL before you even finalize your technical specs. CRM works best when it is not treated as a new tool to implement, but as a method to help everyone do what they already do - better. If you do not map as-is processes and then get buy-in on the "to-be" processes that you intend to change with your CRM implementation, then you've already lost. People don't like to have change brought to them by a computer program, but they'll do better if they think THEY are making changes at the process-mapping level. Once you bring in a tool that automates the processes they have already agreed to (or believe they authored), adoption is the easy part.

I can't emphasize this enough after watching the CRM industry position itself as a "software industry" the last twenty years when it is really a "customer industry" enabled by software. Anyone from an old-school direct marketing background will understand this quickly. Great CRM practices have been going on in some companies for decades before "CRM" became an acronym and have never thought it to be about implementing systems and tools.

To summarize - work on getting adoption of processes, NOT the software. After all, it's NEVER about the software, it's about the customer (internal AND external).

David Dallaire


I've seen the User/Customer camp be the make or break of so many implementations. When you boil it all down, it's more about WIFM than a lot of the other ingredients to success. "What's In It For Me?" If the end users don't see the impact for themselves, it won't get adopted. Also, companies have been more successful when shifting the emphasis away from the change in technology and focused on the business change - such as, "We're doubling our business over the next five years." or "We're creating a customer concierge or club #1 for the customer." The program is not about CRM technology, it's about the customer and the business' shift on customer.

This is where details brought up in other posts come into play:
1. Map the processes, seek input from the trenches, conduct validation sessions through storyboards, get buy-in and overcome objections/resistance to change.
A major online retailer, undertook a major project of process improvement and extended it to include policies that prevented great customer and employee experiences. They started with a small area of their business, customer service and then narrowed it down to a specific team within the 300+ staff call center. The results were dramatic - increased employee performance/satisfaction scores, increased customer satisfaction and retention/revenue, reduction in customer follow up interactions, and much more.

2. Do not underestimate the power of marketing communications for the program. Clearly present the strategy and vision for what this program will mean to the company, employees and the customers - focus the impact on the employees and customers into their day to day activities - make it meaningful, purposeful, and engaging. Some organizations have developed contests/incentive programs for employees and customers to contribute to this new program. Identify and Leverage the internal pioneers and early adopters - people who seek out new technology and are looked upon as the technology mavens in the organization. When part of the business program, incorporate marketing/messaging on the changes - this can range from putting flyers or announcements in monthly statements detailing the benefits of intended changes or on the corporate website, etc.

3. Showcase the benefits/positive changes through the lifecycle.
4. Listen for feedback throughout the lifecycle.
5. Educate, educate, educate...
6. Update and centralize content in all aspects of knowledge in the organization - HUGE payback/ROI justifications here.
7. Cleanse, centralize, update the customer data.
8. Workflow automation. Review repetitive tasks for targeting for incorporation into systematic automation, workflow, or scripting.
9. Conduct time/motion studies with different groups of users and develop/design contextualized user interfaces based on proficiency/skills and roles.
10. Leadership/Stakeholder sponsorship down through to staff is also important for alignment and prioritization among other corporate/organizational initiatives. It's critical to identify the key constraints up front and to develop appropriate plans to either mitigate or remove the constraints from barriers or threats to the success of the program. This is where authorizations for changes to processes and policies should be obtained for buy-in.

The above does not represent the total list and are not in order of priority, but I believe it's a good idea to structure in order of priority for your organization.

If any of this resonates with you, let me know...I started citing a few examples, but I'd like to see others provide additional examples from some of their own program details or experiences.

Matt Cotter