The #1 CRM User Adoption Best Practice


  • Users adopt CRM software when the benefits exceed the effort AND when the software directly contributes to their effectiveness, efficiency, and empowerment – in that order.
  • Users adopt the application when it delivers what's most important to them, what they identify as their performance, productivity and personal goals, or what we sometimes call their WIFFMs (what's in it for me.)
  • Slow or low user adoption is a top cited contributing factor to CRM implementations that fail to achieve their objectives or just fail outright. Many executives see the signs of slow adoption, but naively believe the staff will ultimately come around. But in fact, experience shows the opposite is more likely. The longer it takes to achieve acceptance, the more probable the application will fail to become sustainable.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

The simple but often ignored truth is that most staff will not embrace Customer Relationship Management software unless and until it helps them do their jobs better. For many companies that means a shift from data input to information output. From feeding the system to getting value out of it. Recognize any  application is more likely to be adopted when it gives something back.

There are four best practices to increase CRM user adoption. But based on my three decades of implementation experience, one drives the most immediate and sustained results. If the application directly aids the users' performance, productivity and personal goals, they will use it and seek to use more of it.

Users don't get excited by software features, functions or screens. But they do get excited about benefits and how to use new technology to better accomplish the outcomes for which they get measured. Users care about business outcomes, because that's why they were hired by the company, that's how they get measured and that impacts their compensation and their lives.

But achieving business outcomes with software doesn't occur by happenstance. It only occurs when the application is engineered for specific use cases that deliver forecasted benefits. Most new implementors struggle with these goals so here are several examples of how to design CRM software to directly drive significant improvements to staff performance, productivity and personal goals.

Below are some staff productivity examples.

  • Increased Staff Productivity. There are three ways to improve staff productivity. You can redesign processes to be more streamlined and effective, apply technology to automate otherwise manual activities and develop analytics to work smarter. CRM systems offer many ways to achieve these goals.
  • Time Savings and Reallocation. Automation saves time and increases staff productivity. For example, with salespeople, the goal for increased productivity is all about sales time reallocation so that they can spend more time selling. Research performed for the Sales Excellence Report found that Best-in-Class salespeople spent 29 percent more time engaging customers than their median peers—that's an additional 11.5 hours per week, based on a 40-hour work week.
  • Improved Customer Visibility. A 360-degree customer view helps staff to see everything about the customer in one place. However, while this is a frequently bantered goal, Gartner advises less than 10 percent of companies achieve it. To actually realize this goal, you need to harvest 5 types of customer data – demographic, transactional, behavioral, environmental and social.
360 Degree Customer View

Below are some ways to use this technology for role-based performance improvements.

  • Improved Customer Relationships. The goal of growing customer relationships is interesting. Despite the acronym and name of Customer Relationship Management, very few companies design and implement CRM methods to grow customer relationships. Capabilities to achieve this goal include, but are not limited to, Voice of the Customer (by account type, customer segment and for each customer), customer journey alignment, Customer Lifetime Value (that triggers different programs to systemically increase customer share), customer insights, customer satisfaction (CSAT) measurement (by customer type, segment or individual customer; and to know when you need to engage to retain customers) and social technologies (such as social listening or social engagement).Without these types of programs, the application will do little to nothing to improve customer relationships and the system will revert from CRM to CDM (customer data management). CDM has some incremental value but will not aid user adoption and isn't going to improve customer relationships.
  • Increase Customer Retention. The technology is capable of monitoring customer behaviors and digital footprints to auto calculate customer health scores, and monitor the conditions, events or triggers that can predict customer churn. Recent CRM trends show that for some industries and many companies, reducing customer churn is the new growth model.
  • Higher Sales Win Rates. This is a role-specific example that replicates the practices used by the top producers. These practices include, but are not limited to, lead lifecycle management, customer segmentation, automated lead and opportunity scores, integrating customer digital footprints to account records, guided selling automation, contextual recommendations, contextual insights (based on the combination of account, persona and sales step), and integration with sales process and sale methodology.

Methods that drive user personal goals include, but are not limited to:

  • Quota Improvement. This method is designed to capture and replicate the actions, behaviors and best practices of top producers so that a broader percentage of the salesforce attains quota.
  • Improved Quality Services. Sales and service staff want to deliver meaningful insights, higher quality engagement or whatever their customers most value. Using tools such as Customer Insights, Voice of the Customer and CSAT can aid this goal.
  • Sales Team Collaboration. Enterprise selling is a team sport. There are tools and processes to better facilitate team collaboration, such as Enterprise Social Networks (Microsoft Teams or Salesforce Slack) and knowledgebases.

The challenge is not to identify the capabilities to improve user productivity, performance and personal goals. The challenge is to identify the most effective and impactful capabilities. If you deliver low value or irrelevant capabilities, users will dismiss them, and employee adoption will suffer.

But on the flip side, deliver the benefits the users find most impactful, and the CRM program will become wildly successful and something the company cannot live without.

See the #1 CRM software user adoption best practice, with examples of how to design the application to deliver significant improvements to staff performance, productivity and personal goals.

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