Triggered by a post on the usability of enterprise software, I ended up reading an article on CRM and user adoption. CRM spending is on the rise again in the US (us Europeans have been experiencing a CRM “mini” boom since mid 2006 already), but one of the main issues in succesful CRM technology implementations is getting users to work with the system, atleast according to AMR Research. One of the most interesting remarks made in the interview with Robert Bois is the following:
“The challenge in CRM is really specific to the sales and marketing applications. Much of the software on the market today helps automate process, but doesn’t necessarily provide incremental value back to the user. Sales people often complain that CRM or SFA is just an administrative burden, and does little more than prove to their boss that they are doing their job. So adoption wanes, and users go back to using familiar tools like spreadsheets, databases or even just Rolodexes.” Robert Bois, AMR Research
Over the years I’ve been involved in service and sales related projects and have worked together with colleagues implementing marketing resource management or automation systems. I’ve found that service related employees adopt crm solutions far quicker than sales or marketing professionals, mostly because sales professionals do not recognize the added value of a CRM solution, or perhaps I should say because the added value of a CRM solution is not always communicated clearly to sales and marketing professionals. The aim of this post is not to provide a solution to this issue, that has dominated the CRM arena for quite some time, but to merely go into a number of possible causes.
Adoption by service representatives
A CRM application, providing a consitent view of the customer, is the key asset for a service representative. If a service representative would have to work with a combination of spreadsheets, access databases, dispersed information he would simply not be able to perform his work in an efficient, customer friendly way. In other words, a CRM, or service automation application, makes a service representatives life easier and customers happier, which in turn leads to automatic high levels of user adoption. A key driver in implementing a service related CRM application is enhancing a customers experience, by making the job of the service rep (call centre agent or field engineer) easier.
Adoption by sales representatives
Perhaps I should start of with a definition of what a sales rep is, for the purpose of this post a sales rep is the hard working man or woman, travelling around the country or his district to perform face to face sales activities and not the student with a side job in a call centre selling a cheap product, or a long distance phone subscription. What motivates the typical sales representative? His sales based bonus! In my personal experience adoption of sales force automation application is the lowest among simple, one man, account management driven, sales environments. The reason for this is simple, his bonus will not increase by spending time on recording information on a sales visit or recording customer attributes needed for segmentation purposes. Only when a need arises to share information among a team of account managers, jointly pitching to close a deal, does the sales rep start entering and sharing information, after all, if he doesn’t share, he might not help win the deal and therefore loose out on his bonus. A typical SFA implementation focuses on asking sales reps to enter information that can be used by the (sometimes hated) ‘HQ’ to improve segmentation and ensure sales reps focus on selling to the right customers. I believe the key to getting user adoption is to ensure a sales specific CRM system also provides direct benefits to a sales rep that allow him to close a deal (and thereby increas his bonus) quicker. Don’t implement an SFA solution just to get more information on your customers for better segmentation so that you can in the end replace your field sales reps with a call centre (which could be your end goal off course), which will require you to beat your sales reps with a stick to get them to work with the system. Implement order or product configuration possibilities as well, provide your representatives with the means to quickly calculate prices and generate offers for customers and sell, sell, sell! This will make the job of the sales rep easier, increase his bonus, and will motivate him to enter the information the rest of the company needs to better target customers and develop new product or service propositions.