Poor user adoption can kill CRM success

Poor user adoption can kill CRM success

A Rolls-Royce car is a wonderful thing to own and experience. But it’s not worth a pile of beans to someone who can’t drive!

Likewise, spending a ton of money on a new CRM solution but having a poor user adoption rate is a complete waste of money too. In fact, user adoption is cited as the key factor that can drive (excuse the pun) your return on investment in CRM. But so often project teams are more focused on designing systems that have fantastic bells and whistles – with limited regard to how staff might actually use them. It’s little wonder why so many CRM initiatives fail.

So – what can be done to ensure your initiative is a real success. Well, based on my experience (at least) I advise you at least consider the following:

  • Get stakeholder buy-in: First and foremost, it’s fundamental that all key stakeholders (i.e. management and end users) fully understand the vision, aims and objectives of the CRM initiative, and the fundamental benefits it will deliver to them. Put yourself in the shoes of each person and think “what’s in it for me?”. Really SELL the benefits of the solution – so your team(s) know how the change will help them work smarter and enjoy their work more. It’s important from the outset to win hearts and minds and engage a real sense of purpose. Else, their support for your project may be brittle. After all, people make change happen. Not technology.


  • Take a phased approach: Too often, organisation are bedazzled with the wealth of features a modern CRM package can offer. But just because the functions are there does not mean you should necessarily adopt them all from the get-go. Changing the way people work is not something that happens overnight. So – take a phased approach. It’s all about taking baby steps first, so that users can adjust to the new ways of working and feel the benefits of the change. Once they have a handle on that, you and then step up a gear in the new phases.


  • Continuous communications & engagement: Principally, taking an agile approach works well when it comes to CRM application implementation. So, engage the appropriate set of users during the process of application development, so they can play a role in how the solution is designed and how it ultimately functions. Help them help you get a handle of the real requirements that will make a difference; run regular ‘show and tell’ sessions during the build stages; and establish a strong working user group to test the solution before its rolled out.


  • Garbage In-Garbage Out: Yep – that old chestnut again. But, its biggest fly in the ointment that will kill off any chance of success. My advise: double (or even triple) whatever initial estimates you plan for data preparation and migration work. In my almost two decades of life in delivering CRM projects, I’ve yet to see a data migration exercise actually deliver within the original estimates. I know – it’s a pain. But without rigourous work and attention to detail in this area, your whole investment is CRM will be a complete waste.


  • Keep it simple: Perhaps this point should have been raised first. When designing any new solution, pay special attention to how users interact and engage with systems. Here are a few point to consider:
    • Design your database so it serves a “single version of the truth” to all users across your business
    • Data entry tasks should be quick and save user time
    • Minimise dropdowns and mandatory fields on any screen
    • Ensure your system is accessible from anywhere: laptop and mobile
    • Use workflow and automation tools to minimise administration and drive productivity (but, don’t overdo it!)
    • Minimise the number of apps your users need to work with (so, integration with email is key)
    • Construct screens and views that are relevant to different user needs
    • Build logic in the system to guarantee all data is valid and clean
    • Implement analytics that drive user behaviour and performance


  • Training: A statement of the obvious, but so often under-invested in. Ensure your training sessions are role focused. Provide post-training live support. Develop a culture on continuous and collaborative learning and improvement.


  • Carrots (and, maybe sticks): Implement approaches and methods that incentivise staff to use the system as part of their daily routines. Design the solution around processes that make it necessary for staff to use the system. The approach you take will very much depend on your company culture – and so it would be wrong for me to suggest generic ideas in this short article. Personally, I’m not a fan of “sticks’ but many organisations reduce the sales commission rates where the individual has now kept his/her activities and data up to date on the system. All said, placing metrics & measures on staff performance reviews often delivers great results!


I hope you found this article of some value. Contact us if you have any questions about user adoption. But, in any case, I’d love to hear your points of view and about experiences too. Just leave a comment in the box below!

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