6 Rules for CRM User Adoption

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Forthwith, my six rules for CRM user adoption. The general points are valid for any customer relationship management system; most of the examples and links are about Dynamics CRM specific implementation details.

1.     Define

Everybody agrees user adoption is a good thing, but nobody knows what it is.

This is an exaggeration to make a point: the concept of user adoption is not self-evident. If we want “high”, or “good” user adoption we need to be able to measure it, and we can’t measure it without defining it. Different organizations will have different definitions, which will depend on the overall goals for CRM. For example, if the primary goals for your CRM are sales management and forecasting, an important component of user adoption should be that sales reps’ opportunity pipelines are up to date.  A customer service organization might define user adoption in terms of case resolutions, appropriate documentation, activities associated with cases, and the like.

Sometimes people want direct measures of usage (who’s logging into the system and how often are they doing it?) and user activity (who’s creating and modifying records?).

The most important point is to define measures of user adoption appropriate for your organization, and to make them as precise and measurable as possible. Here are a few questions I recommend asking:

  • Opportunity management: how complete, current, and accurate is a sales rep’s opportunity pipeline?
  • Record creation: how many leads, accounts, contacts, and opportunities are users creating?
  • Data accuracy/completeness: how complete and/or accurate is the information entered for a lead or customer record?
  • Activity creation: how many appointments, phone calls, and emails are users completing?

2.     Measure

After you define what user adoption means for your organization, the concept of good user adoption implies you can establish measurable goals. This provides a segue into a more Dynamics CRM-specific discussion, so let’s take a look at how you might turn the four examples just mentioned into specific, measurable goals in CRM:

  • Opportunity management
    • Each sales rep has a minimum of x open opportunities
    • No estimated close dates earlier than today
    • Estimated revenue or other indicators of deal size as accurate as possible
    • A sales rep closes x deals per month, or closes $x worth of sales per quarter, etc.
  • Record creation
    • An inside sales rep qualifies x leads per month
    • Marketing increases page views by 1,000 per week
    • Marketing drives 100 registrations for an upcoming webinar
    • An account manager creates fifty new contacts per quarter
  • Data accuracy/completeness
    • The only real way to guarantee that data are entered is to require it, but it’s a balancing act; the more required fields on a form the harder it is to work with.
    • Suppose you have the six critically important fields required on an account form, and want to encourage users to enter an additional ten. Consider adding a profile score as a custom field, and using a workflow to increment it by ten points when one of those nice-to-have ten fields is entered. Then you’ve got a nice 100-point account profile score you can feature prominently in reports and charts, and use to honor or shame account owners as appropriate.
  • Activity creation
    • Use Dynamics CRM charts and dashboards to track activities completed over time by owner, department, activity type, and so forth. For some implementation details, here’s an article I wrote on Tracking and Scoring User Activity.

Also, consider using the goal management functionality, introduced in Dynamics CRM 2011. It’s got a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth it. Here are a couple of recent articles I’ve written on it: Marketing Automation Goal Management, Part 1, and Part 2.

3.     Train

We all agree that users need to be trained. Beyond the obvious, here are a few specific CRM training do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t train too soon. Ideally, users are trained on the Friday before a Monday go-live. Of course in the real world the ideal isn’t always realized, but try to make the training as close as possible to go-live.
  • Give your users hands-on training in a “sandbox” environment, where they can enter data, make mistakes, and generally get their hands dirty.
  • Make sure your customizations are incorporated in your training, and train users on the things they are going to be doing. A generic treatment of out of the box CRM sales management features will be a waste of time for users who won’t be using those features.
  • Avoid turning training into a feature-walk. Pick out a small number of things users will need to do every day, and make sure they know how to do those things well.
  • Avoid the training-airdrop scenario. Training shouldn’t be a one-time event that happens to users. Rather, it should be an ongoing process that users participate in. Identify departmental power-users and give them extra training so you can push training closer to the people that need it.

4.     Engage

No matter how good your CRM is, there’s a tendency for it to kind of … sit there, lurking behind the scenes, waiting for users to go use it. For Outlook-centric organizations, use of the Dynamics CRM Outlook client is a must, and will definitely improve user adoption as it pushes CRM out in front of the user community. But while the Outlook client can help get your users engaged with CRM, most organizations need additional ways to reach out and drive adoption.

One of my favorite techniques to proactively engage users is to push CRM reports and links to their inboxes with automatic workflows. For example, here’s an email I get in my inbox every day at the same time:

I’ve got a webinar scheduled for May 31, and I use a Dynamics CRM goal record to track progress against the target of 100 registrations. The goal management functionality in CRM is great, but it’s also a good example of something that can get lost in the shuffle, especially if a user’s new to working with goals. But if you push an email like that one into somebody’s inbox, they really can’t miss it. As you see in the figure, you can include a link to the record, and it’s also an opportunity to continue the training/learning process (that’s the purpose of the bold-faced remonstration in the email).

There are plenty of variations on this theme: weekly or monthly goal progress reports for longer-term goals, weekly emails to push out a link to the sales pipeline report before the sales team meeting, and so forth.

5.     Provide the Carrot

Do things that make users’ lives easier, make CRM less of a burden. Here are a few of my top items in the carrot category.

  • Use the Outlook client. If the Outlook client is configured correctly and users are properly trained, it’s the closest you’ll ever get to a pain-free CRM experience.
  • Simplify. The easier CRM is to use, the more people will use it. There are tradeoffs: if it’s too easy chances are you aren’t capturing the data you need. But there are some rules of thumb you can use to avoid the other end of the user experience spectrum. For example, you probably really don’t need fifteen required fields on the opportunity form. But if you really do, put them all together up at the top where it’s easy for users to see them. And you probably don’t need more than seven stages in your sales process. And you definitely don’t need more than eleven!
  • Provide mobile access. Over the next couple of years the mobile CRM experience will move from niche to mainstream, so you might as well get out in front of this one. Fortunately the tools are getting better…and easier to purchase, as we’ll shortly see when Microsoft unveils the CRM Anywhere release.
  • Use InsideView for data enrichment. A long time ago I referred to the InsideView CRM integration as the ultimate CRM mashup, and I like it just as much today as I did then. If your marketing or sales folks ever need to research your customers in external data sources and then re-key the information into CRM, make their lives easier and your data better with a subscription to InsideView or a similar application.
  • Use ClickDimensions to track high-value customer interactions. ClickDimensions is another CRM add-on I put in the carrot category, and it might just be the single highest-impact add-on product there is. After spinning out your first email blast and seeing all those opens, clicks, and form submits (and alas, the occasional unsubscribe) coming right back into your CRM where they belong, all nicely associated with contact and lead records and ready for follow up…well, your marketing and sales teams won’t want to be without that functionality any more.

6.     Apply the Stick

But whatever else you do, make sure to communicate that use of CRM is not a lifestyle choice – it is required. A failed CRM is almost always the responsibility of management, in this sense: if management is committed to the CRM effort, requires its use, and leads by example, you can make plenty of mistakes yet still end up with a highly used (and useful!) CRM. On the other hand, if management is not committed, doesn’t enforce use, and doesn’t lead, you can do everything else right and still end up with a failed CRM.

There seem to be two kinds of conversations I have with clients about user adoption. One kind is complicated and involves lots of issues like the ones I discussed in rules 1-5. The other is simpler, and goes something like one I had recently with the CRM owner at a company where a chunk of a sales rep’s variable compensation is based on the number of completed customer appointments. I was congratulating him on the great uptake their CRM’s getting, and he just shrugged and said “It’s not their option, it’s their job.”   Well said.

Please contact us at Magenium Solutions for more information on how to increase user adoption of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or connect with us on Twitter.

By Magenium Solutions, Chicago Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner

1 thought on “6 Rules for CRM User Adoption”

  1. "Everybody agrees user adoption is a good thing, but nobody knows what it is.

    This is an exaggeration to make a point: the concept of user adoption is not self-evident. If we want “high”, or “good” user adoption we need to be able to measure it, and we can’t measure it without defining it."

    You're over complicating it, and I mean WAY over complicating. Sure, these are good tips, but shouldn't be necessary if you're using a CRM that's worth a hoot.

    First of all, user adoption is clearly defined by saying 'if every involved staff member is using the software and every feature is being employed to its fullest.' That's it, it doesn't mean anything else.

    And the issue of adoption shouldn't rest on the user. Why is it always the user's fault? Why can't CRM companies realize that they've made poor products instead of pushing that responsibility on the user? It's like putting a bandaid on a 3rd degree burn victim: we're treating something that has nothing to do with the actual issue and will never solve the problem.

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