The struggle is real: over 60% of CRM projects fail to gain user adoption.

Infographic - Statistics on CRM Failure

Visit any conference or user group that focuses on customer relationship management, and you’ll inevitably find well attended sessions that focus on user adoption. If you’re struggling with adoption, there are dozens of articles on our blog to help with this.

But today, I want to focus on some of the reasons that users give for why they don’t adopt, and explain why those reasons may really just be myths. And, advance warning, I’m going to be a little frank in this article - there is a time for listening to users, and there is a time when we’ve over-coddled our users. You’ll have to judge for yourself where you are in that continuum.

CRM Adoption Myth 1: The CRM Software is Bad

We’ve worked with organizations that are using the most up-to-date CRM technology available, and yet some still struggle with adoption. And we’ve worked with organizations that have home-grown, out-dated solutions that deliver a confusing and error-prone experience; yet some of them have 100% adoption and are showing a positive ROI.

Reality 1: That Doesn’t Matter

The point is that waiting for perfect software is really just an excuse. There is almost no reason why your existing CRM solution can’t be used to improve productivity, measurability and overall results starting today.

Reality 2: It Should Still be Improved

The above is not an excuse to continue to use sub-par technology. If your organization is using an outdated CRM platform built with custom code, SmartSheet, Excel, Qlik-View, SharePoint, Lotus Notes, or just an outdated CRM solution, you should be looking into graduating to a real CRM platform. And if you’re already on a CRM platform, you should be listening to your users and customers so you can constantly refine their experience.

CRM Adoption Myth 2: I Don’t Need a CRM Solution

Let’s ask a few other questions to explore this a little bit more:

  • Do you need to track a list of people that you keep in touch with?
  • Do you need to manage a calendar to plan your day or week?
  • Do you need to keep a list of follow-up tasks?
  • Do you need to capture notes from your meetings and calls?

Using CRM to manage contacts and tasks

Reality 3: You’re Already Using a CRM Solution

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you’re already using a CRM solution. It might be paper-based. It might be Microsoft Outlook. It might be a steno pad. It might be a combination of all of those things. And, if it’s not a real CRM solution, then chances are that it is significantly less efficient than it could be.

CRM Adoption Myth 3: I’m Already a Top Performer

Every team has at least one person in this category. They’re a top performer, and they don’t want to use CRM. And, really, why should they? They are one of those extraordinary people who has a system that enables them to deliver great results year-in and year-out — any change to their way of doing things is more likely to slow them down. So why risk it?

Reality 4: It’s Not About You

The fact is, a customer relationship management project is not about any individual - it is about a team. CRM solutions are, at their core, collaboration solutions. If any one person opts-out, then the entire team suffers. Here’s why:

  • Psychology: If usage isn’t mandatory for top performers, then everyone will find an excuse to avoid adoption.
  • Best Practices: Top performers are usually “lone rangers.” Lone rangers excel at working alone to achieve great results. Lone rangers are horrible at describing their process or at mentoring others. But if what they are doing is getting captured into a CRM solution, then more people can learn from - and be motivated by - their best practices.
  • Collaboration: If the entire team is tracking their relationships, then they can help each other to do a better job serving the customer. Customer service can see recent sales conversations. Sales can see if customer service is dealing with an issue before they walk in the door on a client visit. Marketing can support teams because they have accurate email, mailing, and segment data to personalize communications.

CRM Adoption Myth 5: This is Just Management Reporting

Sometimes users fear that management will use CRM as a way to beat them up, or that using CRM is just busy work so management can run reports.

Reality 5: See Myth 2

I’ve yet to see a single case where users could not use their CRM solution to improve how they work. Some users tend to over-emphasize the goals (such as “Management told me I have to record at least 10 calls each day”) and lose sight of the real value (such as “when I record my calls, I’m better able to plan for follow-ups, and be sure that no one slips through the cracks.”).

Reality 6: Micro-Managing is Almost Never a CRM Issue

The fact is, a micro-managing manager is going to micro-manage regardless of the presence of a CRM solution or not. And a hands-off manager is going to do the same. And a user who needs micro-managing to get their job done well is going to need it regardless of the presence of a CRM solution or not.

When users and managers effectively adopt CRM, it helps them to work together to improve performance regardless of their other work styles.

Reality 7: Management Decisions are Important

And what if Management really is using CRM to run reports that they use to make better decisions?  Those decisions could impact every sales, customer care and marketing person in your company. They could ripple out to impact thousands or millions of customers. They could be the difference between stellar growth, or unexpected layoffs.

CRM Adoption Myth 6: It’s an Invasion of Privacy

Some users feel that their contacts are their property; and what they do each day is their business as long as they make their numbers.

Reality 8: You’re an Employee

The fact is that customer-facing personnel have generally had far less visibility and accountability than other job functions. Most other roles in any company are observed daily by managers, and have performance metrics that are monitored closely. CRM brings this same level of visibility and accountability to customer-facing teams. It can be uncomfortable at first - but accountability and visibility across teams contributes to a great workplace culture when done correctly.

Reality 9: CRM Makes it Harder to Hide

CRM Makes it harder to hide from Sales Managers

If individuals are doing their job well, then visibility shouldn’t be a problem. In some cases, however, the fear of CRM is really a fear that poor performance and low productivity will be exposed. This is one of those areas that we’re really not supposed to talk about - but it is an absolute reality. In some cases we’ve seen the introduction of a CRM solution ultimately result in casting light on some individuals who have been able to keep their poor performance below the radar for years. These are often the types of people who know how to look good to management, while creating a toxic workplace behind the scenes. Some of these individuals directly attack the CRM project, but more typically they appear to accept it, while influencing others (generally by quietly spreading the above myths).

CRM Adoption Myth 7: I‘m Not Good with Technology

If you’re in a people-facing role, then chances are that you don’t consider yourself to be a technology-first person. And that’s a good thing! Your unique ability to create connections, and to quickly and authentically engage with others, is a critical skill needed in your organization. But that doesn’t let you off the hook.

Reality 10: You’d Better Start Learning

Adopting technology to do your job in the 21st century is like adopting e-mail was in the 20th century. Soon it will be a job requirement everywhere. If your company isn’t pushing you to adopt CRM, they’re not doing you any favors – because the next company you want to work for will probably require it for all but their entry-level people. And if this is your last job before you retire, remember that there are others in your organization that are depending on you to be leading the way for the career that they have ahead of them.

How Will You Adopt CRM?

If your CRM solution isn’t all that you want it to be, here are a few suggestions:

5 Step Plan for CRM Adoption

  • Find the Value: Use it, find the value, and extract as much value as you can from it. You’ve built your reputation by working patiently and persistently with people – do the same with your CRM solution.
  • Accentuate the Positive: Tell your CRM team what you appreciate about the solution. Not only does this create a better culture and spirit of camaraderie, it makes them more likely to listen to your needs (you’re in a customer-facing role … you know how this works!)
  • Eliminate the Negative: Identify the areas that you think need improving. If there is a different metric that you think would do a better job of driving performance, then tell management. If there is a bug with the system, then tell the CRM administrator. If you don’t know who to raise these issues with, then raise that as an issue!
  • Keep Calm and CRM On: Change takes time. Patiently, but persistently, push for the changes you think will help, while modeling leadership in adopting your CRM solution.
  • Check the Rear View: Every now and then, look at how far you’ve come. Change is slow and it can feel like you’re not moving. So take a look in the rear view a year or two back to see the progress that you’ve made.

The bottom line: adopting CRM can bring transformational change to you and to your organization. Contact C5 Insight to help chart a course to CRM adoption.