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How to Solve CRM Adoption Deadlock

Denis Zhinko
Denis Zhinko

Here's how to ensure your business can successfully adopt a CRM solution.

For a small business to reap the benefits of using a feature-rich customer relationship management (CRM) system, it's necessary to make user adoption part of the implementation strategy.

According to CIO Digital Magazine, between 18% and 69% of CRM implementation projects fail.

Below are eight common reasons why users may end up in a deadlock with a newly implemented CRM along with countermeasures that I have found to be effective when implementing a CRM system.

Concern No. 1: A new CRM system requires excessive manual data entry.

One of the major concerns of sales reps and customer service agents is spending too much time on manual data entry in the CRM. For example, instead of moving a prospect through the sales pipeline right after it's discovered, a sales rep has to fill in extensive information about the prospect in the CRM. The same process occurs after each interaction with a prospect. Logging emails and phone calls, and recording the details of recent meetings become an inherent part of sales reps' daily duties. Thus, sales reps may refuse to adopt a CRM as they think it complicates their job and adds manual data entry tasks to their already high workload.

The solution is to integrate the CRM with external systems and automate certain sales processes to reduce CRM users' manual efforts. For instance, integrating the CRM with external databases and third-party systems (like ERP or e-commerce platforms) unburdens sales reps from manually filling in numerous CRM fields. Integration ensures the automated import of customer and company contact information from external sources, and automatically updates the customer information in the CRM.

Automation of some aspects of the sales process (like customer outreach with quick email and call logging, and email templates with merge fields) can also tangibly shorten the amount of time that sales reps spent on manual duties.

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Concern No. 2: It neglects the needs of some user groups.

A CRM that is designed for the needs and convenience of only one group of target users is another reason for poor user adoption. For example, sales managers are often seen as the primary users of a sales CRM. In such cases, the solution is tailored to provide manifold features for the sales process, such as efficient performance tracking and sales forecasting, but it may lack features that meet the team's other daily needs. For example, if the lead and opportunity records aren't properly configured, the sales reps may have to look through multiple tabs to find or fill in certain pieces of information about a customer. Such constraints highly complicate sales reps' duties and stall their sales efforts.

To make the CRM truly convenient for your users, it's helpful to think about the needs of all user groups (such as managers and their reps or agents), their daily responsibilities and primary goals of CRM usage, and configure the system accordingly. For that, collecting user feedback by conducting user surveys may help. Discovering users' likes and dislikes, demands and issues allows you to clearly communicate usability problems to the CRM services provider. Empowered with this information, they can perform CRM customizations that meet the needs of different user groups.

Providing role-based user training on CRM features for each user group is another measure that can help manage the issue. Since different user groups have different goals and tasks with the CRM, it's essential to train them separately and show them the most efficient ways to interact with the system.

Concern No. 3: The CRM has poor data quality.

Irregular CRM updates result in irrelevant or incomplete data, which may become a great obstacle to easy and efficient CRM use. Since data stored in the CRM is often shared between sales, marketing and customer service departments, all of them will be affected if the data is inconsistent. Spending time and money on pursuing "dead" leads and holding inefficient marketing campaigns may be an extremely expensive mistake.

Besides money loss, poor data quality causes the loss of customers' loyalty. For example, the quality of marketing activities declines due to inefficient outreach to prospects through wrong communication channels. The risk to customer service can be manifested in lengthy case resolution due to the inability to contact a customer (because of outdated emails or phone numbers).

Regular CRM updates, which ensure data accuracy and reliability, are a must. For better enforcement of this idea, it should be driven from the top down. Managers should explain to their teams that if customer-related data isn't updated in the CRM, it does not exist. When the old way of working, like keeping an Excel spreadsheet, is no longer considered as a job done, using the CRM becomes the single option.

Another way that managers can show their teams that the daily filling in of certain CRM fields is not optional is to actively use the CRM themselves. In particular, they should use the CRM to monitor employee performance. If reps realize that their managers rely on CRM-generated reports to assess their work, they'll prioritize keeping the information in the CRM accurate and up to date.

Concern No. 4: It has insufficient post-implementation support.

The lack of post-implementation support means that there is no tailoring of CRM workflows to business process changes and no proper testing of changes introduced to the CRM. This may lead to inconsistent workflows or jumbled reports. Let's imagine that an in-house CRM administrator is required to add a few custom objects to the CRM for better report visibility. There's no post-implementation support from the support service provider, and the admin doesn't have CRM testing skills. The administrator would have modified the solution without thoroughly checking to find out if these objects properly reflected the necessary data and increased report visibility. As a result, the data output may be wrong.

Relying on help from a reliable CRM services provider for ongoing support services – such as adjusting CRM processes to reflect the business's process changes and testing CRM modifications – helps small businesses realize higher user adoption due to easier CRM use. If the CRM complies with business changes and repeatable user issues are solved in a timely manner, all-around CRM adoption is easier to achieve.

Concern No. 5: Employees are not supportive of the CRM.

In many cases, implementing a CRM will represent a major shift for a large number of employees. A new outlook on customer management is often accompanied by a reorientation of company culture as a whole. One of the major challenges of making this shift is convincing employees at every level to adopt the changes.

One of the most important steps to overcoming resistance to change is to involve employees in the culture shift from the beginning. A CRM that is acquired in response to employee input will be better received than a shift that is imposed on them without advance notice. Roundtables and persistent open dialogues are tools that can help employees contribute to a culture shift, and that can be reflected in the CRM and its adoption.

Concern No. 6: The CRM introduces new data security concerns.

Any new system will introduce issues for the IT department. The CRM will have deployment and maintenance requirements, but above all of that, it will compound how sensitive (or potentially sensitive) data is handled. 

When both parties work out a deployment schedule together, it's easy to overcome some of the largest stressors and sources of trouble. IT will have a sufficient time frame to review the software and ensure that it integrates properly with existing security practices.

Concern No. 7: There is a lack of integration with other software.

If you are suddenly working with a whole new software package that doesn't integrate with existing tools, your workload will increase rapidly and many of your operations may be threatened. 

The solution to this issue is simple: research. Do your research, and involve IT in the research process. You can ensure that your system integrates properly with the software already in use. This minimizes problems with the transition, and, ideally, will prevent sudden drops in productivity when the CRM is deployed.

Concern No. 8: Selecting the wrong system.

This concern plagues every major software purchase. You know what the software is supposed to do, and if it actually works that way, it will be great. Unfortunately, software doesn't always work the way it's supposed to work when it's first launched. 

There are a few best practices that can help you avoid a disaster when implementing a new CRM. First, do your research. Verify with the software company that it will work the way you need it to work. Second, take advantage of trials. A limited trial can allow you and a hand-picked group of employees to test the software and see how effective it is. Third, you can expand on this concept and roll out the CRM in stages. By introducing it to a handful of employees at a time, you have more opportunity to resolve issues that occur, and you can learn from each stage of deployment. It's a gentler shift, and it improves your chances of successfully integrating the CRM into your business.

Image Credit: OPOLJA/Shutterstock
Denis Zhinko
Denis Zhinko Member
Head of CRM and Collaboration Department at ScienceSoft with 12+ years in software consulting with the multi-platform focus on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce. Denis has managed projects on CRM, CXM, Portals, System Integration and Connectivity for businesses in Healthcare, Retail, Telecom and Banking, including CRM solutions for 7+ mln bank clients and 5+ mln media subscribers. In his spare time, Denis is a keen motorcyclist, tennis player and volunteer.