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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
March 2007 - Volume 25 / Number 10
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Winning Friends For CRM: Five Keys To Gaining

By Mike Santoro
Technology Advisors, Inc.

When the implementation of a customer relationship management (CRM) solution fails, many business leaders immediately pin the blame on the software. Software does play a major role in a CRM system, so the assumption that it is at fault is not unreasonable. The critical factor in the success or failure of a CRM solution, though, has little to do with the system itself. It has to do with the people who ultimately use it to perform their jobs on a daily basis. Ignore them and you’ll have a full-scale revolt on your hands. But win them over and you will soon be on your way to making CRM a productive part of your business.

In a recent Forrester poll, CRM users ranked end user acceptance — not software — as the most important factor in the successful implementation of a system. Although software, implementation strategy and process definition are important, a CRM system will rise or fall based on the willingness of end users to integrate it into their work environment.
Resistance is inevitable when it comes to the implementation of any new system, and CRM is no exception. People have a natural tendency to avoid change, especially if it requires them to learn something that seems completely foreign. You can’t do anything about that, but you can make the transition to CRM easier by helping end users in five important ways: communicating, listening, proving, training and rewarding.

The primary goal in communicating is to keep users informed. Users will immediately reject a system when they feel it has been sprung upon them at the last minute. To eliminate the element of surprise, clearly communicate the goals you want to achieve through CRM from the outset. Develop a concise, positive message about CRM and stick with it throughout the implementation process.

The message will vary depending on the size and type of business. For example, leaders at a larger business with employees who have already had to learn an extensive CRM system might find that workers accept change more readily. These employees are likely to already be aware of the benefits that can come from a new system. A smaller business investing in its first significant CRM system will probably need to work harder at selling its necessity to a more skeptical group of employees. These employees might ask, “I’ve done my work fine before, why do I need to learn to use anything new?” To answer this, provide them with a message about exactly how the system will allow them to do their work quicker and more effectively. If employees know the system will make their lives easier, they’ll be much more likely to accept the change.

It is particularly important to focus end users’ attention on how CRM will benefit them directly. It’s important to tell users how CRM will benefit the company, but it is crucial to reinforce how CRM will actually make their jobs easier.
There is a multitude of ways to communicate the benefits of CRM to end users. E-mails, newsletters, corporate gatherings and department meetings are all good message conduits.

Success stories are another great tool for communicating with end users. If an end user is experiencing good results and an easier time at work because of the new system, make sure everyone else knows about it, and recruit the successful end user as a cheerleader for the cause.

Communication is a two-way street. Keeping your end users in the loop is good, but it’s just as important to listen to their feedback. Listening makes end users feel they are part of the process and gives them a stake in the final product. It’s also a convenient way to get new ideas about how you can make the system more effective and efficient.

How do you get feedback from users? You ask them — through surveys, focus groups and one-on-one conversations. Some businesses have even opened news groups for users to share their ideas with management and with each other.
Users will undoubtedly be curious about any change that will impact the way they perform their daily work. The trick is to listen and answer them in a way that will ease doubt. A good way to satisfy employees and obtain valuable feedback is to periodically ask users to submit comments and questions throughout the implementation process. Users can provide this feedback on an online workplace forum, via e-mail or in person during regular staff meetings. No matter the outlet, the key is to openly offer a way to voice questions and opinions before, during and after implementation.

Once you’ve heard what the users are saying, the next step is to actually implement their ideas. Some changes will be simple to put into place. Others will be more costly, time-consuming and less realistic. It probably won’t be possible to use every suggestion, but implementing some of the best ones will send a powerful message to users about how seriously you value their input.

Talk is cheap. The real value of CRM will become apparent to end users only after its claims have been confirmed through actual experience. It’s not easy, but you can build user confidence by demonstrating the system’s value in incremental steps.
The easiest way to begin proving the system’s effectiveness is through the integration of everyday tools such as calendars and e-mail. If a user is forced to update the calendar on several platforms, he is likely to become frustrated. However, if that same user is able to enter a date on a calendar and then see it automatically updated to the CRM solution, his MS Outlook calendar and his PDA, he will quickly begin to see the real value of the solution.

Another simple way to prove the value of CRM is by embedding business processes within the solution, forcing end users to make CRM a normal part of their everyday routine. For example, if your company exercises a standard billing process, take the necessary steps to make sure it flows through your CRM rather than running parallel systems until the implementation process has been finalized. Parallel systems are an open invitation for end users to skip the step of running data through CRM and practically ensure that the solution will never be fully accepted as the norm.

Training is all about building user confidence in your CRM. Unless a user is confident in her ability to navigate the basic functions of the system, it is unlikely that she will view the solution in a positive light. Start by training users on the basics and save instruction on advanced features for later, once the users have demonstrated proficiency in the fundamentals.
Managers must understand that the training needs of employees will vary. For example, users who have had experience with similar CRM systems, or who are naturally savvier to their functions, will need less attention. People in charge of training should not assume that just because some employees catch on right away, everyone will magically understand how to use the new system with little training. Providing one training session might do the trick for some, but other users will need multiple sessions before and after implementation.

It’s also important to provide periodic refresher courses for users. Over time, it is natural for people to forget some of the system’s features. Some employees might not have a use for certain features at the onset, but as their work changes, they may eventually discover they need to perform functions they either never learned about or have forgotten. To help them remember, take time to refresh them on the basics, offer additional tips and provide instruction on advanced functions not currently being used. Make sure employees feel questions are always welcome. If they don’t, they’ll be likely to feel ashamed and might go on attempting to do work without essential knowledge.

In an ideal world, the benefits of a new and improved CRM solution would be all that is needed to encourage its use. But in the real world, people are motivated by other types of rewards. The level of the rewards you offer can be anything from a mention in the workplace newsletter to a prize for those who embrace the system most energetically.

This type of recognition will stir enthusiasm in employees who are likely to consider short-term benefits over the long-term benefits that can come from the new system. It will also keep end users who are already using CRM as a vital tool in the workplace encouraged. Talk is cheap. The real value of
CRM will become apparent to end users only after its claims have been confirmed through actual experience.

Rewarding — combined with communicating, listening, proving and training — can make the difference in deciding end user attitude toward a new CRM system. Launching a system without preparing to be met with resistance puts a great deal of time, money and effort at risk for failure. Change in business is usually not easy, but following these five key steps will help prevent end user revolt. CIS

Mike Santoro is the Marketing Manager for Technology Advisors, Inc. (www.techadv.com), a business solutionsBy Mike Santoro
Technology Advisors, Inc.
consulting company based in Des Plaines, IL. Santoro helps businesses improve sales, marketing and customer service performance.

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