(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
We sell a very good, on-premise customer relationship management software called GoldMine which has an excellent analytical feature: the software literally records the number of keystrokes a user makes every day. Why is that important?
When I get a complaint from a GoldMine client that they’re disappointed with the software the first thing I do is look at all of their users’ keystrokes. And what do I usually find? Oftentimes not a lot of keystroke activity! Which leads me to ask how can you complain about a product when it’s not really being used?
This is not just a GoldMine problem. It’s a CRM problem. In the years that my firm has been implementing CRM systems, particularly for our small and medium sized clients, without question, the number one issue has been user adoption.
That’s because a CRM system is not an accounting system. Or an order entry or inventory management system. You don’t necessarily need to use the system for essential business processes like sending out invoices or paying bills. But a great CRM system provides many other benefits, which is why management at countless clients of mine have struggled to persuade their employees to make better use of their applications. They invest in training. They hire special administrators. They cajole, threaten and even plead. Some succeed. But many never get the adoption that they hoped for and many of those are disappointed with the ultimate return on investment from the system.
So how do you fix this adoption issue? Salesforce has the answer: the company is not-so-secretly watching its customers.
“We’re working on a lot of data science,” Meredith Schmidt, who is an executive vice president at Salesforce, told me on a recent podcast I did for the Paychex Business Series. “Right now we have an adoption team. We can look at reports and say “hey, this customer is not adopting so let’s try and help them.””
Creepy? Maybe. But is this any creepier than Facebook making content suggestions based on your likes or Google displaying ads as a result of your prior searches? Of course not. Don’t you want to get the full benefits of your CRM application? Of course you do.
My best CRM clients use maybe 30-40 percent of what the software does and, sadly, a not-insignificant number of clients use it merely as a glorified rolodex. These are the clients that ultimately throw up their hands in frustration, blame the software and ultimately blame me for recommending it. But the more the vendor can get involved, identify problems and make suggestions for better usage, the more chance of adoption going up and the happier the customer will be.
This is not so difficult. A cloud based CRM provider has the data. They can identify a customer where activity is under par. Salesforce, for example, has data from hundreds of thousands of customers and can leverage that information through artificial intelligence to make recommendations for better using the system. These recommendations, according to Schmidt (who assures me that privacy is maintained), can come as a suggestion through the software or by a human communication via their adoption and customer service team.
Different than an on-premise software like GoldMine, which monitors keystrokes after the fact, Salesforce is leveraging its cloud platform to better monitor user activity immediately. “The engagement in the product is where we’re going because it’s real time,” Schmidt says. “It’s looking at what you’re doing and how you’re doing things and trying to bring you more benefit. If you do these things your ROI should increase.”
Schmidt contends that her team at Salesforce doesn’t know the name of the customer but they can still help. “What I can do is actually start suggesting things, like “hey, customers of your size also bought this product” or “customers who wanted to increase leads by 30 percent did these three things and you haven’t set this up yet,”” she says.
Rest assured, Salesforce isn’t the only CRM vendor doing this. Other CRM vendors are also beginning to recognize that that monitoring user activity and making recommendations can solve the long time, persistent problem of CRM adoption. Finally, the vendors are leveraging AI to help customers use their products more and better. It will make for happier customers, which means paying customers. And it’s already happening.
So yeah, Salesforce is watching you. Good.