(This column originally appeared in Forbes)
Customer Relationship Management systems are not accounting systems. CRM systems don’t do billing, cash receipts, disbursements or payroll. If a CRM system isn’t used, a company still continues to operate. If an accounting system isn’t used, a company doesn’t operate. This is why so many of my clients complain that the number one CRM challenge they have is actually getting people to use the system.
Here’s how to fix it.
First, keep it simple.
Don’t make your CRM database too complex. Cut down on the fields. Minimize the data entry. Scale back your complex sales and service processes. The less you’re asking your people to do the easier it will be for them to do it. Think: what is the bare minimum of data needed to meet your objectives and go for that first. Maybe your users can evolve into doing more. But for now, keep it simple. You’ve got plenty of time to make it more complex if you have a long term outlook. But don’t ask too much too soon.
Next, make it all about reports.
A CRM system is nothing but a database. And good databases have good analytics. Get rid of your spreadsheets and replace them with just a few key reports. Start with a simple pipeline report where every opportunity is tracked with details including sales potential, probability of close, projected close date, last action and next action. If your team meets and drives its activities around a weekly pipeline report you’ll seen be able to see who’s not getting data into the system…and address that issue. There are other good reports to consider. But focus on the pipeline first.
Only train the people who need the training.
My clients can be segregated into three groups: the CRM experts, the CRM users and the CRM dummies. Leave the experts alone, give a bit of help to your users and focus your training and support on the dummies. Because let’s face it: there are some people that can pick up technologies and other people that can’t plug in a TV set. But just because the dummies aren’t good with technology doesn’t mean that they’re not great at their jobs.
Provide support, training and mentors for both the users and dummies. Assign your experts to mentor your users and dummies. Have an internal administrator (or two) who are responsible for the database and are your experts. Pay for their training and their support. Hire an outside partner that specializes in the system to support your administrator. Like most problems in business it’s an 80/20 issue. Your usage problem will come down to the 20 percent of people who aren’t using the system. Focus on them.
Finally, meet your people half-way.
We have one client that distributes deli meats. Their sales staff is pretty much made up of old men wearing hats and driving Buicks. Not exactly your tech demographic. But they’re good salespeople, but they weren’t exactly the power CRM user types, if you get my point.
So what did my client do? They met their people halfway. They setup a voicemail and asked their guys on the road to leave messages about their sales calls, appointments, notes and actions. Then they had a part time college kid enter that info into their CRM system. That’s meeting people half way. And in the end, management got their reports, the sales people focused on selling and their database was always updated.
What I’ve learned about CRM implementations is that most companies bite off more than they can chew. They spend all this time designing complex systems that never get used. Most businesses — particular smaller companies — can barely share basic contact, calendar and email data, let alone be responsible for maintaining a database. To fix the usage problem and get your people adapting to your system just go slow, take small steps, have patience and follow my advice above. You’ll be fine.