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Rick Cook 4 Ways To Make CRM Systems More Productive
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By Rick Cook

The purpose of a Customer Relationship Management system is to help your company achieve its customer strategies. The more effectively you and your colleagues integrate your customer facing business processes with your CRM software application the more quickly you will achieve your goals and a sustained payback. That means selecting the best CRM software, and then achieving automation, productivity and information deliverability for all customer facing staff – which is not accomplished in a one-time implementation event. Here are four ways to get more out of your CRM investment.

1) Get People To Use It
The most important way to get the most out of a CRM software system is to get the users to maximize its use. That’s pretty obvious, but when recognizing that just getting marketers, sales staff and customer support representatives to actually effectively use a CRM system is often a major cultural challenge it bears a strong emphasis. Few enterprises adopting CRM software systems achieve 100% user adoption - as some users will resist the change, perform business processes outside the system and even operate shadow systems in parallel to the central customer relationship management system. Further, when considering that most implementation efforts leverage little more than 20% of an applications potential, there’s a lot more potential for subsequent implementation phases.

Also recognize that users will want to adopt CRM software at different speeds. A few will take to it enthusiastically, most will show varying degrees of hesitation and a minority will never adopt it if left to their own devices.

Part of getting a successful user adoption is to recognize that people will pick it up at different speeds and allow for that. It’s usually best to use a carrot-and-stick approach with incentives for people who adopt the entire system, followed, after a suitable period of time, by increasing sanctions against those who are not willing to get with the program.

However never lose sight of the ultimate objective: Getting everyone fully on the system. The sooner you get all your users on the system and entering data, the more effective the system will be and the more productive your CRM project will become.

2) Train Your Users
When planning for a CRM software installation, make sure you include enough time and budget for effective, in-depth training.

Recognize that there’s a big difference between minimally using the CRM system and being truly fluent with it. Unfortunately there's a tendency to treat user training as an afterthought or assume that a few hours of training that shows your users which keys to press is enough.

It isn’t. The key to fluency is thorough training on all aspects of the system that users will actually use. This goes well beyond a couple of hours showing which information goes in which place on the screen. The aim is understanding and comprehension, not just rote actions.

Users should not only understand how to use the existing functions, they should understand the benefits of the new application and how their part of the operation fits with the rest of the company. This is important both for their overall comprehension and to help them to understand why they are asked to enter the information the system calls for. It also can help to reduce incorrect or incomplete data being entered into the system.

Extensive training builds familiarity with the system and confidence for the users. That not only makes front-office users more productive in the first instance, it also encourages them to develop their own routines and shortcuts. By sharing these user-developed techniques you can improve user adoption and make your organization more productive.

3) Tweak Your System Based on Feedback
The job of implementing customer management software doesn’t end when your system goes live. In fact the period after you start using it is one of the most important times in terms of achieving sustained productivity. This is when your users start exercising the primary functions of the system and uncovering the problems you didn't discover or which seemed unimportant during earlier implementation phases. This period is so important that it’s a truism in CRM that productivity will actually drop right after the system go-live event. You need to treat this as a shakedown period and be actively listening to your users so you can respond quickly and effectively.

Even seemingly minor problems can drive your users crazy and cut their productivity if they happen often enough. For example, one of the most common complaints is that it takes too long to flip between screens. That slows down the people using the system and can make them reluctant to adopt CRM as a real sales tool.

One answer is to have your IT people or consultants go into the system and tune it up. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but it can get expensive and complicated. A better solution, if you can make it work, is to redesign your screens to minimize the amount of screen flipping your users have to do. As much as possible all the information needed to complete a transaction should be on one screen. If that's not possible the next best solution is to break the process down into a series of easily navigable screens, each representing a clear subtask, and displayed in logical business process sequence. What you do not want is for the sales person or customer service representative to have to refer back to earlier screens. Repeat the needed information on the new screen to avoid back-tracking.

4) Mine Your Information
By its nature an effective customer management system produces a lot of information. Using that information effectively is the key to getting the most productivity out of your CRM installation.

That information is invaluable for everything from moving prospects through the sales cycle more quickly to spotting up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, to planning marketing campaigns to presenting the customer with a unified, coherent view of your company (and vice-versa).

At the same time, it's important to avoid busywork. When designing workflow, ask yourself “is this report really necessary?” That is, does it add enough value to justify asking the sales and marketing people to collect and enter data as well as periodically review the report content?

When in doubt, don’t include it. You can always add reports later if you find them being requested.

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User adoption is a perennial challenge. Few enterprises adopting CRM software achieve 100% user adoption - as some users will resist the change, perform business processes outside the system and even operate shadow systems in parallel to the central CRM system.


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