People Still Drive Your CRM Success

People Still Drive Your CRM Success

By: Barton Goldenberg

April 2010

For the past 25 years, I’ve been suggesting that the right mix for a successful CRM initiative is based on people (50%), process (30%) and technology (20%).  Too often organizations fail to devote the necessary time and resources to address the inevitable people issues that come up in all CRM initiatives.  This short-coming can lead to a less than optimal CRM implementation or even a failed implementation.

In my last column I described how to conduct a CRM Assessment that we feel all companies who have implemented a CRM initiative during the past five years needs to perform (think of it as a your annual physical).  In our last three CRM Assessments, the 50% ‘people’ component was the core reason that their organization’s CRM initiative was performing below expectation.  One of our assessments was with a global venture capital firm.  In addition to a faulty software implementation – Yes this can happen – they had lost their executive sponsor and had failed to properly train their CRM user base.  The result: user adoption rates had peaked at around 30%.

In our second CRM assessment – a pharmaceutical manufacturer, they too had lost their executive sponsor along the way and had failed to properly train their CRM user base.  But in their case, their less-than optimal customer incident management service process lead to strong customer service rep resistance that threatened to kill their CRM initiative.

In our most recent CRM assessment – regarding the utilization of sales pipeline management within a Fortune 50 global services company, their managers ‘talked the talk’ but were not committed to using sales pipeline management reports generated from their CRM application to properly coach subordinates.  As one sales rep said to me, “what interests my boss fascinates me but if my boss isn’t interested I’m not going to bother documenting my sales leads.”  The impact: user adoption at this company continues to remain well below where it should be.

In all three of these CRM initiatives, the 50% ‘people’ issue negatively impacted CRM success.  How to address ‘people’ issues prior to their becoming an issue with your CRM initiative?  I’ve got six ‘must-dos’ on my short-list.

  1. Secure your executive sponsor.  This individual should be a high up in the organization as possible.  If it cannot be the CEO/Managing Director, it should be one of their direct reports.  The executive sponsor must help clear CRM roadblocks but also participate in the CRM initiative (e.g., insist that customer-facing issues get resolved utilizing information contained in the CRM system).
  2. Put into place a meaningful governance structure.  The structure will vary depending on whether your organization is domestic or international, but should at all time consist of the executive sponsor, the CRM project/program lead, and at least one ‘people’, one ‘process’ and one ‘technical’ subject matter expert.   Governance meetings should take place at least quarterly.
  3. Train, train, train.  Applying and utilizing CRM process and tools are not intuitive.  Asking users how intuitive they find your CRM process and tools can be an eye-opening exercise.  Training must include business process training for key customer-facing processes, CRM application training, remedial application training, and new hire training.  Where possible, leverage the many new and valuable LMS (Learning Management System) tools to fulfill your CRM training needs.
  4. Communicate effectively and often.  Use communications to alert users to CRM activities that they will be involved in (e.g., process enhancement), and to promote your CRM success either in a written format (e.g., via your organization’s internal newsletter) or orally (e.g., during internal meetings where successful CRM efforts get recognized).
  5. Provide incentives and rewards.  While some executives will argue that “CRM is a part of their job, so why offer incentives and rewards to use it,” small tokens of appreciation (financial or otherwise) go to a long way towards securing long-term CRM user adoption.
  6. Implement meaningful stewardship.  This includes ensuring the effective utilization of CRM tools and techniques (e.g., sales managers properly coach their sales reps based on insights gathered from the CRM system).

By putting into place these six ‘must-dos’, you’ll go a long way towards getting the ‘people’ component of the people/process/technology mix right.  If you are facing challenging CRM ‘people’ issues within your organization, contact me and we can brainstorm these issues together.