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Demystifying CRM Adoption Rates
CSO Insights' Sales Performance Optimization '06: Four essential facts about end-user performance and buy-in.
For the rest of the July 2006 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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I recently spoke at a global sales summit in Verona, which gave me a unique opportunity to interact with sales executives from all corners of the world. I heard their perspectives on sales effectiveness challenges, sales process, and channel management, among other topics.

During my keynote I shared the results of CSO Insights' 2006 Sales Performance Optimization study as they pertained to leveraging CRM to improve sales effectiveness. The chart at right turned out to be the subject of lots of discussion. It illustrates the breakdown of the CRM system end-user adoption rates reported by the 1,275 companies taking part in this year's study.


CRM is regularly presented by solution providers as mission critical applications that all front-office workers must embrace to achieve their optimal performance. Yet we see that less than 40 percent of the firms implementing these systems have end-user adoption rates above 90 percent. The two key issues the CSOs attending the summit wanted insights into were why is there such a wide range of adoption of CRM systems, and what can a company do to increase the usage of the systems it have invested in?

There are four factors to be aware of that influence how many users ultimately embrace these applications and make them a normal part of their daily workflow.

  • The System You Select In breaking down the study data by system installed, and focusing on the greater than 90 percent adoption rates, we found that ratings for individual vendors ranged from a low of 24 percent to a high of 51 percent. So, if you're looking to implement CRM for the first time or replace an existing system, do not assume that all solutions are created equal. Some vendors clearly offer more user-friendly applications than others.
  • The Functionality You Turn On We often talk about CRM as if it were one thing, when in reality it is the combination of hundreds of different features. If your adoption rates are low, reassess the choices you made regarding what functionality you are making available. Do the tools you provide really make your people more efficient or effective? If users do not see a personal payback for the time they have to invest learning and putting data into CRM systems, they will find other ways to do their jobs.
  • The Training You Conduct A third factor often missing from many CRM projects with low adoption rates is adequate training on how to integrate these applications into a user's daily work flow. When you implement CRM you are asking users to change how they do their jobs. Vendors continue to make these applications more usable, but hands-on training is still needed for many users to help them make the transition to new ways of working.
  • The Support You Provide You picked the right tool, turned on features that users value, got everyone trained--are you done yet? Unfortunately, no. If users are going to feel confident with CRM systems at all times, they need the right level of hotline support. This can require providing 24/7 technical support.

    In the long run, sales, marketing, and support teams will have to consistently leverage technology if they are going to achieve the performance levels necessary to do their jobs. Ensuring that you cover all four of these factors will take you a long way toward realizing the full promise that CRM holds for these users.

    Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at www.csoinsights.com

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