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The Cornerstone of CRM Deployment
Usability can be the lynchpin between failure and success.
Posted Aug 26, 2009
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The current recession plaguing the global economy has thrust CRM to the forefront. Consequently, businesses are placing greater emphasis on enhancing sales -- calling for better action on outstanding leads and detecting opportunities within existing customers. Moreover, businesses must ensure that the sales management processes and systems they have in place are top-notch. Today's economy forces businesses to deploy a CRM platform that will not only be adopted, but integrated as a core part of their sales and customer management processes. In effect, companies will be able to deliver more with less. Regardless of where CRM is deployed -- whether it's sales, marketing, or customer service -- the usability of any CRM system is critical to companywide adoption and can be the key differentiator between success and failure.

Usability
Interestingly enough, many CRM implementation managers focus solely on functionality and features, with little regard to actual usability, when selecting a new system. Companies can incorporate all the cutting-edge CRM features available today, but if salespeople or customer service representatives don't enter the necessary data, then it is unlikely a manager will get the desired reports or analytical information to help optimize operations.

The lack of usability is the number one killer of all CRM implementations. Something as trivial as failing to incorporate Microsoft Outlook or another key application may crumble the new system from day one. Does the CRM system require a separate login? If yes, user adoption just dropped by at least 30 to 40 percent. Does the CRM application require an additional window to be opened or does it work natively on the desktop without an additional login? The success rate of CRM systems that work natively within popular applications such as Outlook or Excel is dramatically higher than those that don't. In our experience with several CRM implementations, we have found that adoption is at least 30 percent higher for systems that work in an environment integrated with the existing client email system.

Boosting Usability
To ensure that company expenditures on critical systems, such as a new CRM platform, achieve optimal return on investment, integration managers must hone in on the needs of the sales team. The following are critical elements to consider:

Have an intuitive and user-friendly CRM system. More than anything else, people-friendliness is going to make the biggest difference in terms of implementation success or failure. For example, if salespeople or customer service representatives live in Microsoft Outlook, asking them to go through a convoluted process (e.g., use a standalone Web interface and log in, enter sales leads or support case/incident information, then reenter contact information into the CRM system, is a recipe for disaster. Instead, it would be more practical if users could enter a contact in a single location (e.g., Outlook), which is then instantly and seamlessly integrated with the CRM platform.

Ensure that there is value for users. If salespeople or customer service representatives are only putting information in and not getting anything out, why would they continue to use the solution? Make your CRM system the home for sales and customer service teams -- a one-stop shop for all their needs. CRM can be used to:

  • incorporate all leads into the system as a primary way to scout for new business;
  • house all marketing campaigns and sales literature inside the system, such that if a team member needs a certain presentation, it is quickly available with just a few clicks of the mouse; or
  • integrate workflows and event notices so team members receive reminders before opportunities close.

Incorporate a single sign-on. Multiple logins are the anathema to any CRM platform. If the users have difficulty accessing the new system, they will simply avoid it altogether. As general rule of thumb, rethink any process that requires more than two steps to obtain the desired information.

Allocate enough training time. More often than not this critical step either happens in an extremely limited fashion or is skipped altogether. As a result, team members struggle with getting results and quickly deem the new system useless. If a company is committed to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new CRM platform, adequate training is an imperative, as is soliciting feedback on how to improve usability. Oftentimes, managers would rather keep their team on task than get them into a classroom to learn new procedures -- a philosophy similar to that of the airline industry where grounded planes are equated to money lost. However, managers need to think long-term: Time spent getting end users up to speed on mission-critical technology is time well-invested for future success.

About the Author
Sandeep Walia (sandeep.walia@ignify.com) is the president of Ignify, a provider of CRM, e-commerce, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions targeting the medium and large enterprise market segments.

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