How to...use training to get buy-in for CRM

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It's natural to expect that healthy ROI figures for a CRM initiative will come from a broader understanding of customer needs, corporate cost savings, better sell-through rates, increased customer satisfaction and cross-sells, and a more efficient, effective workforce. But unless CRM project leaders bring to the training table a clear picture of how their teams will accomplish these goals, their CRM strategy may be prematurely grounded. Training has to be about more than just the clicks and drags on the computer screen that step through a workflow. Much of the time a CRM overhaul involves process changes as well as shiny new technology, and unless the process change is given top billing, training may break down into an exercise in button pushing that doesn't teach anything useful. "It means going to salespeople and finding out, 'What do you do? How can we make your lives easier?'" says Benjamin Holtz, president and CEO of CRM integrator Green Beacon Solutions. That also means a training program tailored to an organization's specific business scenarios using its customized version of whatever CRM software may be involved. It also means a more detailed (and expensive) planning program than simply buying the standard training manual from the software company and playing train-the-trainer with it. An individual company's business requirements deserve more attention than simply being portrayed as abstract concepts using someone else's generic business model. This in-depth planning also places more responsibility on the rollout team to have a clear picture of what the new application and workflow will look like before the master switch is thrown--doing so the day after the implementation is far too late. Like the CRM initiative itself, the training program needs to be designed and field-certified by the people who are supposed to benefit from it. "It's very important that those whose lives will be changing own the implementation, to avoid the not-invented-here problem," says Steve Daines, vice president of customer care at contact center--knowledge specialist RightNow Technologies. Everyone from the project owners to the primary users and the trainers will learn more about the new CRM methodologies and tools as time goes by. So create opportunities for ongoing training and improvement, be it an internal developer discovering a new mail merge capability or a CSR suggesting a shortcut through two screens of the data entry sequence. "What can hurt adoption and slow implementation is when training is viewed as a one-time, front-end event," Daines says. "Learning is a process." There is often pressure--particularly for sales and marketing operations--to create CRM adoption mandates to ensure usage and adherence to new policies. More than any quota or threat can, training will drive adoption. Create a learning plan that is both relevant and readily accessible. Consider augmenting take-home user guides with on-demand streaming video replays of training courses. Business users will be both compelled and reinforced to take charge of their own education. Above all, give training equal consideration in your CRM implementation planning. If you can't conceive how training will contribute to the ROI plan for your CRM investments, the chances are that it won't.
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