Managing the First-Time-User Experience

Technology may be undergoing constant changes, but your users are not. Far from it. In fact, quite a few users respond reluctantly to the need to learn yet another piece of software. It is easy to dismiss end-user adoption difficulties as technophobia, but to manage these issues effectively, there must be a better segmentation of the factors that determine a successful implementation. The main setbacks can be broken down into three subgroups. These solutions address the challenges from a comprehensive perspective, taking the human factor into account, as well as technology and process and data sharing.

The Three Biggest Challenges

Confusion about the process. The fact that the CRM system is a technological application of the organizational work flows and processes is not trivial. Many users may be baffled by the "flattening" of their work routine. Another problem that may come up is the system's inability to contain exceptions (even if only temporarily). This may lead to skepticism ("How reliable is this software if it can't reflect reality precisely?").

Resistance to technology. Technology-shy users can be found in every age group. True, Millennials tend to be more tolerant toward the organizational need to be technologically dynamic, but they still do not make up the majority of the corporate (or any other) workforce. The tech barrier is probably the most difficult to manage, as it is rooted deeply in a user's psyche and cannot be resolved by simply trying to explain something in a different way. Helping a user overcome this challenge requires a lot of patience on the trainer's part.

Resistance to sharing data. This issue is also more common with older users, hailing from the "little black book" school of management. Resistance in this case may come in a subtle form, meaning lack of cooperation de facto. It may also be a resistance to transparency, rather than to the actual sharing of information.

Technology Solutions to Nontechnology Problems

Surprisingly, there are technological means to solving nontechnological problems. The following technological aids can help make the first-time-user experience more agreeable:

Social media will connect your users, take transparency to the next level, and let your CRM system serve as another interaction platform. Social media will also promote the peer support option, for users who are less comfortable seeking help "outside."

Infographics are fun and colorful and often make the difference for people by offering a more visual understanding. There are plenty of infographic tools that can be easily integrated with any form of SaaS. This is a method of keeping users engaged and involved in the larger picture, data-wise, as well as keeping track of their own input.

Provide your users with a large pool of help resources, as different help methods cater to different users. Look at video (there are lots of video DIY tools out there), knowledge bases, walkthroughs, screenshots, flow charts—whatever you can offer to reach the widest range of user types.

The Human Factor

Listen to your users—this may sound trivial, but it is far from it. Listening is key to a successful implementation. Through it you can differentiate a specific problem from an inherent resistance issue and learn about repeated issues—if more than a few users are complaining, maybe it's a user experience problem. Reconsider the way the process is reflected in the flow or maybe even that segment of the process.

Guide your users through the process, rather than showing them how to do things, giving them a more interactive experience. People tend to learn best through doing. It is up to you to empower your users to play around with the system and not be afraid to click on new things. For instance, when users ask, "What does this button do?" suggest they click on it instead of just telling them.

Process and Data Sharing

Breaking down a system implementation into phases is a common practice. The assumption is that most people learn less effectively after taking in a certain critical mass of information. As such, it is probably more effective to break down the implementation into phases. This is beneficial in another way as well: You get feedback from the users for each phase implemented, in regard to the process as reflected in the software and the training stage, giving you an opportunity to fix and adapt whatever needs it.

From my experience, the most effective way to gain cooperation from users who are protective of their data is the most straightforward way: demonstrating the benefits they would enjoy from another user's shared information. There are no tricks to this and no technological stilts. There is a reason data-sharing-based systems exploded in this Age of Information Explosion, and users need to be able to understand that.

Noa Dror is Internet marketing manager for Iridize, a provider of on-page guidance solutions.

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