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How do I drive user adoption?

As CRM consultants, we get asked this question – in various forms – constantly. We’ll typically talk about user acceptance testing, robust requirements gathering and a focus on the end-user experience. However, it’s been proven time and again that the only real way to drive user adoption is to make it essential for people to do their job.

For example, in a sales environment, making CRM the only method for entering orders or setting up new accounts forces salespeople to interact with and learn the system. They might not love it, but they need to use it if they want that order fulfilled.

This is what I call a “mandatory outcome”. It’s a concrete task that can only be accomplished by using the system and it’s the key to driving adoption. Everything else I mentioned – user acceptance testing, requirements gathering, etc. – is still important but it won’t save a system that doesn’t drive a concrete outcome.

It’s Not Laziness, It’s Efficiency

People are experts at figuring out how to do the minimum amount of work. If your system exists only to collect information – activity records, sales figures, close rates – it exists for management’s benefit, not the users’. Even if you make using it a condition of employment, you’ll still be fighting the natural urge to circumvent the CRM.

When building a system, it’s important to think of meaningful outcomes the end users can only achieve via the CRM. It can be something as simple as using CRM to send all marketing communications or as integral as forcing all order entry to be done via the CRM. Whatever it is, the users need to know that the time they’re spending on data entry is driving an outcome more tangible than “generating business intelligence”.

You also need to have meaningful outcomes for every set of users you bring into the CRM. For example, if you’re expecting call center reps to collect information solely for the benefit of the marketing department, prepare to have a lot of inaccurate or incomplete information.

When you decide to undertake a CRM project, spend some time and decide on your mandatory outcomes. You’ll give your project focus, reduce the odds of scope creep and ultimately, improve the odds of genuine user adoption. 

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