13 tips to get business teams to use your CRM system

Having a great new customer relationship management system won't be worth much until you figure out how to get everyone to use it

Congratulations on that purchase of a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. Now if only the people on the sales, marketing and customer service teams would use it.

To help you keep that expensive software investment from being a write-off, CIO.com queried dozens of CRM experts on what organizations can do to get employees to routinely enter data into and actually use CRM software. Following are their top 13 tips.

1. Involve those who will be using your CRM system most in the decision and rollout process. "Make sure that the system is simple to learn for new users, and that your users can easily teach themselves as they work," advises Rafi Sweary, president, WalkMe, which provides step-by-step guidance on how to use Websites and apps. Similarly, "make sure employees have the opportunity to tell you what features do and do not make sense," says Aron Susman, cofounder, The Square Foot, a business real estate search site. "You do not want to change workflow and make things take more time than before the CRM was implemented."

2. Play up CRM benefits. "Everyone should be informed of the benefits of entering information into the CRM system to encourage its usage," says Patrick Zanella, product manager, Global Support Services at Enterasys, which provides network infrastructure, network security and management solutions. "If you lead with the blocking and tackling (of entering data), you are starting with the hard part, which may push users off from the start. Showing users the benefits upfront allows them to see the end game before the first piece of data is entered, which typically serves as positive motivation," he says. "Sort of like reading the dessert menu before eating."

3. Provide adequate training. "Train employees on what they need to know and not on all the bells and whistles. These can come later," says Todd Wickens, engagement manager, SWC Technology Partners, an IT consulting firm. Training people how to use your CRM solution "is not a one and done activity, but a process to create awareness," he explains. "Employees will be more inclined to adopt this system if they are eased into it." Similarly, it is important to provide ongoing CRM training, to new hires or those who may need a refresher course, as well as to rollout new features.

4. Identify superusers. "During implementation identify the two or three groups who will use the system most--and ensure that one or more users from these groups are involved," says Cronk. "As these users become more involved and feel part of the design process, they will become evangelists [for your CRM system] and will ensure that other users in their group adopt the system early," he says.

5. Keep forms simple. "Sales people are busy," explains Andy Cronk, development director, Aspire Technologies Limited, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution provider. "So to ensure your sales users can quickly enter data about a lead/opportunity, make sure there are no more than five fields to complete."

6. Don't bombard users with features."Make sure your system is as simple as possible for what you need," says Jamie Diamond, founder CustomerWinHQ.com , a solution that simplifies the management and tracking of customer information. "If you need a full blown Salesforce CRM system with every feature possible, so be it. However, most companies can get more people using more features if you only give them what they need."

7. Provide customer support. "Make sure to have all the information [regarding use of your CRM software] available and easily accessible, so customers don't need to call support for common how-to issues," says Sweary.

8. Make sure high-level executives are using it, too. "Nothing gets an employee's attention like when a CEO sends an email, I was looking in the CRM and did not see....'," says Susman.

9. Make it fun (and competitive) and reward use."Turn it into a game--with badges, leaderboards, rewards and public recognition," says Misha Sobolev, managing director, CTOsOnTheMove.com, which provides sales leads for tech companies. "Salespeople are competitive. Play to that."

[Related: How Gamification Reshapes Corporate Training]

10. Foster cross-departmental communication."Cross-departmental communication is key," says Mike Wierzbowski, vice president of solution innovation for TOA Technologies, which provides workforce management software. "Any new system potentially impacts everyone--marketing, dispatch, the call center, even the systems operations center examining a network. They ALL must understand the benefits for a successful adoption," he says. "Marketing can't sell products if the field can't deliver it. The CSRs can't enter requests if even one part of the system is ineffective. With all these interdependencies, making people across all departments aware of what's going on and how it impacts them is imperative."

11. Check that your system is mobile-device friendly. "Today's sales teams use a range of smart devices, such as tablets and iPads, on a daily basis," says Gary White, the CEO of White Springs, which provides sales training technology. "They expect to have access to information while on the move. And of course it makes them more effective if they can [access the CRM software] while out of the office, to help them close a deal." So make sure the CRM solution you deploy is mobile-device friendly.

12. Make sure your CRM integrates with other key systems and applications. "If users see that they will have good integration with some of the main tools they need daily--like MS Outlook, MS Office and external reporting tools--they will adopt the CRM more enthusiastically," argues Jorge Defreitas, senior product advisor for CRM with IFS North America, which provides a component-based ERP suite. "And don't overlook seamless integration with, and access to, ERP," he adds.

13. Have your CRM be a one-stop data hub for your sales team. "It's critical to move customer data information from various systems like marketing automation and email into the CRM to create a holistic customer profile in one central location," says Lou Guercia, the CEO of Scribe Software, which provides data integration and data migration software. "By freeing the data from silos and centralizing the information, all stakeholders can find the customer information they need, where and when they need it."

"By enabling sales teams to access all information they might need from a single place, the sales process can be streamlined and less daunting for sales teams," adds White. Moreover, "a portal that allows any salesperson to have a bird's eye view of all the resources available to them is a great way to motivate adoption."

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributing writer to CIO.com and she also runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.

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