Stop Learning, Start Churning

Last year, I polled a group of respected CRM resellers to create a list spotlighting “forgotten features” — tools and settings in CRM that many users overlook, even when they could bring great value to their businesses.

Some of them were defensive in nature — for example, many implementations never set the security settings in CRM, making it possible for your valuable user data to walk out the door with departing employees. Most of them, however, were about performance of the CRM system. These included things like reminders, Web-to-lead forms and workflows.

Perhaps the most interesting forgotten feature was internal reporting; most companies using CRM rarely employ the software to measure how often and how effectively the software itself is being used.

Failure to grasp the full potential is dangerous; it can create the false impression that the CRM application you’re using isn’t cutting the mustard, and it can send flighty managers out in search of a replacement application. You know vendors are perfectly happy to sell you a new application if you convince yourself your current application isn’t doing the job.

Just Do It?

What’s the underlying root of this? Part of it is that CRM systems have become increasingly bloated with features — in a good way. Most CRM buyers will never use all the features packed into their applications. Sadly, a lot of users never know those features are there; they fixate on the features that address the problems they face at the time of implementation and never grasp that the application’s capabilities extend further.

Part of the problem is that the SaaS era led people to assume that because deployment could be easy, the use of the applications would be easy, too. That was reinforced by the battles within organizations to encourage adoption. There have been many occasions where I’ve heard sales people being advised that they could learn the application “just by using it.” That’s possible, but it’s not always the best option.

In a related vein, part of the problem is that many businesses view training as a necessary evil or an afterthought. If implementation goes over budget, cutting training is one way to contain costs. However, it’s a really bad one, because it will detrimentally affect your return on investment for the CRM application and, ultimately, lead to adoption battles within the business.

Continuing CRM Education

While training the rank and file in the use of CRM is important, there’s a more pressing training issue. CRM managers are not getting the training they need — it’s not often offered, and it’s not often solicited. As their businesses’ needs change, and as CRM applications evolve and become more capable, they need to evolve with them. However, that requires an admission that they don’t know something, and few people succeed within an organization by proclaiming their ignorance.

That means it’s important for resellers — and, particularly, CRM vendors — to offer continuing education for their users, particularly for the people administering the applications in the field. These people are often also the decision makers about CRM replacement, so it pays to build relationships with them, especially in the era of on-demand CRM. Retention is the key to revenue, so vendors should view this effort as an investment in their retention efforts.

This should go beyond a quarterly webinar or an on-demand video sequestered somewhere on the vendor’s website. This should be an in-person effort, when possible — especially with larger CRM customers.

Granted, many CRM users may not wish to make the time commitment to continued education; time away from their core “jobs” is often cited as a reason for avoiding training. Still, vendors should be able to articulate in a compelling way how knowing your CRM well makes you a more effective CRM user. Who can argue with that?

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

1 Comment

  • Hang on!

    You’re telling people to make their CRM systems more complex by adding features that up to now, they survived quite happily without.

    The #1 reason that CRM systems fail is because the users find them too complicated.

    We advise our customers to spring clean their CRM systems every year and REMOVE unwanted features, fields etc.

    Otherwise their CRM system will become bloated and front line staff will stop using them.

    John Paterson

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