The Easiest Path to CRM Failure

One of the pitches sales reps selling CRM make the mistake of dropping into conversations is that it’s easy to use. “Users can practically train themselves, it’s so intuitive! Just start clicking! And did we tell you — we just introduced a new UI to improve the UX!”

It’s a line of discussion that really does CRM a disservice. Yes, today’s applications are easier to use than their predecessors — and they certainly look nicer, too, in most cases. Still, they’re packed with more features than ever before — features that users may never realize are there without formal training.

Saying CRM is drop-dead easy to use is a dangerous thing to do for an assortment of reasons that go well beyond dishonesty. Mischaracterizing CRM’s ease of use sets in motion a chain of events that can jeopardize implementations — and even in working implementations, sow the seeds for unnecessary replacement later.

Cutting Corners Can Be Hazardous

First, let’s get this out of the way: Ease of use is a good thing. So is a great user experience. Neither of these attributes renders a CRM application “self-teaching,” though. They enhance the usability of the application and are ways to ensure that adoption is high.

Often, especially when budgets are tight, training is one of the line items in the scope pf work that is crossed out to save a few dollars. Why spend the bread if the CRM application is that easy to use, right? Well, wrong.

Ease of use does not mean users will pick up on every aspect of the application on their own — especially in an era of SaaS CRM, in which every time a CRM user logs in, new features and functionality may have been added.

CRM is becoming increasingly complex — not simpler — so minimizing training is an especially hazardous way to cut corners.

How hazardous? Hazardous enough to imperil your entire CRM deployment. Poor training leads to poor adoption, and if you know anything about CRM, you know that failure of adoption is the No. 1 killer of CRM deployments.

If you want to ensure that no one uses your CRM, turn it loose on them with little understanding of how to use it. If you want to increase the odds of failure, overlook informing your staff about why you’re using it and how it can benefit them. A frustrated group of CRM users is guaranteed to soon be a frustrated group of ex-CRM users.

Misunderstood and Underused

CRM is introduced for a reason — usually, to improve sales productivity or boost marketing effectiveness. How much of a productivity boost will you get from a CRM application that no one in your group is using? Even if your team is using it, despite their frustrations, how much are you losing in ROI because they’re not using it to its fullest extent?

Poorly trained CRM users have another dangerous impact on your CRM investment. Over time, their knowledge of what their application can do atrophies without refresher training. Their assumption is that the application does the things they need to do, but they have little visibility or regard for the additional functionality in the application.

So, when a manager wants a new report or a new type of data to be collected, the users may tell the manager that the application can’t do it — even though it does have that functionality. If the manager is not familiar with the application, the result is often a search for a CRM replacement. Nothing is as damaging to ROI as implementing a needless replacement for a CRM application. Further, if the lesson about training hasn’t been learned, the cycle will repeat itself.

See It Through

The other danger in the assertion that CRM is easy is that it causes companies, especially first-time users, to underestimate the task of getting data ready for CRM. Cleansing, formatting and prepping data is a serious task — one that can take vendor’s optimistic timelines and double or triple them in an instant.

Here’s the painful reality: CRM is tough. It’s supposed to be: It offers your company a significant competitive advantage. However, to realize that advantage, you must get your CRM system to match your processes, your customers, and the way you approach the market.

Those are things that are unique to your company and take time to understand and build into your CRM system. If you’re going to take the time to do those things, don’t then scrimp on the training that comes toward the end of the process. Saving a few dollars in that way could mean your CRM investment ends up unraveling in the end.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is content marketing manager for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years, focusing on 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.

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