CRM Adoption: How to Boost End-User Adoption

Post summary:

  • Choose a CRM ambassador
  • Invest in training employees
  • Reward users who adopt quickly

One of the things you may hear about CRM projects is how often they fail.

In a recent survey, US-based Merkle Group Inc. estimated that 63% of projects in large organizations fail.

That is a very high number and certainly one that can make you consider if CRM can actually be the success you want it to be.

However, the same survey also showed that the organizations who had successfully implemented CRM also saw clear benefits and real business value.

So how do you make sure that you also get to reap the benefits and avoid project failure?

Research has shown that there are a number of reasons for ill-fated CRM projects:

  • Lack of adoption among users and few consequences for not using the CRM software once it was implemented
  • Lack of clear ownership of project and customer insights
  • Lack of management bandwidth and executive sponsorship
  • CRM not being an IT priority compared to other areas

According to a large survey conducted by Forrester Research, “people” issues are the biggest challenge to a successful CRM implementation. These “people” issues fall into three distinct categories, where slow CRM end-user adoption is by far the most distinct challenge, as shown in the chart below):

Let’s face it. No one likes change.

And when you introduce a CRM system which keeps track of all information, people start to think that you’re trying to keep tabs on them. It’s human nature that makes end users resistant to change and transition to a new or updated CRM.

How to Increase CRM Adoption Rates

We have found that the best way for organizations to “boost” and then “sustain” high CRM end-user adoption is to develop and implement a comprehensive user adoption strategy. Many CRM failures occur when organizations only focus on the “on-time” and “on-budget” delivery of the technology, but neglect the necessary actions to drive and maintain user adoption over the life of the system.

It is important to recognize that CRM end-user adoption is all about changing user behaviors, it is not about technology. The skills and methods you use to change behavior are very different than those required to build and deliver effective CRM systems. This means that the people who lead and manage your CRM implementation may not be (and probably are not) the right people to lead the user adoption program.

Here are some (though not all) key elements of a CRM end-user adoption program:

1. Involve users from the start

As we mentioned above, people resist change. It is a common instinct in the human nature. Reasons can be fear of the unknown, of more work, of unwanted changes in daily tasks. If you can make the unknown known, then it takes out all the uncertainty. So, involve the end-users who will use the system. Clearly demonstrate to those involved how the new system will benefit them. Ask for user feedback. Be sure to listen to the feedback, and incorporate suggestions when appropriate.

Remember, you purchased the CRM for the users, and therefore it’s important to consider their opinions. By doing all of this, you can reduce uncertainty, clarify misunderstandings and promote support for the decisions made.

2. Choose a CRM ambassador

Appoint a person in your company who is an ambassador for CRM. This person can be responsible for creating routines and guidelines, ensure data quality, and follow up users if they have questions or are doing something wrong. When needed this person can facilitate a work group to come up with best practices, and document the results. This person needs to be an expert in the system, and have a certain authority in the company to be able to carry out the CRM initiative. The CRM administrator is a good choice for this role.

3. Create a routine guide

A CRM routine guide outlines what kind of information the users should capture in the CRM system, how, and who is responsible. It also reinforces the actions and behavior you want your end-users to take in order to achieve business goals.

Be sure to update this routine guide continuously to reflect changes, either in the CRM due to upgrades, or new routines you have decided on. The guide should also be easily accessible for the users. A few good places to keep it could be on your intranet, in a central project in your CRM, or in a shared drive.

4. Make sure the system is easy to use

The CRM should make life easier for the users, not harder. Therefore, the CRM administrator in your company should tailor the solution to reflect the way your users work and not the other way around. Users hate interfaces cluttered with irrelevant information, so leave only those choices your team will need today. You can add more later, if needed.

5. Train your employees

Set aside time for training your employees. You might even want to create specific training for the various business processes. For example, a marketing professional should learn how to register and follow up leads, whereas a sales person needs to know how to create a sale and follow a set sales process.

Administrators should be able to answer user questions, and should receive training that is more extensive. Administrators should also learn to configure the solution and other administrator-related tasks.

Keep in mind that a CRM system holds many features, and learning them all in one go can be hard. Therefore, an on-going process with more frequent and shorter sessions is better than one long training session. Offer repeated training as time passes; when the basics are in place and well known, move on to more advanced features and processes.

6. Reward users

Review how your employees have used the CRM system and think about rewarding those who use it well. The reward system is a great way to get everyone moving in the same direction.

For example, you could look at how many outbound sales calls a person has registered in the system, how many leads he or she has converted into a sale, and how accurate their data entry is. Then you could reward the best ones, and make known to others what they did to achieve this reward.


Implementing an effective CRM adoption program is not easy and it does take time and resources.

But, with a commonly reported CRM failure rate near 63%, it is clear that organizations need to take action to protect their CRM investments. By following some of the tried and true best practices above, we are sure that you will come far.

Do you have any tips on how to increase CRM end-user adoption? Contact us!

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