Usability is Key to Solving the Challenge of CRM Adoption

By: Partner | 1.20.14

Today's post launches our new partner blog series, featuring content directly from our premier solution partners. This guest post comes to us from Jason Hubbard of Cirrus Insight, an app that integrates Salesforce with Gmail and Google Apps. Take it away, Jason!

When you make the move from spreadsheets, pad and paper, your own memory, or whatever it is you’ve been using to manage your customer base to a CRM platform like Salesforce, the changes to your business can be dramatic. Suddenly all of your information is organized and stored in a central location. You can access and update your records from anywhere. Your entire team can finally read from the same page and work as a cohesive whole. Or at least that’s what you hope will happen.

Reality Sinks In

After you’ve pulled the trigger and settle in to start using your new CRM you realize it’s not as sexy and glamorous as you had envisioned. It begins to set in that what you really have is a big complex database.

The central challenge becomes, how do you get your team to use this fantastic tool when, to them, it represents mind-numbing data entry? Making things even more challenging is the fact that nonprofits generally suffer from limited resources in terms of time, money, and manpower. Getting your team up to speed and using a tool like a CRM is challenging for any organization but particularly so for nonprofits.

This is why adoption is the primary hurdle to CRM deployments and why 74% of organizations report poor CRM adoption. Even worse is the fact that poor CRM adoption quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Without valuable, up-to-date data in your CRM there is no reason to look up records in it and no incentive to take the time to update information.

Solving the Adoption Riddle

There are volumes written on how to drive adoption of CRM platforms. Many focus on using carrots and sticks to incentivize utilization. More recently, companies have begun employing innovative approaches to encouraging adoption such as gamification like our friends at LevelEleven have done.

However, the problem with these approaches is that you’re focusing on ways to prod salespeople into doing something they really don’t want to do, namely interrupt their workflow, stop what they’re doing, go into the CRM, and manually update records. You can goad users into working with the CRM through rewards or punishments but it will be done grudgingly at best.

Instead of trying to force people to do something they don’t want to do you can instead focus on what makes your users so reluctant to use your CRM in the first place. For most users the barrier lies in the disjoint between their CRM and where they do most of their work and the need to interrupt workflows.

Meeting Your Users Where They Are

If I’m correct that it is the interruption of their workflow that is the primary challenge to driving CRM adoption, then armed with this knowledge what can you do? The answer is to bring your CRM to your users and knock down the barriers between where they’re working and your CRM. Since most of us live the majority of our day in our inboxes and this is where the bulk of our customer interaction occurs then bringing your CRM into the inbox is a powerful way of achieving this goal.

The belief that you need to meet your users where they live is why we built Cirrus Insight. Our goal has been to create a seamless integration between Gmail and Salesforce. I’m happy to say we seem to be doing a pretty good job of achieving our goal. Many of our customers report that they rarely if ever actually go into Salesforce any more. For all intents and purposes we have truly brought Salesforce into the inbox for these users. They create and update records right from Gmail as they open emails and respond to customers.

Even better, they’re equipped with powerful contextual information about these customers as they interact with them so the value of having all of that data in Salesforce is immediately available and constantly reinforced. Suddenly the barriers to adoption have been lowered to the point of being negligible while simultaneously dramatically increasing the value of your CRM by unlocking the data stored in it and automatically displaying it when it’s most needed.

The Results Speak for Themselves

What our users report following the deployment of Cirrus Insight has been remarkable. On average our users have seen more than a 5X increase in Salesforce adoption and usage following the integration of their CRM and email platforms. Even more, by streamlining workflows and eliminating the need to leave your inbox, open your CRM, look up the pertinent record, create or update it, and then move back to what you were doing the user is able to free up more than an extra hour a day.

Those are just the easily measurable results our users have been able to report. What is harder to quantify but no less important are the soft benefits of having your donor information immediately at hand. How many donations were secured quicker (or at all) due to the information that was automatically displayed as you’re interacting with a donor? It’s hard to say which donations would not have otherwise been secured or would have taken more time and effort to get there but that doesn’t make this kind of intelligence any less valuable.

So you can see, meeting users where they are and building your CRM strategy accordingly will go a long way towards improving user adoption. 

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