Monday, September 24, 2012

Overcoming critical barriers to CRM adoption - Part #3: "How Will I Benefit?"

This blog series summarise the three barriers identified in a recent “High Impact CRM” blog post, and provides ways businesses can overcome them. You can read the full blog post here.

Part #3: “How will I benefit?”
“If employees feel that using the software is not helping them or consider it as a policing tool, they will be reluctant to use it.”

In order to give your business the best chance of success with regards to user adoption employees should be involved in the CRM planning and implementation right from the beginning. One of the best ways you can do this is by asking your employees to identify features and processes that would make their life easier. Remember it is these people that will be responsible for entering and maintaining the integrity of the data and these suggestions, in conjunction with the key objectives, should become the basis for evaluating your CRM options.

Once the business has selected the CRM it is important that you inform your employees on why the decision was made and what suggestions and business processes can (and will) be implemented as a result. It is useful to have these documented in a Policies and Procedures Manual which can be used in the future to re-educate existing staff, and also as a resource for new employees.

During the implementation phase businesses also need to get employees familiar with the idea that they will have to do things differently, by reinforcing the value that these new processes will bring to the organisation. These values should also be reinforced during training.

Listening and responding to your employees in this way will make them feel valued, and will give them a more positive attitude towards change which should ultimately increase end user adoption. However it is important to remember that this is a continuous process and businesses must make an effort to constantly monitor and evaluate the value that the CRM is bringing to the organisation. This feedback will enable you to refine your business processes and provide additional education and training to staff.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Making Sage-ACT! better , little by little

Helping to retain ACT! as the CRM of choice by customers over the years has been a design focus on ease of use and logical simplicity. Moving about the ACT! views in daily use is a far better experience  than many of the competing and often more expensive CRM products. You will often hear people comment, “ ACT! does what you expect it to do”.  That quality isn’t to be underestimated in maintaining ACT! user loyalty in a competitive world of increasing CRM choices.

The smooth continuity of navigation for instance, is typically illustrated by the back and forward buttons accessed from the toolbar. They readily allow moving back and forward through previous views and look-ups in ACT! avoiding the need to ‘peck-n-hunt’ through cascading menus trying to re-create a recent view or look-up. You do miss the ease of use that provides when you try other CRM software that lacks that feature. 

However there are more task specific functions that aren’t quite within reach of ACT!’s standard toolkit. These operations require a less direct approach or alternative work-around to complete and can be a source of frustration with users, in that they aren’t more easily performed.

Xact Software as an ACT! add-on developer focuses on building applications for ACT! that improve workflow, connecting ACT! to other office software such as accounting or providing charting tools that allow wider reach for ACT! so it becomes an integral part of office process.  Using ACT! every day in our own business, we are alert to those minor irritations that sometimes we feel could be handled a little better than they are. So from time to time in assisting the ACT! community, Xact Software provides free utilities through our site  to help overcome those little ‘I wish I could do this in ACT!’ moments that users experience.

For September we have released the following free ACT! addons at :
  1. Bulk Opportunity Status Update – a plugin that is accessible from the Tools menu can be applied to a lookup of ACT! opportunities saving the need to update opportunity status one at a time.
  2. Activity ID/Status – Using the ACT! activity Location field, this plugin displays the data from the Contact  ID/Status field in the Task List for easy identification of important customers or conditions
  3. Edit Append – complements the bulk update capability for ACT! fields, so now you can add data to an existing field without removing the current data. Readily accessible from the ACT! Edit menu.


Watch out for more  free utilities just  follow us on Twitter

Friday, September 14, 2012

Overcoming critical barriers to CRM adoption - Part #2: Training

This blog series summarise the three barriers identified in a recent “High Impact CRM” blog post, and provides ways businesses can overcome them. You can read the full blog post here.

Part #2: Training
“Effective CRM training is crucial to get users on board”

User adoption is extremely important for businesses that are investing in a CRM system, particularly if they are investing for the first time. Typically, your staff will be used to doing things a certain way and the prospect of learning a foreign system can be quite daunting for them. As such it is important to get end users involved so that they understand why the CRM system is in place and how it will benefit everyone. When users fully accept a new system businesses will find that they are more motivated to use it.

One of the best ways to get end users involved is via training. Below is a brief analysis on the main types of training businesses use:

  1. Do it Yourself (DIY)
    This is the option that many small businesses take, particularly if price is an issue. In most cases the business would have had a one-on-one demo with the vendor and a demo trial of their own to get familiar with the product which would have provided an overview of the basic features. In addition to this businesses may also choose to refer to help menus, online forums, demonstration videos and user manuals which are available for most of the popular CRM solutions.

    Having a DIY approach to training might be ok if the business has a small number of users, say 1-3, however it can be time consuming sifting through the resources to find the information you are looking for and and the end of the day you don’t know what you don’t know. Businesses that take this approach are less likely to be using their CRM to its full capabilities: staff are likely to be less motivated to use the system and might not be using it in a way that is beneficial to the business (e.g. not recording activities, or storing information in the wrong place). Unfortunately the impact of this is not usually experienced until much later, if at all.

  2. Buy the Book
    Some CRM systems have a variety of training resources available for purchase (such as the Quick Study Guide for Sage ACT!). These resources typically provide a complete overview of the CRM and puts all of the information in one place making it easier to access and search for the information, although this can still be quite time consuming and still may not motivate your staff to use the system to its full capabilities.

    In addition, one of the key downsides of both the DIY and Buy the book approaches is that they only focus on the “how do I?” and do not address is the “why should I?”. Often there will be many different ways to perform the same task and businesses may not always be aware of which one will benefit them the most. This is why vendor training is the most effective.

  3. Vendor Training
    Training by a vendor that is an expert in the CRM system you have implemented is one of the best ways to ensure end user adoption and is necessary if the business has significantly customized the database and/or has unique business processes or business rules that must be followed.

    Effective training goes beyond the simple “how do I do this?” approach and instead focuses on educating your staff on the company goals and training them on the procedures to meet those goals. Although this is something that someone internal to the organisation could do, having a vendor do this provides a neutral “hands on” environment where staff are more comfortable engaging and asking questions. Businesses can also benefit from the vendors experience and can be confident that they will be educated on the best way to do things, which may differ from what is found in help forums or publications.

    This method of training, when done immediately after implementation, is also useful to ensure that your staff get into good habits from day one.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Overcoming critical barriers to CRM adoption - Part 1: Data Accuracy

This blog series summarise the three barriers identified in a recent “High Impact CRM” blog post, and provides ways businesses can overcome them. You can read the full blog post here.

Part #1: Data Accuracy
“Users often resist using a CRM solution if they feel that the data provided is riddled with errors or incomplete... Management needs to facilitate data cleansing and also integration with other core systems that ensure users get accurate and up-to-date data which they can put to action.”

In order to ensure that data in the CRM is accurate and up-to-date businesses must first ensure that any existing data is cleansed, and that there are processes and business rules in place to ensure that the data remains so.

Most popular CRMs should have built-in and/or third party tools that can help with the data cleansing process. They may also have features and settings that enable you to have some control over the quantity and quality of the data that is entered into the database, for example Sage ACT! has a duplicate checker, and also enables businesses to set up compulsory fields and field rules. Businesses can also create dynamic groups that identify contacts with incorrect or missing information.

One thing that businesses must be conscious of however, is the number of rules and processes that are in place as the quality of information you can extract out of the database will only be as good as the quality of information that is being entered. If a business has too many compulsory fields salespeople may be tempted to enter random information or might be reluctant to enter data at all. At Xact Software the compulsory fields we use are ID/Status, City and Country.

In addition to data cleansing the blog also suggests integrating with other core systems. One of the most common systems that is integrated with CRM is accounting. A good integration will ensure that basic contact data only needs to be entered once in any of the systems and the other will be updated. This will not only ensure the data in both systems is accurate and up to date but will reduce human error and double entry of data, and give sales staff a more holistic view of the customer.

Lastly, for larger organisations it might be worthwhile appointing a database manager who would have full access to all the features in the database, be conversant in the business processes and rules, and well trained to use the database to its full advantage. This person would be responsible for overseeing the quality of the data (i.e. running regular duplicate checks) and re-educating staff when required.