How Do You Get Users to Adopt CRM?

After more than 80 acquisitions in ten years, the sales staff at The Bank of New York Company Inc.—a commercial bank with $93 billion in assets in 33 countries—couldn’t consistently track who had spoken to which customer about what. With more than ten separate client databases and tracking systems, the salespeople who dealt with a certain client “may not have known about opportunities to do cross-selling, or found out about them after the fact,” says Robert Joyce, managing director of corporate relationship management.

To coordinate sales and to cross-sell, an important goal of the acquisitions, the bank began to roll out a Siebel CRM system in 2003. For the system to pay off, the bank needed a unified, consistent sales process worldwide. Every client executive (as the bank calls its account managers), country manager, and product sales manager and representative had to use the CRM system to write up their sales calls and to create all their reports. The sales culture has changed, says Joyce, “and it continues to change.”

Like Joyce, 63 percent of respondents to this month’s survey said introducing CRM required a major cultural change in their sales, service or marketing organizations. That’s significant because, as the survey also found, companies are less likely to achieve their return-on-investment goals when CRM projects require major cultural changes. IT executives know that new applications change how people work—hence the need for executive support, user buy-in and training. However, “the end-users of CRM tend to be special animals,” says Barton Goldenberg, president of ISM Inc., a CRM advisory firm in Bethesda, Md. “The big thing is that marketing, sales and customer-service personnel are not like accountants.” And since salespeople work on commission, time lost adjusting to a hard-to-use system is money lost.

“Salesmen are either hunters or gatherers, bringing in business or managing existing accounts. If you can’t help them hit their quotas or manage their customer, they won’t adopt CRM,” says Scott Carcillo, CIO of Sun Chemical Corp., a $3.3 billion manufacturer of inks, coatings and pigments based in Fort Lee, N.J.

How do you get people to use CRM systems, despite the cultural changes they often require? Extensive training and ongoing communication with users are critical, says Goldenberg. Carcillo and Joyce both found it is important for top executives to use the system themselves, and insist reports be based on CRM data. The Bank of New York also bases expense reimbursement and commission payments on CRM data.

But what the half-dozen executives we interviewed emphasized most is getting business users involved at an early stage in the CRM project—as did 55 percent of those respondents who would do their CRM projects differently. “The great need is to get them involved early on. Let them drive the functional requirements, let them buy off on-screen design, navigation, etc.” says Goldenberg. Don’t force the system down their throats; instead, get the system right so that the salespeople will be eager to use it.

Joyce, a sales executive who manages the bank’s CRM project day to day, says CRM team members were careful to involve users throughout the project. The team interviewed client executives and salespeople about what features they required, and involved them in selecting the vendor (each finalist had to provide a mock-up of their system’s look, feel and functions), in developing the pilot systems. CRM steering committees were set up not just in the United States, but also in Europe and Asia. “That went a long way toward making sure we blended many sales cultures into one system that fits all,” says Joyce. The result, he says, is a system that alerts its staff and managers to thousands of cross-selling opportunities each month, and has achieved an “extremely high” adoption rate.

Before he joined Sun Chemical, Carcillo had installed CRM systems at five different companies; for now, like Joyce, he is focusing on sales force automation in his current project. His advice: “Start with keeping the processes simple. Get people using the system, then create demand. Some culture change is embedded in that, but because you are incrementally introducing the system, the culture change almost happens on its own.”

Carcillo got users to participate in joint application development sessions; he also recommends spending a day with sales managers and other users to learn what they do, how they do it and what their perspective is on their work. He’s focused on streamlining the price quote process. With his new system, from E.piphany Inc., it now takes less than a day to come up with a price quote for products; it had taken days or even weeks. “You can imagine how a salesperson’s sales cycle is now more efficient,” says Carcillo.

While it’s still too early to say how that’s affected Sun’s bottom line, a similar reduction in the quote cycle when he worked at General Electric Co. more than doubled the percentage of quotes that resulted in actual business. With benefits like that, the cultural change required can clearly be worth it.

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