Over a decade ago, when CRM was a relatively new technology, certain systems were notorious for being difficult to use — particularly for salespeople.
CRM implementations suffered from low adoption rates, and many ultimately failed. This led to a big push toward application “ease of use.” Product managers began to focus on usability as much as they focused on functionality.
Today, most of the top CRM systems on the market can legitimately claim, “our system is easy to use”. Contemporary CRM systems all have aesthetically designed user interfaces with design elements such as colorful icons and attractive, gradient coloring. The major CRM systems all demo very well in terms of navigability.
However, CRM ease of use is very different from CRM adoptability. Just because a product’s vendor can claim ease of use, it does not mean their product will experience the same, long term levels of user adoption of other “easy to use” CRM systems.
There are two main measures of CRM user adoption. The first is the percentage of people who continue to use CRM — to any degree — in the long run. Some salespeople give up on CRM altogether. The second is how extensively users who do use the application to some degree, actually use it.
Adoptability is ultimately a much bigger factor for overall CRM success than usability. Here are some of the key adoption factors.
Does the CRM have a familiar feel or vibe to the user? A twenty-something user grew up with a different set of technologies than a forty-something user. Given the context of which technologies the biggest group of users grew up with, will the overall degree of adoption be higher or lower with one system versus another?
Is the CRM system accessible from any device or browser that a salesperson uses? For a given user, degree of adoption may correlate highly to the availability of the application on the multiple platforms and devices that the user interfaces with, which can vary depending on the time of day, day of the week or physical location.
Since so much of a salesperson’s job can revolve around a CRM system, their enjoyment level of a CRM system is an important part of their overall job satisfaction. An employee’s job enjoyment level can, of course affect the longevity of an employee’s tenure with an organization. Does the CRM application have all the elements that cause users to love it, rather than just like it or tolerate it?
Good salespeople are the best judges of their own productivity. They don’t wait for a manager to tell them whether or not they are being productive. If they feel the CRM system impacts their productivity positively or negatively, this will, of course, influence their adoption level.
Good salespeople are also their own biggest critics of their level of sales success. If a salesperson feels that a CRM system is putting more money into their pocket, then their adoption will be commensurately higher. If the system is user-friendly, but not adding to the ultimate gauge of value – closed business – then the adoption rate will suffer.
Potential Adoption Level as a CRM Buying Criteria
Given these factors, it makes sense to extend a CRM evaluation well beyond how graphically well-designed and easy to use a CRM system appears to be. The potential long-term CRM user adoption level is a much more important criteria to focus on. Higher long term adoption means a higher return on your organization’s CRM investment.