CRM failure rates across ALL vendors are still high – very high. The reason for CRM failure generally has one key element: user – i.e.: individual – adoption is low. If adoption is low, a CRM will be a failure, regardless of its feature set, cost, choice of location (cloud or otherwise) or the commitment of management. Many CRM systems will point to “change management” as the solution. Change Management is designed to “significantly reshape a company or organization”. So by relying on that for CRM we are effectively saying “change your business to use our software”. This is of course ridiculous. And that is where the customer perspective comes in and the “ah ha” moments I have been having with clients: successful CRM adoption is all about the individuals that will use it.

By Phil Winters – Customer Strategy Expert


What’s in it for me?

The dream of any organization using a CRM is to have each individual proactively and enthusiastically using the CRM system for their work. Let’s take a look at the individuals that make decisions about whether they are going to use the CRM in their work or not.

Anyone that is supposed to use a CRM is just like our customer – they are individuals with a decision process (“will I use the CRM or won’t I”) and their personal needs that must be addressed. Those needs will not always be in alignment of the management or company needs used to justify a CRM. Typical needs that are NOT individual include:

  • Automate processes that were done manually or not at all for the good of the company
  • Capturing more data so that we better understand the customer for the good of the company
  • Tracking what a person does with their time so that we can optimize and improve for the good of the company
  • Monitoring the state of leads, opportunities, cases, etc. so that we can better predict conversion, closed sales, happy customers, etc. for the good of the company

While these “needs” may be important for the organization or for the manager, they have nothing to do with the individual who is in some way in daily contact with other individuals that they are selling to.

Let’s take a sales person. They want to overachieve their goals and reach a maximum commission – this is what you could call the basic utilitarian need of a sales person. And in many cases, organizations try to manage and encourage CRM adoption by manipulating this need. Proper compliance by the individual (entering data correctly and timely, using the system as documented, etc.) means that commissions will be maximized (a positive reinforcement technique). Failure to comply and use the CRM system as defined could result in lower commissions. Many experts will suggest some combination of carrot and stick to increase user adoption.

But the statistics prove that it doesn’t work, nor will it ever work. And the reason is that there are many OTHER needs that any individual has as they go through trying to do their day to day work to hit their goals. A person wants to do their job and be able to go home at night, not having to spend extra time hitting their goals. They want it to be as easy and repeatable as possible. They want to be able to focus on what they are good at (in the case of a sales person, that is in the actual meetings with the customer “selling” them) and not on all those activities that distract (such as qualifying leads, reentering data, following up on calls, etc.). They want to know exactly where they are with each of their opportunities and ideally they should know – and have scheduled – the exact next action without having to do a lot of work to set that up.

In addition, they want to be recognized and admired by their peers as well as their managers as being really good at the job. And most importantly: they want to not only “sell” but they want to be liked and trusted by the customers they work with. Although this example is about sales, we could define the needs of marketing, support, customer care and all the other myriad users who could use the CRM.

So when a new CRM system comes where there is so much that is “new”, how many of the individuals needs are actually met? If you are not careful, almost none. It simply becomes more work and is part of that distraction that keeps them from doing what THEY think of as important. Fundamentally it is because we don’t answer the question “what is in it for me – personally”. And in so doing, we doom our fancy cloud based shiny new CRM to disaster.

But there is another approach – use the same visually journey mapping we use to show the perspective of our CUSTOMERS with our staff to help them satisfy THEIR needs to better run their jobs.

A Picture is worth a 1000 words

The fundamental failure of adoption has to do with fields shown on the CRM. Too many damned fields on the screen. Name, opportunity status, % probability, amount, next step – how does a large list of those things help me to know exactly where I am with all my contacts? How does that help me with my day to day job? The answer: it doesn’t. But fundamentally all legacy CRM systems work that way.

Of course, behind that list is hopefully a well-defined process either that is based on a best practice or at least that allows an individual to set up and walk through the process the way they consistently want to (both are valid approaches and which is “right” has a lot to do with company sales culture). But from the lists themselves, you can’t see this. And generally, to CREATE that list you have to do quite a bit of manual entry and administrative tasks to even GET those lists. And those “lists” are what management uses to measure success of the CRM, which again may help THEM but does not help the individual. All of course do nothing to help you get your job done or satisfy your needs.

And this is the fundamental problem of all legacy CRM implementations: it does not work the way people work. When I talk to staff in all types of functions, they always reach for a piece of paper and quickly sketch out in a small diagram what they think would help them do their jobs better. It is a picture, generally a process and until now with the Customer Journey Map there was no way for a CRM to replicate this fundamental way human thinks about their job – as a series of steps.

But we now have the way to change that. Use the CRM system to VISUALLY match the way that they work. And set up that visual so that a person can instantly see exactly where a customer is in the logical sequence of steps that need to occur and that each step automatically defines what has to happen? Then you get adoption, because now it matches the way people see, think and work – and the effect is amazing because people now USE the system. And that is what we are doing with the Customer Journey Map – visualizing people’s day to day jobs to help them be more efficient.

Although I am the “take the customer’s perspective” guy, I now realize the way to sell lots of seats for customer journey is to create small visual processes for each type of worker in an organization. These may be synced together – or not. These may be for a particular job function or department or they may be defined in some other way – such as 50 small journeys to identify, guide and efficiently solve the top customer support requests that come in.

I now always start small with no more than 4 or 5 steps with those few “most important” tasks for each one. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) gets the excitement. Usually I can build it quickly based on what the customer pulls out of the drawer. Sometimes I need to use an existing “best practice” to start the conversation – but that is exactly what it is to do. Start the conversation.

I find I can define these small extremely useful customer journey maps very quickly and I do NOT need the entire company to buy in before we start seeing benefits.

So from my perspective? The Customer Journey Map is not an alternative way to talk about CRM and automating processes, it is the ONLY way because it is practical, visual and designed from day one for the individual.

Next up on my list to share?

How to quickly qualify whether you should lead with a “Customer Journey Workshop” engagement or a tactical process visualization within one function!


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