6 Ways to Improve User Adoption When Deploying a New CRM

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Ken Quigley has been an Act! Certified Consultant since 2007 and an IT professional since 1994. As one of Act!'s top performing partners, Ken is also an Act! Premier Trainer and a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. You can find more about Ken and his team at www.keystroke.ca.

Contrary to what business owners may wish, employees do not typically embrace change. An inefficient system that they’re familiar with is often preferred over an unfamiliar efficient one. It may not make sense, but when employees feel threatened or insecure, their objections are not always reasonable or easy to detect. In fact, covert resistance from the frontline is often a much greater threat to a CRM rollout than overt objections, because business owners are typically slower to react to them. Covert or passive aggressive resistance can come in the form of complaints about technical glitches, support response times, or how the program is counter intuitive and difficult to learn - and because these complaints appear reasonable on the surface, other employees feeling the same are likely to echo them, until resistance seems company wide.

Don’t despair.

This human behavior is as easy to predict as it is to overcome if you’re prepared and take into account the following six suggestions. These simple suggestions can help increase user adoption of a new CRM program, and blunt the size and impact of front-line resistance – passive or otherwise. 

1.  Leading by Example

Expect employees to test is your commitment to the change, and the first way they’ll do that is to look for whether you intend to use the software yourself. Like it or not, employers lead by example, so don’t expect their commitment to the deployment to exceed your own. Any deployment can expect complaints about technical issues and how much better things were before, and the best way to silence that resistance is to demonstrate you’re willing to overcome them yourself.

2.  User Authoring

A top down implementation of anything is folly. If the front-line users do not feel they’ve played some role in authoring the solution they’re being asked to implement, push back will occur. Solicit their input on the priorities, design, and content of the CRM solution, but be sure to exclude their input on which product is to be selected. As the business owner, you may wish to make decisions based on price, existing network structure, or in-house product expertise that would not weigh on their choices.

If the users see their suggestions implemented into whatever CRM product you choose, it is less likely they’ll resist incorporating it into their workflow.

3.  Safeguard their data

A new deployment often involves populating the database with accounting data, as well as shared lead sources and prospects. In a commission based environment, do not presume salespeople will freely share the sources of their income, so have a plan to protect their interests, and include them in that plan. Discuss with your CRM consultant ways to secure each person’s data at the outset, as well as means to safeguard access to any future data they input.

No savvy sales person will input data that can be poached by others, and this fear can lead to disuse of the CRM product.

4.  Metrics

After implementation, be sure to incorporate a reliable, fast, and accurate reporting system. The first lesson the front-line users must learn is that their work performance will be judged by what they contribute to the CRM. Too often older employees resist learning new programs because they’ve succeeded long enough without them. The "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality may sound compelling to the people selling it, but it fails to take into account two critical factors:

  • Such historical knowledge does not generalize well to new employees, and employers are vulnerable when too much vital business expertise resides exclusively in the minds of older employees.
  • All employees go through slumps. In the absence of empirical data, employers are left to conclude that these slumps are due to reduced effort on the part of the sales people. If the sales people remain diligent in their record keeping and accountable for their time, owners will know to attribute downward trends to other factors.

If employees are to be genuinely accountable to the company and its’ customers, their efforts must be measurable and documented. Define the standards of record keeping for all staff, and hold them to that standard with consistent reporting and rewards.

5.  Efficiency

Employees must be able to see the efficiency in the CRM implementation for them to buy in. Don’t rely on obedience. If the CRM simply creates more keyboard clicks without saving time or energy, employees will feel like they’re being asked to jump through hoops, and react accordingly.

6.  Training

Employees will not ask for help, nor will they draw attention to themselves if they don’t know how to use the CRM software. In the absence of proper, formal training, front-line staff will blame the software and pounce on any technical difficulty to justify their resistance to its use. Be prepared for this and provide access to Computer Based Training (online videos or featured tours) and formal instructor led training. Training should not be deployed as a one-and-done course, but rather introduced in stages.

Introductory training at the beginning followed up a month later with intermediate training will allow the staff to compile their own questions, and to prepare for the next level of instruction. Employers that schedule full-day training can expect their staff to quietly shut down after the first few hours, quickly forgetting what they did learn. Breaking the training up into more digestible chunks will increase the uptake.

We even suggest that the team appoint a designated person to compile questions from the others during the first month of deployment, and that person can then liaise with their consultant to get the questions answered in bunches, rather the dripping in from numerous sources. The latter method is not only a wasteful and expensive use of the consultant’s time, but answers tend to be limited to those that asked them, rather than distributed to the others.


Resistance to change from the frontline is often less about commitment to their work than it is about insecurity, so it should be treated accordingly. Don't react to it negatively. Plan for this predictable human behavior by leading by example, incorporating their feedback, rewarding program use, make it worth switching to and provide the training necessary to ensure their success.