Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Invisible Precipice - User-Created Solutions to Combat Fear of Performance Measures in CRM

As I delve even further into my research, I am discovering yet more implications about the effect "The CRM Dilemma" may have on CRM users. There are two important things to remember whenever CRM users feel threatened by what they are asked to enter into CRM:
  1. One or more of them will figure out a way to avoid the threat
  2. The threat, and the user-created solution, will be shared amongst users, and any complicit managers
  3. For every accountability measure you come up with to combat user-created solutions, users will create several more

Indicators of these user-created solutions can be extremely subtle:

  • A pad of writing paper on every desk in a call center.
  • Increased usage of Gmail or Yahoo Mail by employees
  • A decrease in VPN usage by sales people

The fine line between users viewing CRM as a "Great tool", and CRM as "A threat that must be eliminated."

Every user-created solution to combat "The CRM Dilemma", is a slippery slope to total CRM failure within that user group. Here are some examples from an actual CRM implementation, to illustrate the point.

1) Call Center CRM

Call Center CRM viewed as a great tool by users (Spoken)

  • Recording customer feedback
  • Providing easy access to customer data
  • CRM linkage to phone system for customer information pop-ups

Call center CRM viewed as a threat by users:

  • Time-stamped input in CRM, may or is used in employee or departmental performance measures

Call center - User-created solutions to combat the threat:

  • Pads of paper may be used to record information prior to entry into CRM. There will be many excuses given as to why this "provides better service to customers".
  • By limiting "Real Time" usage of CRM, users negate any value in time-stamped data, so the threat is eliminated.

2) Call Center Complaint Handling

CRM for Complaint Handling viewed as a great tool by users:

  • Intuitive solutions are provided based on user input
  • Easy access to solution documentation is provided
  • User is able to choose from a list of approved solutions provided to them in CRM.

CRM for Complaint Handling viewed as a threat by users:

  • Users are required to create and document their own solutions
  • User solutions may be deemed as right or wrong
  • Complaints that come in through the web or email will be particularly challenging if a user-created solution, must be provided to the customer, and the solution provided may be right or wrong.

Complaint handling - User-created solutions to combat the threat:

  • Because solutions will have to be validated before being documented, phoned-in complaints will either be kept outside of CRM (Paper), or delayed while conferring with others
  • Users may avoid responding in writing, choosing instead to phone the customer to avoid documentation. This is done "To provide better personalized service."

If CRM is not being used "Real Time" for customer complaint handling, it is little more than a costly drain on valuable resources. If there is a pad of paper on the desk, demanding it be removed will not work by the way. Quietly ignore most of what is said in the excuse category as well:

  • Ignore the excuses about system speed, when you know the page-load time is two seconds.
  • Ignore that if the system goes down during entry, the information will lost. Yes, it did happen a few times during the initial roll out!
  • Ignore that crap about the customer refusing to provide their name when they call in a complaint
  • Ignore the calls for more training after the deskside trainer has spent months working with users

You will not succeed in CRM, unless you understand the truth that comes out by the water cooler, in the breakroom, and at the bar after work on a Friday.

3) Linking customer emails to the customer record in CRM

Customer - linked emails viewed as a great tool by users:

  • Seamless integration within outlook
  • The user chooses which emails are "important enough" to be linked to the customer
  • Confidential emails are linked, but with limited viewing by other employees

Customer - linked emails viewed as a threat by users:

  • All customer emails are linked to the customer record
  • Negative emails regarding employees, may be recorded in the customer record, with access by all

User-created solutions to combat the threat:

  • Employees may use secondary email (Gmail) to avoid linking all their customer communications to the customer record
  • Company web mail client may see increased usage if it is not linked to CRM

These are just a few examples of how user perception is affected by the smallest details. Make no mistake, users will evaluate every angle of how their employer can turn any piece of data into a performance measure. Time-stamping of data entry will likely only be deemed a threat to users, if the corporate culture or management of a company lends to using such data. In this case, a policy (Before implementation) of never using TS data in performance measures, would ease user fears.

Unfortunately, policies and statements will not combat "The CRM Dilemma," when any reasonable person must assume that user- provided data in CRM, must at some time be used in performance measures.

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