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CRM Systems and why we need to train users properly September 7, 2011

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Office.




Microsoft CRM and all of the Office Products are bristling with features and functions that have been designed to make life easier for the average user.

I find that many users of CRM systems do not use them as expected, giving very different results to what management expected when the system was implemented. This is often because the users of the system have had little or no formal training on using the applications.

A culture of non-training, of making do and learning on the job, has inculcated a workforce with very bad habits, culminating in the general attitude that “If I try once, seem to fail, I’ll just give up”. Unfortunately this is often evident right through every level of an organisation. Many users are poor adopters of Outlook functionality, and have even less advanced capability with Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Microsoft CRM being an Integral part of Outlook is best served when users are “power users” of these products to start with.

To become proficient in Office to an expert standard will require considerable training, and this is another cost that many organisations often will not countenance. Many staff applying for jobs will say that they are proficient in Office, however on further investigation one will find out that the knowledge of many is superficial at the most. This is not to say that there are no experts out there, however it is difficult to distinguish the experts from the frauds, and those just making do.

When giving training it is important that everyone starts from the same level of understanding, and this might mean some revision for more advanced users.

Another challenge in adult business education is that many people and especially senior staff will never admit to not understanding something. This is especially so in a group training session where trainers are then oblivious to the actual skill level of the students. Traditional software training courses often do not have serious exams where the student’s knowledge is thoroughly tested. Attendance certificates are issued as opposed to competency certificates.

Microsoft Certification goes a long way to address this imbalance however this is often only undertaken by IT professionals, and certainly not after a few days training.

The “Dummies” range of books are excellent in helping users understand the products in a far better way. We do find that many users only skim through the processes to get the very basic functionality that they think they need to accomplish specific tasks.

It is not the object of this paper to decry the users of Office at whatever level, moreover the intention is to work with this reality and determine training approaches that entrench the culture of learning, and spread a depth of understanding to the users of the system.

It’s a big challenge


On Microsoft Word 2007, there are 205 Buttons on the Menu Ribbon, many of these have drop down boxes with many more options. A conservative estimate would be over 1000 functions.

Microsoft CRM uses the Calendar, Task and E-mail attributes of Outlook extensively and coupled with online and offline capability adds a complexity to Outlook rarely understood by most users in a single training session of limited time.

The same applies to the overall CRM system, there are just too many screens, buttons, menus and links for the average user to comprehend, digest and apply relevance to, at a single sitting. User manuals are generally not read.

The “Too Hard” basket becomes an almost inevitable option for users who are just not on song with the system.

The idea of dumbing the system down and just giving minimal functionality is not necessarily the answer. Focussed training directed at the specific individuals is the only real solution

Therefore if the data is bad and the training is inadequate, the potential for a system that falls into disuse is relatively high.

An Appropriate Analogy

The pilot of a medium sized aircraft working for a small airline gets moved to a larger company and has to fly larger and newer aircraft. All the data that the pilot needs to fly this plane will be provided and will be accurate, and the training he will receive will be more than sufficient for him to be able to do his job. Why is it that we don’t treat all our staff and managers the same way?

Training Solutions

If CRM is used to monitor and manage sales people, it is relatively easy to identify those who are not using the system correctly. It is what you do once you have undertaken this identification that is going to make the difference to the people concerned.

When one investigates the reasons that are generally given for not using a CRM system they typically fall into 2 categories and these are the answers you will be given:

“The data I am looking for is not in the system” and or

“I am not sure how to use it”

So how do we train and what do we need to train?

We need to start with Outlook and commence with obtaining a full understanding about e-mail, Personal Folders, The Outlook Contact Manager, Calendars, Tasks, RSS Feeds and diving deep into the configuration and options, things like Out of Office and rules for example.

What’s so important about this?

Users who understand all of the above are going to be more productive, Task Management alone (The good old To Do List) is a way of getting employees to get through their work. It is a discipline, however once a user understands that he or she can convert an e-mail into a task (By drag and drop) it is less likely that things will be forgotten.

Outlook Contacts should be the first place that a user looks in order to find a phone number, name or address.

Thereafter the training can move to CRM, and the modules that the users are going to use, and finally into Excel for exporting of data and Word for Mail Merging. (It is vital that users understand these two desktop products, especially the concepts of Data Refreshing and using the Mail Merge functionality) if they are not comfortable with these concepts they will just not use those aspects of the system.

Training Approach

If a dedicated Training Room is available this is first prize, where within a test and development environment users can add data, send e-mails to each other and use the system without affecting a live environment, where it might be considered too risky to perform the same functions in a live environment.

If the training is to take place in a live environment, the creation of a range of dummy accounts is required, where the e-mail addresses go to Hotmail or other public mail systems so users can see the results of when mail is sent and received.

The concept of creating “Super Users” should be emphasized, and those stars using the system to its full capabilities can be rewarded in some tangible way.

Good training is never wasted

Management have the responsibility for ensuring that the investments made in the CRM system generate the appropriate return, this might require training for staff. Get on and do it, it will never be a waste of money.

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