Achieving Full CRM User Adoption: How to Make It Happen

October 24, 2019 Michael Brumitt

When it comes to CRM user adoption rates, the stats haven’t been pretty. A couple of years ago IBM reported that user adoption rates were around 26%, and CSO Insights found that less than half of businesses achieve a 90% user adoption rate or higher. In terms of CRM systems spurring business growth, the Harvard Business Review estimated late last year that failure rates are close to 90%.

Hands in a circle with blue bracelets signaling teamwork

If you’ve struggled with CRM adoption, you’re not alone. It’s clear that user adoption is a common stumbling block, while at the same time the importance of CRMs continues to increase. With the advantages and insights they provide, it’s crucial that your team gains measurable benefits from your CRM system. Not having one that’s being fully utilized can be almost as bad as not having one at all. 

Weak CRM user adoption is the result of several different factors, which can include a lack of training, a limited understanding of system capabilities, and a general reluctance to adopt something new. As a strategy for avoiding those problems, Appirio’s four pillars model outlines the four stages of success needed for effective CRM usage: 

Appirio Four Pillar Succeed on CRM and Close the Experience Gap for Customers and Employees


Any breakdown in one of these areas affects your overall ability to reach a positive outcome, and gaining the enthusiasm and participation of your team depends on devising a well-structured adoption plan, communicating clearly,  and providing an environment that welcomes progress.

Knowing the reasons behind the common user adoption pitfalls 

With ongoing software, security, and infrastructure updates, “change enablement” is now something every organization has to figure out how to do. Before devising a change-enablement plan that will help people embrace a new CRM tool, it’s important to consider the potential roadblocks you might face and understand that user adoption issues can take many different forms. 

If you’ve gotten an enthusiastic response from your team and people are ready to use it, you’ll likely think you’re in the clear and that new achievements will start rolling in. Yet unless people have a full understanding of the capabilities, they may wind up using only certain tasks and never really take advantage of what’s available. 

Another form of underutilization can happen when users stay with what’s familiar. People use it for everything they were already previously doing and not taking on anything new. They may still keep using siloed data in addition to using Salesforce and never dive into its full range of capabilities, so they never gain any new efficiencies or streamline routine tasks that would make their jobs much easier.

Then there’s the usual resistance to change that can occur whenever something new comes along. Being thrown out of your comfort zone isn’t the most pleasant experience, and a whole new system like Salesforce can be intimidating, which leads to extremely slow adoption rates. To counter that resistance, along with any other obstacles, the best practices can help, but keep in mind that even the best methods can go only so far without two fundamental elements: culture and communication. 

CRM adoption fundamentals: The importance of culture and communication

Even companies with a great culture can go through difficulties when implementing something as significant as a new CRM tool, and the way in which it’s embraced by people is a reflection of a company’s culture. A company’s environment and identity play a big role in how readily employees will accept and adopt something new. When people feel as though they’re part of a team and are making positive contributions, then they’re more willing to learn and grow. Without that foundation, you’ll have a much larger task of gaining acceptance from your team. 

Also, communication and culture go hand in hand. Any major change like this should also have a major communication plan that lays out what’s going to happen, why it’s happening, and how. Communication should be part of the adoption process from the beginning and be a constant throughout. When culture and communication are working together, the user adoption practices we recommend will have a greater chance of delivering a strong adoption rate. 

Following the best user adoption practices

To make your CRM goals a reality, you’ll have to give your users all the tools, resources, and training they need. Whether people are excited about the change or disgruntled, you’ll have to plan for any reaction, and the following best practices can guide a successful rollout:

  • Provide user-specific training: For any new tool, some thorough training will be essential in order that people know how to use it effectively and reach new accomplishments. You should avoid one-size-fits-all approaches. Since different departments will each have different uses for a CRM system, the training you provide should be tailored to each user group. Not taking into account how different users will work with CRM will likely lead to some of the underutilization issues discussed earlier.
  • Get some influencers on your side: When new users receive support and encouragement from more experienced coworkers, that can go a long way toward helping those novices become more comfortable with the new tool. By taking a gradual approach and providing training to a small group, those users can then serve as a support team for the larger group when the full rollout occurs. Those influencers can also emphasize the positives that can result from this new system and help stem any resistance. 
  • Provide post-training support: Once the training sessions are over, you shouldn’t consider everyone’s education complete. Training is one thing; day-to-day usage is something else, and people will likely run into issues or have questions that didn’t come up during their sessions. Be sure to have a team that can field questions and help people in their transition to the new tool after training is over.
  • Create metrics for usage and results: As the rollout takes place, monitor your teams’ usage. See how often people are logging in and what the most common activities are. Over the course of a few months, you can begin to ascertain how well the adoption is going and what kinds of outcomes are occurring. Your next step will be determining if any adjustments need to be made to achieve better results. 
  • Get some guidance from the experts: If you need to get some direction on your CRM user rollout, Appirio can ensure you’re using effective tactics to help you get up to speed quickly. We can partner with you to overcome the usual adoption roadblocks and get your team on the path to new CRM-based achievements. 

By following these best practices, you can overcome the typical user adoption hurdles and set yourself up for the positive results of a CRM system: greater productivity, the ability to work smarter, improved agility, and the opportunity to deliver more personalized customer experiences. 

Forging pathways to adoption and achievement

Just implementing a new CRM system won’t lead to new accomplishments. Your people are the key, and they’ll need to have a complete grasp of how to use the tool and why it’s needed. A CRM system can allow your sales and marketing operations to take an evolutionary step forward in gaining a 360 view of your customers. Yet you’ll also need to get a 360 view of your team before you start to roll out a CRM system and understand how to gain their acceptance and participation to make your customer experience goals a reality. 

Appirio can partner with you to guide your CRM change enablement efforts and ensure you’re turning the tide of the typically grim CRM user adoption statistics. We can work with you through all stages of the implementation process based on our four pillars model and execute a customized strategy that will lead to long-term growth, not short-term gains. 

Contact us today to start planning or revamping your CRM user strategy. 

About the Author

Michael Brumitt

Michael Brumitt is a Communications Specialist at Appirio. As a writer and editor, his career has focused on creating engaging content that helps people solve problems, and his experience includes everything from e-books to traditional print-based publications. He currently lives in Indianapolis.

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