Investing in CRM applications, in a bid to stay with competition in the global marketplace, is on the rise. However, the end-user training requirements in the overall CRM implementation plan is often neglected. Effective training programs should be considered as a critical success factor for CRM implementations
To become competitive in the e-business and global marketplace many companies have invested heavily on customer relationship management (CRM) applications during last several years. However, the importance of appropriately training the front-office workers on the system and procedures are often underestimated and overlooked.
Effective training programs should be considered as a critical success factor for CRM implementations and should be an integral part of the deployment plan. Inadequate training very often leads to frustration and lower productivity within front office organizations, ultimately resulting in rejection of the CRM system and little return on overall investment.
To develop an effective training program, companies must carefully evaluate the training and support needs of the user communities. In general, training programs must be designed based on following three factors:
1. What are the user segments?
2. What do they need to learn?
3. Where, when and how will they learn?
Identifying user communities: Although sounds simple, identifying all user communities for CRM training will require diligent assessment of every business process that touches the CRM application and every user role that participates in those business processes. Unless methodically approached, there is a high risk of excluding some of the key but "peripheral" users from the training program, and thereby reducing the overall effectiveness of the CRM system.
For example, a marketing organization might be responsible for updating the product information and collaterals used by sales and customer service departments, however, its CRM training requirements might be overlooked due to infrequent use of the system. Similarly, credit department might not be an apparent candidate for CRM training. But if sales over certain dollar amount require approval from credit department then its training needs must not fall through the cracks.
Assessing training content: Once the user segments are completely identified, specific learning needs of each user community must be rigorously analyzed. The risks of providing inadequate training content are very high. If the users receive training but still do not learn how to productively use the CRM system, the whole implementation will get a black eye and fail miserably.
To mitigate the risks, CRM training program should be developed based on the company's business objectives.
For example, if one of the business objectives of the CRM implementation is to increase the number of qualified prospects, then the training program for inside sales reps should not focus on teaching generic features and functionality of the CRM system but specifically address how to use the new CRM system to increase the number of qualified prospects. As is apparent from the example above, an effective training program also requires subdividing overall program by user roles and system use to meet the unique needs of each user segment.
Lastly, content assessment must also focus on determining the right amount of knowledge that should be delivered through training. Too much information can easily overwhelm the users, diminishing the effectiveness of learning. If need be, training can be provided in stages to the user groups so that learning retention is higher from each training class.
Planning training delivery: The third but equally important component for success of a training program is delivering it at the appropriate time and place. Since a CRM deployment is likely to include a wide variety of user segments, the right place, time and medium for training is likely to vary widely as well.
For example, field sales offices might require a trainer to travel to field offices to provide training, while call center agents might need e-learning medium because spending multiple days in training is a luxury that most call centers can't usually afford. The following are examples of the factors that must be considered for delivery planning:
* Where will each user segment be trained (i.e., at a centralized facility, at sales offices, at their desk, etc.)?
* What types of trainers are best suited for each users segment (i.e., Will the same trainer be effective in training the call center agents and the inside sales reps?)?
* Is there a need for travel and if so, how will the logistics be handled?
* When is the appropriate time to train the users (i.e., how to minimize the lag time between training and users actually using the system)?
* What are the best mediums for each user segment (i.e., classroom training, e-learning, knowledge base or a combination)?
* What infrastructure is needed for each type of training medium and is it in place?
Consider CRM training program as a critical success factor for CRM implementation and include it as an integral part of CRM planning and deployment.
Be very diligent in determining every user community that will need training. Error on the side of including even the most peripheral users on the preliminary list. The list can be shortened later, if further analysis reveals that some segments can be excluded from the training program.
During planning, encourage participation and solicit input from key members of each user segment on what and how they want to learn. Include various levels of technology users (e.g., novice, typical and expert) from each user segment and design training programs appropriate for all levels.
Create training programs that are concise, delivering relevant knowledge on a user's most frequently performed activities. Not all knowledge has to be imparted through training programs. Appropriately scoped training program will provide positive learning experience for the users, helping in longer retention of the knowledge. Infrequently used information is best delivered through knowledge bases and repositories that are still easily accessible.
Giga Information Group