Why Do Employees Resist CRM Implementation and What Can We Do About That? 

Nikolay Bulava | Jun 8, 2017 229 views No Comments

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Anyone who has ever been responsible for CRM implementation has faced the employees’ resistance. In this article, we will examine the reasons for such reaction, possible methods for their elimination and impact of these methods on CRM project budgets.

While analyzing dozens of projects on CRM implementation and business processes optimization where I was involved as a business consultant and project manager, the following clusters of reasons have been identified:

1. Instinctive fear of changes
2. Unwillingness to increase the “transparence” of their own work
3. Inconvenience of use.

Let us examine each of them in more detail.

Instinctive Fear of Changes

It is quite common and less dangerous reason for resistance when implementing CRM.
Viscerally, we treat all changes, the nature and consequence of which we do not understand, as a potential threat. This is a normal defensive reaction of human consciousness, which is intrinsic for most people.

As is known, conjectures give rise to fears, and lack of reliable information gives rise to conjectures. It is the lack of information on purposes and methods of CRM implementation as well as the impact of CRM on business as usual that causes such a protective reaction from employees.

These fears only exist at the initial stage, when the company is implementing or revamping CRM. New employees who come after implementation of changes will take CRM for granted, and they will take rules for working with it in good part.

In order to minimize this factor it is necessary from the moment of making a decision and throughout the CRM implementation project to give employees the answers to the following questions:

1. Which goals must be achieved throughout the project implementation?
2. What employees will change habitual methods of work and why?
3. How will these changes affect personal income of employees and career opportunities?
4. What tasks will be easier to solve compared to the current state?
5. What new methods of work should be mastered and by whom?
6. What will the training of new methods of work look like?
7. What will be the change in performance monitoring system?
8. Who will assist in adoption of new methods of work when the project is over?

It is also important to provide employees with the opportunity to express their concerns and fears as soon as possible. This communication enables the company management and the project manager not only to reduce resistance but also reveal hidden risks of the project which more often appear when the CRM system is up and running which makes risks elimination cost the highest possible.

Unwillingness to Increase the “Transparence” of Their Own Work

This is less common but the most dangerous reason for resistance when implementing CRM.

Everyone understands that working with CRM requires a user to enter a certain amount of data about:

1. Contacts and history of communication;
2. Plans and results of work;
3. Assessing chances of deals successfully closed and giving assessment to causes of unsuccessful closing of opportunities.

The system will also impartially monitor the presence, amount and quality of data pointing out to various faults and gaps. Actually, this data enables management to tackle three important challenges of:

1. Optimizing CRM and CEM processes;
2. Insuring company against risks of Customers’ information loss in case of change or quit of assigned employees;
3. Assessing without bias performance of different employees and finding the “weak link” that decreases organizational performance at large.

It is the understanding of the fact that the work is getting transparent makes some employees seek for methods to resist changes.

There exist two reasons, different in their nature, which explain why employees try to make their work as much non-transparent as possible:

1. Irreplaceability;
2. Looking busy.


It is difficult to find a chief executive officer who has not faced, at least once, the situation when a particularly valuable account manager or manager in sales, marketing, or service issues an ultimatum: “either this way or I’ll quit the company”.

It is this very point when you realize that the problem is not only in loss of expertise and experience, but in loss of a considerable amount of customer data as well. This is because of a simple reason that the Customer information (from contact details to information on needs and business peculiarities) is in possession of this manager and the chances to restore it without his good will are zero. There is also a high probability that the employee will leave for a competitor and use the information as a stepping-stone. Here CEO faces the choice: to agree on blackmail or proceed with painful measures.

Understanding that knowledge one possesses about the customer is a way to increase their own value on the labor market, managers in marketing, sales and customer service often aim at limiting and minimizing data disclosure about their customer, which is accumulated during their work. No wonder that such employees perceive CRM as a serious threat to be eliminated by all means.

Looking busy

In many large companies, there are experts who are always busy with preparation of “great projects”. They create some hustle and bustle and hectic rush at work of related business units, continuously attracting attention to themselves from CxO executives to underline the importance of their work. It can last for years. When it comes to explanation of poor performance results, they crank out with a heap of unexplained arguments like:

Late receiving of information that was known to a colleague or employee of another department;
Not timely receiving of specification from technical department or “technical department messed up everything”;
Customer did not know what he wanted and just messed around with manager’s head;
Lawyers didn’t prepare timely or wrongly prepared the agreement/worked on customer’s comments;
Marketing failed to provide materials on market research/ competitive battlecards in time;
Service didn’t take into account the recommendations on the level of attention to customers’ requests;

And so on and so forth.

It is quite often that this situation comes around to sales managers in companies having complicated and long sales cycles, where several units are engaged in presale.

It is evident that the employees who found a comfortable place where they can get a suitable monetary remuneration or other reward, not for any reason whatsoever will be willing to document their work so that the opportunity to assess true reasons of failure impartially and honestly can arise. That is why they will strive tooth and nail to undermine efforts on CRM implementation into their work.

Unfortunately, it is possible to fight with “irreplaceability” and “looking busy” only with administrative measures, and only if there is a rigid will of top-ranking executives. If you did not get such support at the earliest stages, investments in the CRM are under a great threat, and the project manager risks getting the stigma of a “loser”. After all, once you make an exception for one employee, as one by one the rest of the employees begin to think: “Why should I follow these rules?”

The main complexity lies in that such resistance is never open and bears the characteristics of a work-to-rule strike. You will never hear such statements as:

1. customer’s information only belongs to me and it’s my private asset which is in my power to share;
2. I don’t want and I won’t share my information;
3. I will not enter information to make it clear what, in fact, I am busy with.

Thus, arguments of the third cluster of reasons as “inconvenience” will be often used to cover underlying causes for resistance. Once we have considered them in more detail, we will come to understanding of what characteristics you can use to tell true inconveniencies from contrived ones.

Inconvenience of Use

The most common reason for the user’s resistance to implementation and use of CRM is related with inconvenience. However, the concept of convenience/inconvenience itself is subjective, and what is convenient for one person with certain skills and habits will be inconvenient for another person.

CRM represents the class of informational systems that should be used every day and throughout the day. In this situation, a good user adoption certainly plays a critical role. Among the main factors that lead to inconvenience and obstacles in using CRM in daily work, we can point out the following:

1. Changing of habitual working mode;
2. Need for manual input of primary data to ensure normal work;
3. Multiple input of the same data in different systems;
4. Need to use several sources for the search of necessary data;
5. Non-availability of necessary data when out of the office;
6. Lack of an effective system of notifications;
7. Lack of ready-to-use reporting;
8. Lack of skills.

Further, we will consider each factor in more detail, their causes, and possible methods of their elimination and impact of these methods on CRM implementation project budgets.

Changing of habitual working mode

Let us start with the simplest factor that is related to habits and can be eliminated over time by forming new habits.

As any informational system, CRM will be handy only if it contains data and this data should be qualitative. The need in input of qualitative data significantly changes the common work structure. Let us have a look at the statistics of time allocation for tasks on working with data before and after CRM implementation, which our company managed to accumulate while implementing of more than a hundred projects.

statistics of time allocation for tasks on working with data before and after CRM implementation

As you can see at this chart, CRM implementation significantly reduces costs on the data search and transformation, but increases fourfold the amount of work on data input, sometimes even more. The user cannot help noticing it. It is evident that, in general, time saving is up to 10-20%. There is just one small psychological “but”: while the data search and transformation seem useful work to an ordinary user, data input is seen useless and necessary evil.

As a consequence, at the final stage of the project implementation, the following statements are often heard: “It goes without saying that it got easier and faster to search and transform data. Nice business it’d be if we didn’t have it at all. However, the fact that we have to spend significantly more time on data input is unacceptable. Do whatever you want, but we are not going to work this way anymore.”

To put down such “rebellion”, the strong will of leadership is required, as in two months users will get used to the system and start getting a discernable effect of system’s functionality. For this to happen within these time limits, it is highly important to minimize the impact of the following factor.

Need for manual input of primary data for normal work

Try using search, data conversion or report generation functions in the information system, which does not contain any data yet. The system will certainly work correctly, but you will get nothing useful out of it and you will have to first find the data in the old way and enter it, having spent certain time on it. You cannot benefit from it until later.

If it keeps going this way for a few days, you can bear it, but if it keeps going for more than 4-5 weeks, even the most patient person cannot stand it. This person will look for a way not to use CRM, providing the arguments like “I don’t have time to enter old data” or “I don’t have this data and the other person has it.”

As a rule, this situation occurs when transfer of inherited data was not stipulated in the CRM implementation project budget.

Regardless the apparent simplicity, this work requires considerable efforts and big scope of painstaking work on checking and merging data received from numerous sources, as well as performing data reclassification to comply with new classification rules. The more far-reaching changes in CRM processes and the more numerous sources are, the higher labor intensity and complexity of this work are. This article can take a significant share and sometimes reach up to 15% in the CRM projects budget.

Multiple input of the same data in different systems

Now let’s imagine that after entering data in CRM you need to enter the same data into accounting system, service system and God knows to where else. Any sane man will not like this work.

The most frequent cause of this state of things lies in mistakes made at the stage of analyzing processes that underwent changes. Consequently, the required level of integration with other informational systems was not anticipated at the stage of CRM design.

Nevertheless, it is important to take into account that the deep integration of several informational systems represents a difficult engineering task and it is not always justified with the project economics. Therefore, to minimize the users’ resistance to using the system it is necessary to carry out an analysis of business processes at the early stage of the project and identify whether there are employees who will have to enter the same information into different systems due to their job description. In case different employees enter the data, it is more likely they will not experience any worsening; however, the error probability substantially increases. If one person enters the data, he will be dissatisfied with a new work procedure, and the error probability remains rather high.

If you decide not to integrate systems you can do cost estimation of faulty data input risks. If you risk bearing considerable financial losses because of faulty input, the question of convenience/inconvenience takes a back seat.

Need to use several sources for the search of necessary data

This factor by its nature is very close to the previous one. The biggest inconvenience is the need to visually compare received data aiming to identify discrepancies or restore the timeline. As a rule, this is also a consequence of incomplete or poor-quality analysis and design.

At the stage of analysis of users’ work, it is necessary to study the needs in using data, which is accumulated in several systems and is stored in different “folders” in CRM itself. If you discover tasks that require constant look-up in several data sources for their completion, you will face negative users’ response.

So how can you eliminate this negative impression and at the same time reduce budgets on CRM implementation project? You should not necessarily provide the physical data migration from one system to another. It is sufficient to provide the possibility to present information about important business events within CRM. An example of such solution for SugarCRM platform is TimeLine Viewer, specially designed to accumulate and view important business events of both CRM and other informational systems of the company.

Non-availability of necessary data when out of the office

You actively used CRM working in the office and got used to the right information available with a simple mouse click. Imagine the feeling when you need to go on a business trip to hold as many meetings as possible with your current and prospective customers, and you are told that you will not have any access to CRM and you will not be able to use all wealth that you and your colleagues accumulated working in the office. Anger and hard feelings are the best words to describe your state at that time. The phrase “what a bullshit system” will be the most inoffensive in your vocabulary.

It is the possibility to provide access in any place that has made the cloud-based CRM a de-facto standard. However, if for some reason you cannot use the cloud deployment option, you will have to take care not only of availability of your data but also of the protection against unauthorized access after providing access out of the secure local network.

Lack of an effective system of notifications

Forgetting is a natural feature of human memory. It is good to have an assistant who remembers everything and timely reminds regardless of whether you are close or far away from him. Computer on the contrary does not forget anything, but not necessarily reminds you about coming events that it discovered while scanning data. Lack of notifications on coming significant events in CRM creates great inconvenience to users’ and, quite often, leads to financial losses.

To eliminate effectively this negative factor, it is important to distinguish several types of notifications:

1. Notification to the user who “logged in” and works in the system
2. Notification to the user who did not log in to the system.

As a rule, the out-of-the-box functionality of the most CRM products includes notifications about activities (meetings, tasks, calls) and process events that are tied to the date and time and only for users that logged in to the system. Setting of other types of notifications requires additional customization, but invested time and funds will pay off in spades. The creation of an effective system to monitor and notify about events when they are coming can constitute from 7% to 15% of the budget for CRM adaptation.

It is important to consider that the value of notifications is not only in the very fact of reminding, but also in how informative and concise the message will be. It means that the system of notifications must be constantly improved as it is used by trying out the text, its formation based on the data from CRM and links to CRM objects for quick access. To simplify the solution of these tasks on SugarCRM platform, we designed a special tool called Logic Builder, which allows you to quickly and flexibly manage data processing logic and notification feeds.

Lack of ready-to-use reporting

Reports are the final stage of a data life cycle. It is in the reports where raw data is transformed in useful information for decision-making. Can you imagine your disappointment when you can find required data in the system, but you cannot compile it in the easy-to-study and analysis report with one click? It does not only irritate but also significantly reduces the CRM adoption. To avoid this, it is necessary to anticipate work on description and implementation of reporting in the project plan and budget.

Despite being deceptively simple, the presence of reporting configuring tools does not decrease the time spent on this work, as you have to try out many times not only the content, but also, which is more important, data view formats.

The second aspect worthy to note for minimizing inconvenience in work with reporting is the possibility to dig into numbers from the report. If for specification of suspicious or strange numbers that you detected in the report you need to close or print out this report so that you can start another report or, God forbid that, you need to call a programmer, your patience will run out after three-four such iterations.

The possibility of drill-down data depends on the technological tool used in designing CRM that can affect the project budget. In addition to the license cost, the project budget should include an article on configuring a set of reporting for different users. By experience, this article takes from 15% to 20% in the budget on the CRM adaptation to business specifics.

Lack of skills

Finally, let us consider the factor on our list that has a significant impact on user adoption. It is lack of knowledge of the functionality. You will agree that it does not matter what functionality CRM incorporates if users do not know it or cannot use it.

This situation frequently occurs in the companies, which decided to save on training with the hope that the user instructions supplied with CRM allow them to master the system on their own. A good rule of thumb is that only one person out of 10 reads the instruction, and the reason lies not in readers’ unwillingness to read, but in the fact that instructions to the software are designed aiming at description of software functionality, but not at description of techniques for effective performing of processes which users are used to. Bearing in mind that to ensure the process work you should involve 3-5 system functions that are described in different parts of documentation, it is quite natural that few people have enough time and patience to read the documents from soup to nuts, and some of these documents contain more than 200 pages.

If you want to use CRM as efficiently as possible during the whole life cycle, you should take care of including to the budget of an article not only on initial training but also on development of a high-quality training toolkit. The more users and higher staff turnover you have, the more attention you should pay to the quality of training toolkits.

It is reasonable for companies with 50 and more users to develop video tutorials, which will enable to significantly increase the utilization of CRM. The budget on training and tutorials’ development commonly takes from 7% to 12% of the budget on CRM and its adaptation to business specifics.

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