The best approach to CRM training – In-house or External?


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Photograph courtesy of PinkMoose

I’m in the process of putting a piece together on training on CRM systems, but as a quick preliminary I thought would walk through some of the options for training delivery, and their relative strengths and weaknesses:

Externally delivered training

This is generally by using the CRM vendor or implementation partner, though training can also be available from other parties and freelancers. On the plus side, the big strength of this approach is that delivery will be by an experienced trainer, who will know the technology inside out, which are not small considerations. On the negative side, external training can be expensive, but perhaps its biggest weakness is that while the trainer may understand the technology, they’re likely to be considerably less au fait with the client specific customisations and processes.

Internally delivered training

The main alternative approach is to assign training responsibilities to an internal staff member – what vendors often refer to as ‘train the trainer’. This tends to be a cheaper option, particularly over the longer term, though this assumes that the opportunity cost (the value the internal resources could alternatively generate if used elsewhere) is less than the external approach. The internal approach tends to fare well for top-up training and for new joiners, because it overcomes any resistance to signing off purchase orders on an on-going basis.

Perhaps the biggest plus of the internal approach is that the trainer will tend to have a better understanding of the organisation’s unique processes and how the system has been customised to support them.

From a negative standpoint, if the quality of training is poor then this will have a huge impact on user adoption. Not all internal staff make good trainers, either because they struggle to understand the technology, or because they don’t have the natural abilities or experience to deliver effective training. Organisations also underestimate how long it will take for their internal staff to get up to speed, particularly when they have taxing ‘day-jobs’.

Mentor training

This is a variation on the internally delivered approach, but instead of putting training in the hands of a few trainers, responsibility is spread across a range of subject matter experts who might be responsible for particular areas or processes. While this has the benefit of spreading knowledge throughout the organisation and lifting the burden from a few individuals, it also increases the likelihood that one or more trainers won’t have the ability or knowledge to deliver effective training.

Remote learning

There are a range of remote learning options. Software as a service (SAAS) vendors in particular have done a great job in making resources like video based tutorials available to users, which makes for a very cost effective and flexible approach to training.

These resources however are set up to support the out of the box functionality and won’t take account of an organisation-specific customisations and processes, and the lack of face to face contact with a trainer may mean questions or misunderstandings are not easily addressed.

In summary

The ultimate decision on which approach to use will be influenced by a couple of factors:

  • Are there resources available in-house to cost effectively deliver training of a sufficiently high standard bearing in mind both the time involved in delivery and learning/preparation?
  • How important will it be for users to operate the system in a structured and consistent basis? The more process oriented the system, the more sure you need to be of the quality of training delivery.

As a general rule, the more process-oriented the system, the less effective are the remote and mentor based approaches, though these may still play a part in training delivery. I’m particularly wary about mentor training, because on the surface it seems an attractive option, but I’ve generally found organisations underestimate how much preparation is required before someone becomes sufficiently competent, and spreading training responsibility too broadly simply creates too many potential points of failure.

Internal training works well if it’s undertaken by the right people, with the right training, and time to prepare, which, by definition, means it’s not for everyone. External training works well as long as additional time is factored in to ensure that the trainer has the right knowledge of the client’s processes, though this can significantly add to the cost. Either way, the key is to appreciate how important training is to user adoption of the system, and getting the right approach worked out is the key first step. In the next post I will set out my thoughts on the other aspects of successful CRM training.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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