March 5, 2019

CRM User Adoption Lagging? Here’s What Psychology Has to Say About Getting People on Board

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Implementing a new CRM is a big undertaking, even if you’re a small firm. And while many people attribute CRM onboarding failure to overspending, the biggest reason why CRMs fail is actually slow user adoption, according to Forrester Research.

Most articles about CRM adoption rates will tell you that adoption rates are low because people don’t like change. Changing habits is hard, but employees don’t deserve all the blame for adoption rates lagging.

Managers have a big role to play in improving CRM adoption rates as well, but many managers don’t know where to start when it comes to motivating employees. The answers may lie in psychology.

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Lesson 1: Humans Are Wired to Form Habits

Think back to middle school. Do you remember Newton’s First Law of Motion? It’s usually summarized like this:

“An object at rest or in motion will stay that way unless acted upon by an outside force.”

This law is also called the Law of Inertia, and it has some interesting parallels to human psychology. As Dr. Ralph Ryback writes in Psychology Today, people have behavioral inertia when it comes to changing habits. Our brains crave stability, so we’re wired to resist anything disruptive.

Thankfully, we aren’t totally subject to unconscious habits. There’s a part of our brains called the neocortex that’s responsible for conscious thought, meaning we can consciously work to overcome old routines, even if that means tricking the other parts of our brains responsible for unconscious decisions.

One way we can do this is through context clues. Ryback notes that “Habits form when we repeatedly perform a certain behavior in a specific environment or context.” Luckily for business managers, this means you can help employees adopt a new routine by creating certain situations where they will need to use the new CRM.

> Real World Application

  • If you’re trying to encourage people to log into the new CRM when they first sit down at their desks for the day, you can schedule individual feedback mini-sessions with employees in the first hour of work.‚Ä®
  • Employees know they will need to log in before you come around to their desks, so logging in will become a habit for them in the morning.‚Ä®

Lesson 2: Laziness Isn’t Real

Contextual associations are helpful for breaking old habits, but they won’t always work for everyone. Some people will have a harder time getting adjusted to changes than others, but this isn’t due to laziness.

According to social psychologist and psychology professor Dr. Devon Price, so-called “laziness” is an indicator that something else is wrong. In an article on Medium, Price says, “There are always barriers. Recognizing those barriers — and viewing them as legitimate — is often the first step to breaking ‘lazy’ behavior patterns.”

Also Read: Be Compassionate: A Call for Consistent Customer Communication

Price goes on to say that if a person is failing to complete a project, it’s usually because they’re either worried about performing poorly or because they don’t know where to start. For some people, tackling projects comes naturally, but for others, it’s hard to see where they can break big tasks down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. This is where you as the manager can step in to identify blockages and help the struggling person make progress.

if a person is failing to complete a project, it’s usually because they’re either worried about performing poorly or because they don’t know where to start

“People do not choose to fail or disappoint,” Price writes. “No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details.”

> Real World Application

  • If the new CRM requires manually moving over leads, an employee might be putting off moving their leads because the new CRM has more segmenting features than the old CRM.‚Ä®
  • If they’re afraid to make mistakes, an employee might lag in adoption when all they need is for you to step in and show them exactly what information you want stored for the leads.‚Ä®

Lesson 3: People Respond to Incentives

Russian scientist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (try saying that five times fast) is famous for discovering classical conditioning after he trained a dog to salivate whenever he rang a bell. You may also remember this classic Jim and Dwight moment from The Office:

I’m not suggesting you start offering employees Altoids every time they log into the new CRM, but I am suggesting you use a similar method based off the incentive theory of motivation. The incentive theory of motivation says that external incentives can motivate us to perform certain actions. What makes an incentive motivating, however, varies.

Incentives are not one-size-fits-all. In an article on Verywell, author, speaker, and educational consultant Kendra Cherry explains that people react to incentives differently in different situations. She quotes author Stephen L. Franzoi, who explains that a child might react positively to parental praise when there’s no one else around, but if friends are over, a child might be embarrassed when a parent starts bragging about how smart or creative their kid is.

> Real World Application

  • Incentives work no differently in the workplace, but be thoughtful about what kind of incentives you offer.‚Ä®
  • Gather feedback from people about what makes a good reward. Some people might respond better to affirmation from getting an award while others may hate attention and just want an Amazon gift card.‚Ä®

When planning to implement a new CRM, it’s easy to get caught up in the logistical and financial side of planning and forget about the most important element: the human element. At the end of the day, user adoption is the biggest determining factor for the success of your CRM, so make sure you give people the support they need to make the implementation a success.

If you’re looking for a new CRM but aren’t sure where to start yourself, that’s a barrier we can help with. Give us a call at 877.702.2082 or email us at for a free, 5-minute consultation from one of our Tech Advisors. You can also check out our CRM product selection tool here for a complete guide to finding the right solution for you.

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