This is a companion post to the User Adoption of Customer Advocate Programs post. We recommend reading that first because the program must be adopted before any technology is adopted.
Let’s be honest. Software is only as good as its user. A Ferrari in the hands of a typical driver is just a car—pedestrian. What makes a good user? She a) understands the value of the software, b) is trained on how and when to use it, and c) is ultimately willing to abandon old practices in favor of the future.
The right technology can really help scale your customer advocate program without proportionately growing the team needed to support it. The technology should be the antithesis of the classic email blast/spreadsheet approach many companies still limp by with.
Capable advocate management software should offer end users:
- One place to search for advocates & customer content
- Multiple ways to filter results based on opportunity criteria
- Automation of reference use requests
- Automation of customer content sharing, and click tracking
Save time, reduce hassle, and make it easier to get customer perspectives to buyers. With such basic reference needs addressed adoption should be a no-brainer, right?
The reality for any software solution is that change management is always involved. Even though a salesperson can search a set of pre-qualified customer advocates and find a closely matching customer, the old habit calling to them is to send an email to the whole sales team. Spray and pray.
Method 1: Create an email. A little time on the front end, but effort produces patchy results—ultimately more work in the long run.
Method 2: Run a search. A little search time on the front end, with minimal effort on the back end and high probability results.
Defining System Adoption
First, how do you want to measure adoption? The purest outcome-based measurement is revenue influenced. Any sales enablement app worth its mettle should be able to produce this number. If the software influences $100M per year then most bean counters would call the software a high return investment, regardless of user volumetrics. But let’s look at those volume-based metrics. In our application there are 7 end-user actions that indicate adoption. Some are weighted higher than others based on effort and value. Some occur more frequently than others. Start by creating that list and assigning relative value to the actions. Next, set some expectations that define low, moderate and high adoption. But don’t do this in a vacuum. Use these strategies to reach and exceed your adoption goals.
6 System Adoption Strategies That Work
Program Advisory Board
Assemble a group of 6-12 stakeholders from sales, and perhaps marketing and client success, which will be your litmus test for program ideas in general and technology decisions specifically. The board will provide real-world input that will inform decisions on system configuration (such as search filters), data needs, and in setting expectations around user adoption metrics. For instance, you might think that a typical salesperson needs 2-3 references at least 5 times per month. The board may tell you it’s more like 3 times per month based on length of sales cycles and pipeline volume, and never are more than 2 customers requested. Your expectations need to adjust. With so many competing sales tools and responsibilities it’s important to get things right the first time. The board will allow you to gauge how configuration changes, implementing new features or changing processes will be received by the field. Members of the board are also ambassadors for the program and the technology and should be identified as such to peers. They are both informally aggregating feedback and providing assistance when no one from the customer advocate program is around.
This may seem obvious. You’ve identified the need to centralize customer advocate data and perhaps customer content. But sometimes letting go of old spreadsheets, wikis, and cloud collaboration folders with many unorganized files is hard to enforce. As long as those other sources exist your advocate management software will not achieve it’s rightful place as the master source of all things advocate. Often the game of wack a mole needs executive intervention. More on that later.
Data Quality & Ownership
We view quality as a combination of accuracy, completeness and currency. Poor data quality is a showstopper. You can have an intuitive tool with a pretty UI, but if the data is unreliable users will rely on whatever they can to get what they need. And who is best positioned to ensure data quality? The resources closest to the account relationship: sales, client success, account management, etc. Many companies have not yet come to the conclusion that customer advocate intelligence is a shared responsibility between the relationship owners and marketing, but it’s a mistake not to (Read more on this topic). Our application includes elegant automation to ensure advocate information is periodically reviewed and updated, but relationship owners have to be invested in the team effort. What about customer content? It needs to be properly tagged so that it can be found even when key words don’t appear in the body of a document. This generally falls to the content creation team.
Make it Fun!
It’s well documented that salespeople like competition and recognition. The long running debate about whether or not to incentivize salespeople for “doing their jobs” is coming to an end. If you want rapid adoption then reward the desired behaviors and make sure the game leader board is prominent. Reward points can be issued for helping with a request, updating customer reference information, nominating a customer, etc. The more referenceable a salesperson’s account is the more reward points she should receive. Your advisory board can help you determine what will move the needle in your culture.
Training & Education
If only all business software was as easy to use as Google. Software can do a lot to simplify and automate complex functions, but there is still a need for training. While recorded training is available in corporate learning systems our experience is that, unless mandatory, they aren’t watched. Retention, even when watched, is debatable. We are big proponents of offering recurring (usually monthly) just-in-time live training sessions that are well promoted. This is to address the ebb and flow (i.e., churn) of the sales team, and the nature of humans to seek training when they have a need, not proactively when it’s low priority. Awareness is important and a customer advocate application should be part of the new-hire on-boarding for applicable roles.
The big picture is also important. Sales leadership should also make it crystal clear why using advocate technology is not optional. If salespeople aren’t savvy enough to use customer advocates in nearly every deal, then the organization needs to explain how customer advocates support company growth goals. Without technology the process is inefficient, error fraught and un-measurable.
Customer Advocate software should not be on an island by itself. CRM is an obvious intersection point. But what other systems feed into or could benefit from customer advocate system data? Any sales enablement tool that includes playbooks should have easy access to customer advocate search: content for early stages, reference contacts at latter stages. Marketing automation tools manage campaigns that offer customer content or access to customer contacts (e.g., Webinars, events). The connection between campaigns and customer advocate assets is part of the revenue influenced metric. Client success apps that monitor customer health can both leverage customer advocate activity data and drive customer advocate status (e.g., unhappy account = inactive reference account). The tighter the integration to the big picture the better user adoption of any tools in the ecosystem.
Program Adoption = Technology Adoption
This post is really a subset of the User Adoption of Customer Advocate Programs post. Having leadership support and the right program manager also determine adoption of the technology. If you’re building a case for your program checkout our business case checklist. We also have an infographic featuring report findings and stats from analysts that will reinforce your case with expert perspectives. Visit our Resources page for other useful information and tools.