One of the questions thrown up in open forum at the Sugar CRM event last week asked for recommendations on the best approach to training users. Since this didn’t garner a particularly illuminating or comprehensive response I thought I would set out a few thoughts on what I see as some of the keys to effective CRM training:

One – Do a lot of it – the amount of training required to help users change existing practices shouldn’t be underestimated. Giving users half a days training and expecting them to start using the system in consistent and structured fashion is a triumph of hope over experience.

Two – Training should reflect process – the training should be tailored to your specific processes and supporting customisations. Too often users are trained on the ‘out of the box’ software with little emphasis is how they should be using the software in context to their own organisation. This does not foster effective usage.

Three – Training should be role specific – the things you want your telemarketing team to do with the system may be very different from the pre-sales team. A one size fits approach is going to dilute training effectiveness.

Four – Don’t forget the management team – they may be busy, but if they don’t use it, the project will fail. They need to be trained as well.

Five – Don’t limit yourself to classroom training – the classroom has its place but one to one training should be proactively targeted at individuals struggling to embrace the technology.

Six – look for trouble – don’t assume that if there’s no screaming everything is alright. A user should not be considered trained until you’ve validated they are using it in a consistent and structured fashion.

Seven – Training is an ongoing programme not a one off event – the approach to training needs to recognise new staff will join the business, and new capabilities will be added to the system over time. In addition memories fade, so refresher training is also important.

Eight – Make the right decision between vendor and in-house training – there isn’t a simple answer to which is better; it will vary from organisation to organisation. In-house (i.e. you use your own staff) training is likely to be more cost effective, but is predicated on having someone that can communicate well, and the time and inclination to make it work. Vendor training is generally high quality, but tends to be expensive and many vendors struggle to customise their training approach for individual clients. Which ever choice you make, monitor the quality of what’s delivered, nothing kills a system quicker than bad training.

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