American companies spend an enormous amount of money on training. Spending reached more than US$90 billion in 2017, an increase of over 32 percent from 2016, according to Training magazine’s annual survey about the kinds of investments companies with 100 or more employees make on training activities, including everything from the salaries of internal training staffers to expenses for travel, facilities and equipment.
Though it’s not highlighted specifically in the survey, it’s unlikely that even a small share of the billions spent on training last year were devoted to educating and motivating employees to regularly and accurately input data into a company’s CRM. Maybe it should have been.
If companies devoted even a modest amount of time and money to creating a culture in which employees made it a regular part of their day to input data into their CRM, both employees and employers would benefit. Broad acceptance that this is an activity that leads to career and company success is what the concept of data integrity is all about.
Unfortunately, regular dedicated use of CRM is not the norm, for a wide variety of reasons. One is that in some businesses a CRM represents change, and change often is resisted, even in businesses that have a dynamic culture. To a sales person or an employee working in customer service, inputting data into the CRM may seem like a task that is administrative rather than essential.
There’s also a demographic component. The introduction of a CRM to replace either highly manual customer management and sales processes or to institute more structured processes often is resisted by those who have found success with their own ad hoc approach to tracking prospects, tracking orders or managing relationships.
Why Data Integrity Matters
CRMs have become an indispensable tool for business success for reasons nearly as diverse as the industries and companies that have embraced them. Manufacturers are a great example. Manufacturing is an industry known for fierce competition, thin margins, and a landscape that rewards companies able to anticipate and respond quickly to perpetual changes in customer preferences and tastes.
Flexibility and responsiveness aren’t just nice-to-have qualities for manufacturers; they’re absolute necessities for survival. Why? Only with accurate forecasts of the demand for products are manufacturers able to deliver for their customers in an economical and time-efficient manner.
Put simply, the ready availability of the proper amount of raw materials to fulfill customer orders quickly isn’t achieved through good fortune or the innate knowledge of experienced executives. It comes from the visibility that is possible when the entire workforce of a manufacturer diligently maintains the company’s CRM. Good data — that is, complete data — is required for good outcomes.
The benefits of a CRM defined by data integrity go well beyond the reduction of back orders and waste that manufacturers can enjoy. No matter what industry a company is in, a CRM with updated and comprehensive data becomes a tool to forge the kind of strong personal relationships that keep existing customers happy and eager to expand their partnership with you.
For example, a powerful CRM provides transparency into the status of an order, which means that customer service reps always can provide customers with up-to-date and accurate information, and take proactive action when a problem is identified.
In other words, maintaining a CRM provides transparency between a company and its customers. The ability to cultivate strong personal relationships — and to explore new business opportunities — also enhanced is with a CRM with accurate and timely information when certain sales functions are automated. When that happens, sales reps have more time to explore market trends and gather insights that existing customers and prospects will value.
The Data Integrity Quest
Grasping the many benefits of a CRM with a high level of data integrity often requires a change of mindset and behaviors within a company.
The question is how to drive that change? Some companies may opt to mandate routine CRM data entry. All sales teams have regular calls to provide updates about progress toward quotas and to share challenges and ideas about the best way to pursue new opportunities. If a feature of those calls and meetings is to publicly recognize who has and who hasn’t entered data into the CRM, it’s likely that behaviors will begin to change.
Then again, some companies may reject what amounts to public shaming as anathema to a collaborative and supportive culture. It’s also an approach that runs counter to the argument managers correctly make that the regular use of a CRM helps employees do their work more effectively. Change through executive fiat can backfire, causing normally diligent and conscientious workers to balk at what they may view as a burdensome intrusion.
A different way to tackle the dilemma of data integrity comes through streamlining reports and widgets in the CRM that track employee usage. Done properly, this allows managers to audit the CRM to see which employees have touched which records, how they edited them, and when the work was done.
To do this right involves asking the users of a CRM to prioritize which data is most important and how they want it used, which typically takes place during the CRM implementation process. By better understanding the data that is most important, and by tracking how employees use the CRM, it’s possible to tweak the system to make it more intuitive and useful for those who need it most.
The Power of Gaming
Another approach is to transform the task of inputting CRM data into a game. Literally. So-called gamification has become a handy tool to motivate employees to take certain actions with, well, the help of a little fun and competition. The ultimate goal here is to boost employee engagement, a worthwhile business goal if ever there was one.
In fact, employees with high engagement rates were 21 percent more productive than their less engaged counterparts, the research organization Gallup found.
That elevated productivity translates into earnings per share that are nearly 150 percent higher for companies with engaged workers, according to the firm.
The problem, however, is that only about 13 percent of all employees across the globe actually are engaged. Tapping the power of gaming — and anybody who’s had to drag their teenage children kicking and screaming from the controls of Fortnite knows how powerful gaming can be — to encourage workers to consistently input data into a CRM can work.
There are plenty of real-world examples of how the thirst to compete and the ability to transform work tasks into a fun game have made a big impact on worker engagement and morale. For example, the toolmaker Ingersoll Rand has unleashed the innate competitiveness of its workforce both to boost the company’s productivity and to benefit the employees themselves.
Here’s how: The company takes advantage of the software attached to its smart screwdrivers to track how quickly workers complete their assigned tasks. The company then broadcasts results about the number of units produced per shift, and it uses those final tallies to hand out financial bonuses or paid time off to the winners.
None of this means that gamification is a one-size-fits-all solution to boost CRM usage. Managers need to understand their company cultures well enough to know the sorts of gaming approaches that could boost data integrity, and devise ways to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to participate.
Having a good sense of the sorts of rewards your employees will value for improving data integrity is more complex than it initially may seem. Nobody begrudges a bonus or a paid day off, but different demographics are drawn to different flavors of rewards.
Millennials, for example, have been shown to appreciate recognition in particular.
Two in five millennials want to be recognized more for their contributions at work, the consultancy O.C. Tanner has found, based on 20,000 interviews over the course of 10 years.
Further, nearly 80 percent of people quit because they don’t get the recognition they feel they deserve, the research suggested.
No matter how companies approach the challenge of boosting their data integrity, actually accomplishing it has self-perpetuating benefits. That’s because employees who become engaged and consistent about inputting data will see the benefits of a robust CRM in helping them do their jobs. When that happens, games and other incentives to improve data integrity will become less and less important.