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Delayed Gratification and your CRM

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By Justin Burniske |February 22, 2018
Association Management Solutions (AMS)

Did I lose my special treat?Did I lose my special treat?” A frequent question from my son. We’ve created a system in our home where if he behaves, he gets a “special treat” after dinner – usually in the form of 22 minutes of TV. While there are some issues with the system (what’s the leverage for behaving once he’s lost this special treat?), overall the incentive has succeeded because we’ve taught him about delayed gratification. That may seem like an easy task, but given how abstract the concept of time is to a child, he only figured it out after repeating the same process over and over.

Working with a customer relationship management (CRM) system presents a similar problem – people must do work now to reap the benefits later. A CRM can provide amazing insights into your customers, but only if people take the time to ensure data gets into the system. That requires staff to change their processes and spend time now to get results later. It’s not easy, but here are a few steps to get you going.

What’s your treat?

Promising a child a big piece of chocolate cake and then trying to give them one Oreo cookie and calling it even will not go over well. The same goes for staff. Too often a CRM is promised as the fix-all for everything – then when the CRM inevitably fails to deliver, staff discount the tool as a failure. Instead, try selling what you have. Talk about how an Oreo cookie goes great with milk. How much fun it is to twist an Oreo to separate one of the cookies from the cream. How an Oreo is kind of like getting two cookies!

For your CRM, talk about what specifically will be tracked in the CRM. Identify current processes – likely related to reporting or tracking – that will be significantly easier and/or less time-consuming because of the CRM. Point out that having one set of customer data means that when a customer’s email bounces, only one person needs to fix it and it will automatically update for everyone else. Focus on the true value of the CRM.

What’s a reasonable timeline?

My four-year-old recently asked, “How many minutes until my birthday?” When I informed him it was approximately 383,000 minutes away, a mix of disbelief and terror seemed to wash over him. While birthday presents are a great example of delayed gratification, they’re too far off to provide motivation – I need to provide an incentive that is more tangible.

Same goes for the CRM. Providing those early wins builds momentum towards long-term goals. Show how a list of contacts entered today can be pulled as a report tomorrow. How financial transactions being entered in the CRM can help reconcile the General Ledger. How tasks that used to take five steps now take three steps. While the longer-term results may take six months to a year out, short-term successes help reinforce the necessary processes that allow you to reach your long-term goals.

Who’s the parent?

While it’s never any fun, parents need to remind their kids that they must EARN that gratification. Whether through following directions, helping with chores, or remembering to say please and thank you, there needs to be effort to earn the gratification. If the child still gets their “special treat” even if they don’t use please or thank you once, then they have not learned anything. The parent needs to hold the child to their end of the bargain.

For work, that means ensuring staff are entering customer information into your CRM. They must follow the processes and take the time to ensure the information is complete. Initially, this will likely include regular reminders to staff about the processes. Auditing the data on a regular basis will help identify individuals not in compliance with the processes so that more targeted interventions can occur. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t give up. And if all your intervention does not work, do not then do the work for them. Otherwise they will never learn.


While getting the most out of your CRM takes work, the effort will be worth it. There will come a day when staff just enter all their information into the CRM and children will wash the dishes without being reminded. And you will get an extra 30 minutes to of “me time” – which will be your delayed gratification.

Justin Burniske
Delayed Gratification and your CRM

Justin serves as the Director of Enterprise Solutions at fusionSpan, bringing his experience implementing and overseeing an association management system for an education nonprofit. Additionally, he brings his positive, can-do attitude to any project on which he is working. Justin graduated from University of Maryland’s MBA program, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining fusionSpan, Justin taught middle school math and worked with education nonprofits. Also, he wants you to know he loves his family.

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