Internal CRM: ERM For Internal Customers

In this three-part series, Graham Williams of Centre-ing Services ( and Michael Cusack of On Line Customer Care( examine trends which have a major impact on how business leaders and HR practitioners will in future need to maximize their organization’s human assets. They posit an Employee Relationship Management approach consisting of 6 interrelated elements, known as the "CASTLE" model. In this article they describe the model in outline. In the next issues they deal with each of the individual elements of the model.

Business Is Being Conducted Differently

Exploding technological advances and an inexorable gravitation towards what Bill Gates calls the "web lifestyle" and "digital nervous systems" have heralded different ways in which businesses do business, and even how they see their present and their future.

A core aspect of this revolutionary development has been for leading businesses to seek competitive edge in faster and better interactions between the company and the customer. And Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has sought to provide solution and opportunity—by connecting and synthesising back-end data and information with front-end telephony, computer and e-commerce applications and channels—particularly in, but not limited to, the call center environment.

In tandem with new business dynamics, employer/employee relationships are also changing dramatically. The new ways in which we relate to each other, communicate, transfer information, view authority, innovate, add value, perform, and measure our performance in the workplace—are all outcomes of this business revolution. Communications technology has and continues to facilitate the spread, not only of information and knowledge, but also of wider horizons, values and aspirations.

Organizations and individuals are being seriously challenged by these rapid changes. They are experiencing higher stress levels, choosier customers, more demanding shareholders, increasing diversity, more (and different) competition, a discernible shift away from "command and control" cultures, new communication channel challenges, and greater pressure to deliver more with less. Organizations tend to be leaner and more people work independently—sometimes feeling isolated and as if they live in a work-world devoid of meaningful human interaction, often as outsourced specialists on contract. Indeed, many who were previously corporate employees, and an equal number who remain in the corporate environment, have felt marginalized as a result of continual downsizing, restructuring, reengineering.

But an emerging trend among those who now operate more independently, whether forced to go it alone or choosing to do so, is that they are finding increasing opportunity, power, freedom and satisfaction outside of traditional corporate structures. (A related trend is that those employees who remain within the structures are more prepared to take risks, and change jobs and career paths more frequently. They demand greater autonomy, opportunity and democracy in the corporate workplace). A new social contract between organisations and their employees, based on their employability can now be found in many organisations. Performance is no longer managed through compliance and conformance, which, at best, achieves a work-to-rule situation.

Rather, excellent performance is the result of voluntary and spontaneous contribution. Loyalty is no longer synonymous with long service, but comes about because employees want to work with organisations because they see them through rose-tinted spectacles. Although less "connected" than before, they value attachment to the organisation and to what it’s doing in the midst of a fluid, shifting, uncertain society. They enjoy being a part of fast-paced change and an avalanche of new learning in the digital workplace.

But here’s the rub: The stampede to install CRM is NOT being matched by a parallel stampede to install faster and better Employee Relationship Management (ERM)—faster, more frequent and better interactions and relationships between company and employee. Companies becoming more and more engaged with state-of-the-art e-commerce applications are, in many cases, becoming less engaged with caring for their staff. Instead of finding new ways of gaining a greater share of the employee, many organisations continue to put up with high turnover levels and high induction, training and development costs, low moral, and sub-optimum employee performance. They have not reinvented their employee relationship thinking and practices.

A Comprehensive ERM System Is A Good Way Forward

We propose the adoption of an ERM "system." A system that balances and aligns staff, process and technology. A loyalty building system that follows a natural progression -- from employee satisfaction through to employee advocacy.

Harnessing Employee Loyalty

Building The ERM Castle

In order for the loyalty progression to develop over time, a system must be built that is founded on a number of key principles. These principles, or components of our ‘holistic’ system, form the acronym CASTLE.

The elements of the model, to be described in subsequent articles, are:

The authors recommend this reference to explore concepts in this article: Theodore Levitt, Marketing Myopia - Fifteen Key Concepts For Managerial Success (HBR, Sept – Oct, 1975).


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