WHILE business development or marketing is about dialogue with the external world of an organisation, human resource (HR) is about the dialogue within the internal world of an organisation.

Organisations seem to be quite lopsided in managing these two aspects, at least in my observations. They spend a lot of money to find out what customers want, research and compare their products with competitors and have long boardroom debates on how to track their competitors and their moves but seem not to care so much about the needs, wants and aspirations of their employees.

A recent research article I read highlighted that unhappiness is the greatest determining factor why customers leave — unhappy about price, product and with the way they are treated.

Most often, management puts their focus on the price and believes that cutting their price below Company X would retain their customers.

However, research in a wide variety of industries shows that what binds buyers to a company is not the price alone, it is the totality of the relationship, the way they are treated and so Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is given high importance for business growth.

This makes me think CRM and Human Resource Management (HRM) should be part of the same department.

An organisation that believes in being more courteous and caring towards a potential customer or partner should behave the same way to its employees.

A company should invest in retaining its highly skilled employees. It should treat each employee with the same sophistication and attention that is given to a customer.

Companies are eager to settle customer grievances but have a different attitude to employee grievances. They are willing to put up with difficult customers to retain them but are not as tolerant when it comes to employees.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were to be an ERM – Employee Relationship Management aimed purely at salvaging employee grievances?

Let’s look at some of the ways organisations invest resources to get their customers hang on to them and how this can be used for ERM.

Get to know who they are

Keep track of the customers and let your employees at every branch, or on the telephone know who your gold customers are. Be sure that they are treated as Gold.

* Do you really take effort to know your employees?

Communicate with them

Find special ways to build a relationship with them. Thank them for their business.

* Do you find ways to build relationship with your employees and thank them?

Use best customer service people

Some banks segment their customers by profitability and when the phone from a profitable customer rings, their calls are automatically transferred to a specially selected customer service team.

* Do you recognise your employees’ worth and give them importance?

Build equity in the process

Provide rewards for volume business and for length of service. Make it expensive to leave.

*   Are your employees rewarded timely and for length of service?

Don’t stress price

 If your neighbour helps you carry a heavy item of furniture upstairs in your house, you would never think of offering him money but rather offer a cup of coffee and conversation. This is what your customers want – to be treated like a good neighbour or a good friend.

*   Do you treat your employees as a good neighbour or a good friend?

Employees should be treated with the same seriousness that is reserved for customers. Giving similar attention, time and money invested in knowing your employees will give you a more engaged workforce that will help your business grow.