Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to provide a way of thinking about the technical and social subsystems in the context of e-commerce adoption. Design/methodology/approach: An interpretive research approach was used to investigate the employee management issues in service industries as they implemented B2C e-commerce. Two case studies were selected, both retail banks in Australia. One case study was a major bank, the other a smaller bank in a niche market. Findings: Employees who interact with customers using B2C technologies require different levels of skill and capability than those required in face-to-face interactions. This has implications for human resource management processes such as job design, recruitment and retention, performance management and training. Research limitations/implications: The study was small in scale and therefore limited in scope. Other service organisations and industries may have quite different information ecologies and business strategies. Practical implications: The coactive commerce system provides a concrete way for researchers and practitioners to better align technology, customers and employees to achieve competitive advantage. Social implications: This research shows that it is important to understand B2C e-commerce technologies in conjunction with business practices and in their broader context. It is important to understand how a service organisation's business strategy, technology strategy, business processes and employee management work together to provide an appropriate level of service to customers and achieve sustainable competitive advantage and strategic positioning. This is a complex set of factors. Originality/value: The coactive commerce system extends the socio-technical framework to provide a more explicit way to analyse both the social and technical subsystems in an organisation by integrating the human resource management aspects into the theoretical mix in the electronic commerce and information systems literature. This is important because the employee interaction with the customer is the way the customer perceives the organisation.