For 40 years, Pro-Mark, a 28-employee firm in Houston, has been manufacturing drumsticks for customers ranging from young novice drummers to professional musicians. For the past three years, the company has employed two professional percussionists to staff its toll-free hotline, rather than filling the position with traditional customer-service reps. "Our customers would much rather speak to an actual drummer," notes Kat Kelley, who works in both purchasing and customer service.
The drummers on the toll-free hotline go far beyond fielding questions about Pro-Mark products. "Kids just starting out in drum class love to get information over and above what they get from their teachers," notes Kelley. "And professional drummers appreciate discussing their problems with another percussionist--whether it's a finer point of technique or whether or not they're using the right stick in a given situation." When the percussionists are not helping out their fellow drummers, they are productive in additional ways: One is in charge of artist relations, and the other works in new-product development.