"There are moments when customers simply want to let off some steam and be heard by someone who matters," says Hartley Peavey, founder and CEO of Peavey Electronics, in Meridian, Miss. One of the best communication tools his company has developed to keep in touch with its 1,400 dealers in the United States is the Co-Act (short for cooperation and action) program. Each dealer receives stationery and a stack of postage-paid envelopes addressed to the CEO's attention so that customers can fire off missives in the heat of the moment to complain about service or salespeople, suggest how to improve products, or flag billing problems.

Peavey responds personally to each letter within two weeks and answers about half a dozen letters a day, detailing the action taken on behalf of the customer. If any technical issues are beyond his grasp, he holds a briefing meeting with the appropriate employees.

Says Peavey, "A lot of companies have survey forms, but they don't go to the top, and the ones that do are usually answered by a form letter. I never have used a form letter and never will. And I do not use a signature stamp. I personally sign each one. These letters serve as a source of ideas for product improvements, a way to keep track of our employees' performance, and, most important, a way to keep customer relations positive."

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing