Picture this: You call up to order some winter underwear and, instead of making you fidget on hold while elevator music blares in your ear, someone answers right away. It may sound unusual, but that's what happens at WinterSilks, a mail-order apparel business, in Middleton, Wis.

If a WinterSilks telemarketer isn't able to answer a phone within 16 seconds, the call is automatically redirected to the order department (which temporarily stops processing mail orders). If that department's lines are busy, the call rolls over to the customer-service department or even further along to the general administrative office. Anyone in the company, including the president, will take the call so that the customer doesn't have to wait.

John Reindl, vice-president of operations, believes that being there for customers is also good for employees. "Working directly with a customer reminds us how our personal responsibility translates into service, one customer at a time," he says.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing