Bill Grimes, president of Travel Design, a start-up in Wyoming, Mich., had wanted to be less of an FBI agent and more of a coach to the 110 sales agents who worked for him at the Endless Vacation, a travel company he sold in 1990. So he allowed them to record their conversations with customers. Then, at the employees' initiative, those recordings were reviewed by the employee and a supervisor.

"About 25% of the agents took an interest in improving themselves," says Grimes, who plans to install the system at Travel Design. Letting employees monitor themselves, combined with a new training program, helped the company's commissions (earned per hour) rise by about 35%.

Tyler Phillips is also instituting self-taping, for different reasons, at the Partnership Group, a child-care and elder-care resource and referral service in Lansdale, Pa. "If a dancer can get better by watching herself in the mirror," he notes, "maybe someone who makes a living on the phone can get better by listening to himself." -- Ellyn E. Spragins

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