At Odwalla, a maker of fresh-fruit and nutritional juices, based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., it's the delivery-truck drivers who have face-to-face interaction with customers. The company has 175 trucks on the road, and each driver answers questions and receives customer feedback at every stop along the route. Odwalla has also invested millions of dollars in technology, outfitting each truck with a hand-held computer to track inventory and complete on-the-spot invoices.

Talk to the drivers and you'll find that they are the most enthusiastic advocates of the product. Odwalla goes to great lengths to educate employees about the nutritional value of its juices. It also taste-tests potential new products in-house, conducts product-naming contests among staff, and allots each employee a pint of juice for every day worked (three pints a day for drivers).

The truck drivers, says Chris Gallagher, director of communications, are Odwalla's public-relations team. And the upshot of that effort, says former-driver-turned-company-accountant Cindy Burns, is better customer service.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing