Alan Peyser is considering voice mail to replace live operators but worries that customers will find it impersonal (Vox Humana, No. 04921332, April 1992).

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My flier-distribution company employs 1,000 people in 87 cities. We knew voice mail could help track those employees but worried that customers would dislike talking to a machine. Response to our questionnaire indicated that the overwhelming majority would accept voice mail if it improved our service-reporting schedule and if we responded to messages at least as quickly as we had with live operators. The questionnaire also introduced the change to our customers. We've used voice mail for two years now. We sent out a follow-up survey last December, and not one respondent wanted us to switch back.

Jim Carter

Marketing Manager

C&E Street Promotions

Upper Darby, Pa.

A reader is eager to open a fitness club, but he wonders if he needs firsthand experience in the industry. Should he work for a year as an athletic trainer (I Want to Get Physical, No. 04921332, April 1992)?

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Working as a trainer won't help you with the business problems you'll face. Get some management experience first with a company that's adding clubs. Relocate with it, and gain experience with its capital instead of your own. After a few years, or as little as six months, you can return, select your site back home (where you won't be in competition with your former employers), and begin the process of writing a plan and raising capital.

Guy Williams

Eastern Regional Manager

Hoggan Health Industries

Salt Lake City

In April (1992, No. 04921332) Steven Rosenthal asked for a book that would help him make employee reviews more constructive (A Kinder, Gentler Employee Review).

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The Alaska Department of Labor's Employment Security Division (907-465-2756) publishes The Alaska Employer Handbook, which includes forms for exit interviews and employee evaluations. I've paid $300 for resources quite inferior to this free book.

Dona Van Buren

Finance Manager

Jorgenson Optical

Tacoma, Wash.

Crisp Publications (800-442-7477) offers self-instruction books in simple formats with excellent checklists and exercises. In particular, see Effective Performance Appraisals, by Robert B. Maddux (1987), and Coaching and Counseling, by Marianne Minor (1989). Each costs $8.95. And check the library for Performance Appraisals: A Guide to Greater Productivity (John Wiley, 1981, now out of print), which contains solid, useful information.

Patricia Noel

Training Director

Frankford Bank

Horsham, Pa.