Telephone interviews are an inexpensive and fast way to get information from your customers. Ask clearly worded brief questions - people don't like to spend a lot of time on the phone answering questions.

You may learn more through a direct-mail survey. It needn't be elaborate; you can even use a postcard. But don't ask more than 15 questions.

With today's technology, you can conduct fax or e-mail interviews. The same criteria apply here - be clear and concise - and always thank customers in advance for their input.

Always remember, the most important thing is not how you ask the questions but how you apply what you learn.

Excerpted from Get Smart: 365 Tips To Boost Your Entrepreneurial IQ