From the August 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

With the focus today on customers' experiences, how can you get good feedback? "Direct consumer feedback need not be expensive or overly complex," explains market researcher Jeffrey G. Jordan of 1-on-One Marketing Associates in San Diego. Familiar research tools include mystery shopping, customer comment cards, on-site intercepting, Web site evaluation and toll-free phone numbers.

Teen retailer Hot Topic encourages comments through its Web site (which gets almost 800,000 hits per day) and through in-store comment cards. Car rental company Avis features a feedback section on its Web site and even requests customers' contact information in order to send a response.

If you're looking for feedback (and lots of it), make sure to put your comment information everywhere-at the front of the store with in-store signage, in shoppers' bags and via a link on your site. You can also sweeten the incentive for feedback by rewarding input. Of course, since you're giving something away, it's hard to determine if your customers have a valid comment or are just looking for a freebie.

Toll-free phone numbers are another reliable communication tool. Fast-food operators such as Jack In the Box publicize a toll-free number for guests to leave comments. Even Jack himself answers that line.

Remember, asking the customer is always the right decision.