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.