Get honest opinions about your company to ensure your continued success.

Whether you operate a showroom or a wholesale business, customer feedback is important. When do you talk to your customers about your company? Maybe when you’re taking them to lunch, or out for drinks, or out to a ballgame. If someone is taking you out, it’s not likely you will criticize their company. Give people the opportunity to honestly express their feelings about your company without being worried that they’ll ruin the relationship.

There are many ways to do this, such as the suggestion box, which although dated, is better than nothing. You’ll have to sort through the comments, but occasionally you may notice a pattern of complaints or suggestions that could lead to something worthwhile.

Today, with everyone having easy access to a computer, people should be visiting your Web site - and at some point they should have to answer a question. Consider online surveys - they can lead to some good results. But remember, people like to be rewarded for their actions, whether it’s 5% off their next purchase, a $25 gift card to your store, or a pad of paper and pen. If you decide to post a survey on your site, let visitors know that those who complete it will receive a gift. This also will arouse their curiosity.

In addition, if your Web site offers visitors the opportunity to request more information about your company, ask them questions such as, “Where did you hear about us? Were you recommended by someone? Have you ever dealt with us in the past? If yes, how would you describe your experience?”

Give customers a risk-free way to answer questions with no appearance of solicitation. If the questions are asked as part of a process of obtaining and providing useful information, they will answer truthfully.

Beyond learning why people like or dislike your company, you can get feedback on a new marketing campaign. Include a question about where the person heard of your company. This can help provide measurable numbers for radio or magazine ad campaigns. Learn from your customers how to provide a better experience for them and offer something in return, so it’s a win-win for both parties.