If you’re ignoring customer feedback, you’re doing so at your peril. While people disagree about the numbers, it’s true that unhappy customers tell more people about their experience than happy ones do. So before disgruntled customers become a problem, be sure to institute one or more of these methods to collect their feedback. This will allow you to catch many issues before you lose the customer.

1. Ask them directly. There’s no simpler way to get customer feedback than to simply ask for it. When you interact with your customers, thank them for their business, and ask if there is anything else you could be doing--or anything you could be doing better. You’ll get a great deal of good feedback and ideas for new offerings and services.

2. Create an anonymous feedback system. Some customers aren’t comfortable voicing their dissatisfaction face-to-face. Give them a way to deliver anonymous feedback. This might be an old-fashioned suggestion box (if customers visit your location) or a form on your website. Of course, take anonymous feedback with a grain of salt; you never know from where it comes. However, if you consistently get the same complaints or suggestions, it could be an indication that something is wrong.

3. Survey your customers. Once or twice a year, send a snail mail or electronic survey to gauge customer feedback. Print the forms and include postage-paid envelopes, or use a tool like SurveyMonkey, which has free and premium versions, to capture customer feedback. You could offer the option to keep the survey anonymous or ask them to share their names and contact information in exchange for being entered into a drawing for a prize. (Just make sure that doesn’t violate any sweepstakes laws in your state.)

4. Create a customer panel. A customer panel or customer advisory board is a useful tool for helping you review your products and services and ensure that your quality is holding steady. Invite a group of your best customers to give their feedback periodically. This can be done by mail, email, conference call, or in-person meetings, depending on the size of your group and location of its members. A customer advisory board can help you review new product offerings, give you feedback about your current business, and even help you cultivate referrals and new business. It’s typically a good idea to create some sort of incentive for serving, such as a discount or the opportunity to sample new products before they are offered.

5. Hire a third party. If you’re too swamped to field the customer satisfaction monitoring job yourself, consider hiring it out. Marketing, management, or loyalty program consultants can help you suss out what your customers love about your company and what needs improvement. Be sure to check references and ensure that the provider you choose both fits your budget and has a history of delivering good work.