In Fast Company, there is a good article (quick read) from the July issue, Talk to Our Customers? Are You Crazy? by Ian Wylie. The author looks at how Credit Suisse is working to "think different" about its customers.

"Stephan Kubler spends each and every working day spying on Credit Suisse customers. He's part of a small team led by customer-experience renegade David McQuillen, a 36-year-old American who's challenging the top executives at the blue-chip Swiss bank to get out of their Zurich offices and--gulp!--meet some customers.

...says McQuillen: "You need to go out and talk to customers to find out what they want."

"You can do this stuff in two or three days--you don't have to spend half a million dollars on research. Just go and observe." 

I completely agree.

I was asked recently how much I interact with customers. I'll argue not enough, but as I've noted previously, we run surveys, focus groups and lots of meetings to talk about customers. I meet with people across the company and hear what their customers -- our customers -- are telling them, asking from us, lamenting about and (in some cases) giving us praise. I get more out of visiting with customers in retail shops, on the road, in formal gatherings (sometimes in our Executive Briefing Center - here's one example), via phone and email. And I share this with the people I work with across the company: some people are better at getting the word out than I am, but I work at being an advocate every day for our customers and partners...

And our execs hear the word on the street, too: this from Fortune Magazine:

"[Steve] Ballmer asked [Kevin] Johnson to work closely with [Ray] Ozzie and run organizational interference for him. Before this new platforms job, Johnson had spent 2 1/2 years running Microsoft's sales, where he talked to customers every day. He shares Ozzie's user-first obsession more than any other top executive, and the two bonded immediately."

And this from Kevin Turner in the Mercury News:

"I travel around the world. It's a global job talking to customers and partners and our people. Here I'm meeting with an all hands. I'm meeting with customers and partners and having the same spirited discussion and take it a back to our people."