I found this Don Sull post on observing customers very insightful. Please note particularly:
“To empathise with customers’ unmet needs, managers must observe them in the wild, not the zoo. To better understand the needs of Mexico’s less affluent customers, CEMEX assembled a cross-functional team of high-potential managers who spent 10 hours each day for a year in an extremely poor neighbourhood in Guadalajara.
This intense observation provided many surprising insights. They noticed, for example, poorer consumers generally bought less expensive powdered cement in bags, rather than pricier ready-mixed concrete delivered by trucks. In these neighbourhoods, cement is a consumer product. Their observation led CEMEX to market powdered cement like powdered soap, through consumer advertising and sponsoring local football clubs.
More importantly, the team gleaned insight into the subtle emotional benefits of home extension that supplemented the functional benefits of more room. Home improvements not only added space, they learned, but also conferred an important psychological satisfaction by creating ‘patrimonio’ — something of enduring value that customers could pass on to their children and grandchildren.”
See also: Innovation Means Really Being There