A colleague recently asked, "How can we learn about our customers' needs other than conducting customer surveys?"
I shared with him four ideas:
1. Invite your most difficult customers for focus group sessions. Buy them a nice meal. You'll automatically get some useful suggestions.
2. Organise a contest inviting ideas from customers. Give cash rewards to customers whose ideas you implement.
3. Commission an independent research company to do this.
4. Buy the top 10% of your sales team a meal and ask them.
I am sure others can think of alternatives.