Observe the user
'Len reckons the moral of this story is to listen, really listen, to customers' - I think it s more that Len observed his user.
I like this story as I have worked in broadcast engineering support where the engineers seem to prefer to talk to the users over phone or talkback(intercom) rather than visit them (in the same building) and actually see what is happening.
I always advocated visiting users for several reasons:
1. You really see what is happening - users are human and can use the wrong terminology for something causing much confusion - you may see they are 'doing it completely wrong' or learn new things eg. shortcuts.
2. Exasperated uses, more often than not, like someone to turn up - it makes them feel that people care about their problem - even if you don't fix it.
3. It gets you off your fat arse - lots of little bits of exercise, getting up and down etc etc - much better than sitting for hours in one sweaty chair.
4. You might get to meet some nice people - and even become friends etc.
5. An exasperated user is usually much gentler face to face than over the phone/talkback and will see you as an individual rather then just a voice in support.
Only my experience.