Last month I was doing some focus groups. One of the best questions I asked to find out about what makes customers happy was:
"Think about all the things you have bought in your life. What is your best loved thing? How did you come to own it? What meaning does that have for you?"
Yes, one to two people talked about big ticket items like cars, but the majority of people responded with very individualistic and low priced items. We heard them speak less to the features and functions of the object and more the the meaning. Reminds me of John Maeda in "The Laws of Simplicity" urging us to "subtract the obvious and add the meaningful." The one question also helps put the focus back on the customer's life, what they value, and what is meaningful in their life. Our product and service designs should fit into that.