Awesome post Rohn.
I think customer personas are going to be a big thought area in 2013.
The problem, from my personal experience, is that some companies tend to see personas as their actual customers, and therefore they neglect the one-to-one conversations and all that comes with it, such as learning the individual characteristics and differences...even names. I think the main reason for this is down to industrial era thinking of efficiency and productivity. - a common problem in a lot of businesses it would seem. Yes, it's harder for bigger businesses, but I see a lot of small businesses taking a big business approach to the use of customer personas - becuase they see it as an easy option.
I think small local businesses can almost definitely do without personas - they need to be going back to basics. Sort of 1950's local shopkeeper mentality, where they know every person in great detail. And to some extent, I think all businesses need to have some element of this mentality. This should be the starting point, and only the learning journey can tell a business what's next.
It's an awesome discussion that you raise, and I think it's a topic that is no longer a 100% requirement...so long as you have a truly caring customer culture within your business.