WordWizards Blog

Customer case studies: Are you talking to the right people? Asking the right questions?

Imagine this: You have a “five-star customer” — someone who absolutely loves your company and can’t say enough good things about one of your products or services. This high level of devotion inspires you to ask the customer, “Would you mind sharing your experiences with us by participating in a case study?”

Without hesitation, the customer agrees, and you start envisioning all the ways you can distribute the “success story.” You’ll post it on your website, hand it to prospects at sales presentations and tradeshows, tease it in an email campaign, link to it from social media posts and more.

But first you have to create a great case study, and that starts with getting the right information.

Tip #1: Reach into the ‘trenches’

Too many companies make the mistake of limiting their interviews to management (C-level, directors, managers, etc.). Yes, you need bottom-line metrics, such as cost savings and improved profitability. But what do people “down in the trenches” think about your product or service? How does it make their jobs easier, save them time or benefit them in other significant ways?
Their perspectives can add a powerful dimension to a case study.


Working on a case study for a software company, I interviewed the production administrator (i.e. “management level”) for a health system. Even though he provided great ROI feedback about the
software, something was missing.

I asked to speak with an end user, and the administrator gladly obliged. I struck gold with the organization’s human resources information systems coordinator, who shared a wealth of detail about how the software enabled her to accomplish tasks much more effectively and in less time than ever before.

Four words from that conversation stood out above the rest: “I’d have to quit!” she declared when asked about doing her job without the software.

Tip #2: Be organized and proactive

For my case study interviews, I always prepare a list of questions I want to be sure to ask, and I usually send the questions to my contacts ahead of our phone call. This obviously makes sense in terms of enabling contacts to formulate intelligent and comprehensive responses to your questions, versus interviewing “on the fly.”

But developing a list of far-reaching questions also helps you uncover “hidden treasures” that might be lost with a less meticulous approach. Following is a standard list of questions that I’ve developed (always customized to the company and person I’m interviewing) over the years:

  • Why did you choose ABC (product)?
  • Did you consider alternatives? If so, why was ABC the best choice for you?
  • How did you function before you had ABC?
  • What were the challenges that ABC helped you address?
  • Who uses ABC in your organization?
  • What are the top ways ABC has benefited your organization (or your job)?
  • Can you share specific ROI metrics that show the value of ABC to your company (or job)?
  • Please tell me about specific situations where ABC made a difference.
  • What’s been your experience working with XYZ (company)?
  • How responsive has XYZ been to your needs?
  • How would you characterize the customer service you’ve received? Can you give me an example or two?
  • How would you sum up the importance of ABC to your job or company?
  • Would you recommend ABC (product) and (XYZ) company to others in your industry? Why?

Tip #3: Be flexible and reactive

Tip #2 is “be organized and proactive.” So, am I contradicting myself here? Not at all. While I prepare a list of questions for every interview, I’m also not afraid to deviate from it a bit. Here’s what typically happens: Because most of my questions are open-ended (vs. yes/no questions), I tend to get far-ranging responses. These answers prompt me to think of additional questions that lead to more clarity, detail — or unexpected “golden nuggets” of information.

Of course, there’s much more to obtaining high-quality information for a customer case study. (For example, are you a good listener? Are you able to pick up on cues that inspire new questions?) If you’ve created case studies for your company, I’d like to know what tips you have…please feel free to share!

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