How to Choose the Best Interviewer for Your Case Studies

BY Sam Harrison
May 10, 2023

Want to know a secret? Good case studies depend on great customer interviews.

A great interview contains a gold mine of valuable nuggets: 

  • It uncovers the juicy details of how you helped this customer succeed
  • It captures the quotes that humanize your story and help convince prospects
  • It gives you valuable insights into what your customers think and feel about you

But this goes both ways. A bad or even just mediocre interview will make it that much harder to create a case study that wows your prospects. If the interviewer mismanages their time, leaves important questions unasked, or just rubs your customer the wrong way, you’ve lost your one chance. You can’t exactly go back later and ask for a do-over. 

And now you’ve invested all of this time, effort, and money and didn’t get what you wanted. 

So if you want to put the odds on your side, the first step is working with a great interviewer who has the experience to make the magic happen.

Here are three key recommendations to help you choose the right case study interviewer: 

  1. Choose an interviewer outside of your company
  2. Choose an interviewer with experience (with case study interviews)
  3. Choose an interviewer who understands your goals

1. Choose an interviewer outside of your company

This one might seem counterintuitive. After all, who knows your customers better than, well, you? 

Sales and customer success teams can be reluctant to let anyone else interact with their customers. It’s their relationship, and they want to protect it. But CS and Sales don’t have interview experience, and that close relationship with customers is exactly why they aren’t the right people to conduct a case study interview. 

The truth is, using an interviewer from outside your company protects your relationship with your customer. 

The truth is, using an interviewer from outside your company protects your relationship with your customer.

First of all, it prevents things from getting awkward. You don’t have to look your customer in the eye and ask them to list all of the reasons why you’re great—someone else can do it for you!

It also allows your customers to give valuable constructive feedback that they might not otherwise feel comfortable sharing if they were talking to you directly. 

And most importantly, using a neutral third party means you can keep your customer relationship positive and focused on what matters. 

In fact, we recommend that you don’t sit in on customer interviews either. 

As design consultant Erika Hall explains in her book Just Enough Research, sitting in on interviews can trigger the observer effect: having another person present is likely to change responses, and you won’t get the same interview you would have gotten otherwise. 

A good interviewer will work with you in advance to cover all of the questions you want to ask and send you a transcribed recording afterward. That way, you can hear all of the juicy bits as if you had been there—without impacting the conversation.   

2. Choose an interviewer with experience (with case study interviews)

A good case study interview can feel like a conversation, but in reality, it requires careful crafting and planning. So for starters, you want to work with someone who has lots of interview training and experience: think journalists, user experience pros, researchers… 

Interviewing is a skill, and skills take time to develop. You don’t want someone getting their first crack at interviewing with your precious case study, do you?

One of the keys to a successful interview is making your interviewee comfortable. Practice, confidence, and skill all contribute to a good interview that lets your customer relax and share all the juicy details. 

But being a skilled generalist isn’t enough. We recommend looking for an interviewer with extensive case study experience, specifically.  

Customer success managers or marketers with a lot of other responsibilities don’t have the tools, know-how, or time to prepare for an interview that gets everything you need in just 30-45 minutes. 

Good case study interviews follow something we call a BDA (before, during, after) structure. This structure helps the writer get to the heart of the problem and craft the most compelling narrative. It makes it much easier to build a persuasive story that shows how you helped your customer solve their problem. 

And finally, it makes it easier to realize if anything important is missing from the interview before hanging up the phone. 

Case study interviews aren’t just fact-finding missions: They need to serve your business goals. You want to work with an interviewer who understands your goals and can help you reach them. Which brings us to our final point:

3. Choose an interviewer who understands your goals

B2B case studies serve a specific business purpose. You might be trying to reach leads in the same industry as your customer. Maybe you’re hoping to land more enterprise clients, or you want to demonstrate how you helped your clients save time, improve ROI, or collect more leads. 

Good interviewers conduct research to understand your goals, whatever they may be. They also work with you to develop a strong brief that solidifies your goals and challenges, and then use that brief as a guide for the interview. They ask questions, they learn about your company and your customer, and they come prepared with a set of questions that dig to the heart of your customer’s problem–and the ability to be flexible and probe deeper if they learn something unexpected. 

Here’s an example: 

Let’s say you own a marketing analytics tool, and you want to showcase how your product helped your customer save $100,000 in ad spend. If your interviewer spends thirty minutes asking about how much time your tool saved your customer instead, that might make for a great case study, BUT it won’t help you achieve your goals.   

On the other hand, sometimes, stories don’t go as planned: an experienced interviewer can roll with that too and tease out the story as it develops, rather than trying to shoehorn new information into a framework that no longer fits. 

Let’s say that once on the call, it becomes clear that there was a miscommunication and your customer didn’t save $100,000 in ad spend. A skilled interviewer will be able to pivot and ask other probing questions that align with your goals: if the tool saved employees time, how much was that time worth for the company? Are those employees able to use that time to do other high-value activities? Did the tool lead to higher ROAS, for example? What can your customer do with those savings? 

A great interviewer will stay focused on getting answers that achieve your goals. 

A GOOD interviewer can walk the line between coming prepared and improvising when necessary. A GREAT interviewer will walk that line while staying focused on getting answers that achieve your goals.

Want great case study interviews? We can help 

Want to feel confident and even *excited* about your case study interviewer? Work with our team. We’ve conducted hundreds of B2B interviews and can guarantee a great experience for you and your customers. 

Contact us to learn more.

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