Who Should Conduct Case Study Interviews

BY Holly Yoos
May 26, 2022

A successful case study interview requires more than just a great question set.

After all, you only have 30-60 minutes to capture a deep level of detail from the customer that will inform a strategic story. If you waste time rattling off questions like a robot, you’ll only get surface-level responses and miss the deeper story.

Here’s what can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing:

  1. You can easily miss the deeper, more strategic story
  2. Your customer will hold back
  3. You will hold back
  4. You won’t ask about what’s already known
  5. You won’t get concise soundbites

Which is why you need to put your customer in the hands of a team that knows how to surface a convincing and riveting customer success story—one that will not only attract and convert leads but that is also ripe for deployment in a billion other ways in your sales, marketing, and internal training. 

1. You can easily miss the deeper, more strategic story

When you attempt the interview piece of a case study yourself, or assign it to your team, you risk missing out on the deeper, more strategic story, i.e. the story that your prospective customers want to hear. 

Your question set, no matter how comprehensive, won’t take you to the deeper layers of a story. You may walk away with the WHAT of what happened, but not the HOW or WHY, which is where the treasure lies.

Getting to these deeper levels isn’t easy. It requires practice, training, and exposure to all kinds of interview situations. We have that experience. We’ve put in the reps with people who are evasive, tight-lipped, and nervous. People who steer the conversation in unexpected directions or make it their own. 

Case study interviews have a very human element that you can’t predict or prepare for in advance. You either have the capacity and experience to manage those situations or you don’t.

And if you don’t, that opportunity is lost.

Case study interviews have a human element that you can’t predict or prepare for.

The point is, there’s a big difference between asking questions and asking questions to tell a story. It’s why you can’t just use your client off-boarding interview filled in with a few details from the client experience manager to create a credible and motivating customer case study. 

Again, these interviews and inputs may get you the WHAT of what happened as well as some of  the results. But they won’t take you further. And the truth of the matter is that your prospective clients don’t care about WHAT you did as much as HOW your client experienced it—and only your customer can tell that story, preferably in their own words.

2. Your customer will hold back

Unfortunately, when YOU conduct the interview, your customer will hold back their honest, unfiltered feedback.

You’re not a neutral party. You’re intimately involved in the relationship. Most likely, the two of you genuinely like each other and enjoy working together. And so, your customer will feel pressure to say the perfect thing or withhold valuable negative feedback. They won’t want to hurt your feelings by saying anything negative. 

Your customer will feel pressure to say the perfect thing or withhold valuable feedback.

Which is too bad, because you WANT this kind of feedback, even if it stings. It’s high-value intel you can use to make your company, product, service, support, etc. better.

As a third-party, our team is ideally positioned to pull negative feedback out of your customer. Your customer can speak openly, you get the intel you need to improve, and no one’s feelings get hurt.

3. You will hold back

Not only will your customer hold back if you conduct the interview, but YOU will hold back as well. 

It’s human nature. It’s super awkward to lean in and say to your customer “So… tell me why I’m awesome….”

It’s much, much better to have a third-party ask the questions and eliminate any feelings of awkwardness, anxiety, or pressure. 

When we ask the questions, we come at it with the attitude of “This story sounds fascinating! Tell us all about it!”—which gives the interviewee space to tell their story in full with no discomfort.

4. You won’t ask about what’s already known

You and your customer have a preexisting, shared understanding of the industry, project, and solution. 

So, it would feel weird for you to ask about those things. After all, you’re supposed to be the expert!  

It feels awkward to ask “setting-the-scene” questions when you’re supposed to be the expert.

But these details are important because your audience needs to know them to understand the story. Those details need to be laid out—and preferably by the customer in their own words. 

As a third-party, we can play the “newbie” card. We can ask setting-the-scene questions without embarrassment. We can invite the customer to educate us, which allows them to open up and share their experience in words any reader would understand. 

And, more often than not, this kind of questioning also surfaces information that you thought you knew but actually didn’t—or at least not the full scope.

5. You won’t get concise soundbites

We also consider all the marketing assets we can create from the interview as we ask the questions. 

Because our goal isn’t just to create a phenomenal written case study. It’s to create a phenomenal written case study with powerful, concise soundbites that you can repurpose into other sales and marketing materials, such as customer testimonials, audiograms, and social media cards. 

This means posing questions in a way that solicits cogent, formidable soundbites… instead of rambling, three-page answers. 

“Asking” isn’t the same as “interviewing”

Having all the right ingredients doesn’t make you a world-class chef. Having all the ‘right’ questions doesn’t make you a great interviewer. 

The real interview happens between the questions.

The real interview happens between the questions, in the pauses, down the rabbit holes, and in the asides. It’s how you create a welcoming environment, how you dig without scraping anything sensitive, and how you manage your time. 

And ultimately, it’s how you transform interviewees into potent storytellers.

Put your customer in the hands of a team that knows how to surface convincing and riveting customer success stories.

Contact us to start the conversation.

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