A few years ago, high on the belief in the power of customer success stories, I set out to create some of my own.
I’d already created hundreds of case studies for others, so why wouldn’t I create my own to show the value of working with me?
The “why not?” became immediately apparent when, during phone interviews, I unexpectedly felt uncomfortable asking my own clients about their experiences with me.
Sure, I was inquiring about their positive experiences, but still, it was strange for both of us. And I believe they were less forthcoming with quotes and information than they would have been if I’d partnered with a writer friend to do this for me.
I might as well have said, “Tell me how great I am!” No one likes to be a part of that.
I went on and wrote the case studies, but vowed never to interview my own customers again.
Get Some Distance
Case studies are not objective pieces of journalism. They are clearly produced by a vendor to showcase a positive experience.
But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t engage a neutral party to interview and write your case studies. A third party adds a critical measure of distance between the vendor and the customer, and encourages the customer to open up and share in a way they wouldn’t with someone they are closer to.
Many of us are more willing to pay for the chance to tell a therapist more intimate information than we would tell our closest friends.
And in the case of case studies, giving and receiving praise directly makes some of us shift in our seats.
Get Over Hang Ups
I understand why many organizations – and often those closest to the customer – interview their own customers:
1. They know the customer’s background and the solutions being featured.
2. They want to protect valued relationships.
3. Third parties cost more than using internal resources.
I get all those reasons, but believe the value that third-party interviews provide outweighs them. Someone else can learn the customer’s background and subject matter well enough to interview and write about them. Client relationship “owners” can still sit on customer interviews if they really choose, but customers open up more if they don’t. It’s just 30-60 minutes of time, and reps can be part of the rest of the process.
It’s true that a third party costs more than using internal resources for interviews, but the payoff is usually in more candid interviews. At a minimum, get a marketing contact within the company to conduct interviews – not sales or account reps.
So back away from your customers – at least when it comes to conducting case study interviews!