Success stories follow a simple rule:
They're only as good as the response you get from your customer.
So how do you get those ideal answers, the ones that are honest and illuminating and positive?
With the right questions.
Every question you ask during a case study interview should be open-ended and broad. Let your client answer in their own way, revealing their own story and personality.
(And you can forget the yes/no questions right now.)
The result will be a customer success story that's authentic and convincing.
Of course, the number of questions you ask your client will depend on how long and in-depth your case study is going to be. But let's start with the bare minimum: the most fundamental things you need to ask for a successful end product.
These are 9 questions you should be asking your customer (at a minimum) to create effective success stories.
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9 Questions You Must Ask Your Customer For an Effective Success Story
1. What kind of business do you run?
A compelling and effecting success story is really about your customer, not you. So when it comes time to interview, prompt them to introduce and explain their company in depth. What's their mission? Their beliefs? How long have they been in business? Why do they do what they do?
This kind of detail (told through your customer's own words) will be invaluable when it comes to constructing your success story, particularly in the opening section when you need to set the scene and make your audience care about the client in question.
2. Where are you headed as a business?
What are your client's business goals? Without a firm idea of what they were trying to achieve when they came to you, your success story will feel weak and unconvincing.
Instead, start with your customer's aims. These can be either long-term goals or short-term objectives — a mix of both is best. Ask your interviewees to give an overview of specific targets they wanted to meet as well as the broader direction the business is moving in.
3. What challenges were you facing and what motivated you to solve them?
This is the core of your success story: the problem your customer encountered that drove them to you. So ask questions that help your client really dig into the root of their issues and why exactly they were so bad.
The worse the problem seems at this stage, the more impressive your solution will become. Delve into the turning point when your customer knew their situation needed to be fixed, and what they were feeling at that point. What was at stake?
4. Why did you choose us over the competition?
Next, you want your interviewees to identify why your product or service was so attractive, and what made you stand out from your competitors. What was it about your USP that appealed to them? What did you have that no one else on the market could offer?
Be sure not to put words into your client's mouth, especially when discussing your own business. This authenticity will make your case studies far more powerful and convincing.
5. How do you use our product / service, and how do you find that process?
Specifics, like the way your customer uses your offering and integrates it into their business, add even more credibility to your success stories. That's why you should ask your client to explain in detail how they combine your product or service with their way of working.
Not only does this build trust in your audience, but it also allows viewers to imagine how easily your product or service might fit into their own company.
6. How have you benefited from using our product / service?
An enviably good outcome is key to any great success story. So encourage your client to describe all the ways your solution has helped their businesses, from big to small. Specific numbers as well as qualitative information about the results from your product or service are ideal. A blend of both will serve your case study well.
Remember the goals your customer spoke about earlier? Ask them how these were affected by your solution. Did they achieve them? Did they need to set new targets as a result? These dual points can be effective bookends for your success story.
7. How has our product / service improved your day-to-day life?
Go beyond just the business impact of your product or service. You also help make people's lives easier, so ask your client how you improved theirs. Maybe you saved them time or hassle or got them noticed at work. Whatever positive impact you had, include it in your success story.
More personal questions like this will help to draw out the benefits of your offering, beyond just surface features. The more human your interviewees, the more compelling your case study.
8. What have you learned from working with us?
This is an interesting question that doesn't often get asked in case study interviews.
At the end of the day your success story is about your client and their story. If you can show that they learnt something as a result of your product or service, you'll position yourself as a business that not only solves problems but also cares about helping others to learn and grow from their experiences.
9. What would you say to other businesses facing the same challenges as you did?
Finally, give your interviewees the chance to provide you with a ready-made testimonial. Not everyone will be able to answer this question perfectly, but you should get a good range of responses that speak directly to your audience and help to sum up the service you provide.
Round-up: Ask the Right Questions
All success stories rest on the quality of the questions you ask your customer. That's why it's so important to think about what you want your clients to say to construct the 'story' part of your success story.
Essentially, your interview questions should set up your client so that they reveal the story and message of the case study through their answers. These 9 questions provide a good foundation, but if you need help deciding what extra detail you should cover in your success story, we recommend speaking to experts on the subject (like us!).