How to interview a customer for a case study

The perfect customer has just officially agreed to participate in a case study. Yay! That’s an integral step in the process of creating and sharing excellent customer stories.

In order to capture their story, you need to conduct a killer interview, one where the customer shares all the juicy details. You need your customer to say more than “it was nice to work with them.” You need them to give a detailed account of how valuable your products and services are.

Of course, it’s a delicate walk. You want to ask your customer pointed questions, but you also don’t want to make them uncomfortable or force them into giving praise. The last thing you want is to botch the interview and have the customer decide they’re not so interested in participating in the case study after all. 

How can you conduct a case study interview that gets your customer to open up? Let’s talk about what you can do to ensure you conduct a killer case study interview.

1. Decide on who is conducting the interview

You have two main options when it comes to conducting the interview. You can either handle the questions yourself or outsource the interviewing process to someone you trust. Let’s talk about the advantages of both options.

The case for you conducting the interview:

  • It’s free to do the interview yourself.
  • You know the business better than anyone else.
  • You know exactly what questions to ask if the interview starts veering off course.

The case for hiring a trusted professional to conduct the interview:

  • It’s uncomfortable to ask question after question about how awesome you are.
  • Customers are more likely to share honest opinions with a third party.
  • Hiring someone else saves you a substantial amount of time.

If you are on a budget, or if your business is exceptionally complicated, it’s worth it to conduct the interview yourself.

If you have the resources, we suggest outsourcing the interview process. It’s a great way to capture honest feedback and allow yourself to focus on more pressing business matters.

2. Nail down your process

The last thing you want to do is hop on a customer call and have no road-map of what you are doing or where you are going.

To conduct a professional case study interview, you need to nail down your process. Here’s what I mean.

Before you hop on the call, take the time to review customer data and any notable results. You can use this information to help you fine-tune and personalize your interview questions.

Once you have solidified your questions, you’re ready to conduct the interview. Don’t go into the interview without the proper tools. Be prepared to record the conversation and then send it out for transcription.

Once you have the transcription in hand, create a draft of the case study, share it with stakeholders, make revisions, send it to the client, and make any additional changes.

Here are some tools you can use to ensure success:

  • Calendly to schedule calls
  • UberConference to record the interview
  • Rev.com to transcribe the interview
  • Google Docs to create an editable and shareable draft of the interview

3. Reach out and schedule the interview

It can be awkward to ask a customer if they are willing to speak on your behalf, especially if you’re a one-person show.

Thankfully, there is a way to take the pressure off both parties while still making the ask, and that’s by sending a well-written email.

Email is a natural, low stakes way to reach out to potential case study participants. And it’s particularly useful if you have a lot of customers that you want to feature.

If you’re having a hard time getting responses from customers via email, there is no shame in picking up the phone. Politely asking whether they would be willing to do a case study, and explaining how helpful it is to your business will go a long way.

Once they agree, you can send another email with a Calendly (or whatever scheduling software you use) link. This way, the customer can pick an interview date and time that works well with both of your schedules. 

If you’re not sure what to ask in an email, don’t worry. We offer our go-to Case Study Email Templates, which have been proven to get responses.

4. Conduct the interview

Before you go into the interview, make sure you’re prepared with a list of questions (you can download the ones I use here). Use the questions as a guide to make sure you don’t miss anything, but don’t feel like you need to follow them exactly. You want the interview to be a comfortable, flowing conversation. 

Conducting an interview can be a blast if you like to chat on the phone or slightly terrifying if you don’t. No matter what your personality is, the following tips will keep the interview on track.

Here is what to do while conducting the interview:

  • Give context. Remind the interviewee who you are, why you are calling, and the goals of the call.
  • Ask for permission. Don’t forget to inform the caller that you’re recording the call and ask them for permission to do so.
  • Shut up. A case study is your customer’s story, not yours. Let them do the talking.
  • Keep it conversational. Keep the tone relaxed like you’re having a conversation with a friend.
  • Dig deep into specifics. If the person scratches the surface of something valuable, ask questions to get more details.
  • Listen for quotes. Customer quotes are your best friend in a case study. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or more details to get a better quote.
  • Be gracious. Thank your customer for their time and willingness to participate. 

Interviewing a customer for a case study? Fear not! 

Whether you’re conducting your first or fiftieth case study, these tips will help guide you smoothly through the interview process.

For more information about how to write a case study, check out my DIY Case Study Kit. It includes a comprehensive guide, email templates, design templates, Google docs, and much more.