Interviewing 101: Conducting the Interview

Next up comes the moment of truth: the actual case study interview. If you’ve taken the time to prepare, it should go off more or less without a hitch. Remember not to talk too fast or get too eager and cut off customers in the middle of their answers. If you find your customers go off on a lot of tangents, listen politely but use the questionnaire to steer them back to where you want them to go.

Also keep in mind that you’re conducting an interview, not an interrogation; sometimes there are customers who simply will not divulge certain details, no matter how persistent you are. If a customer won’t tell you how much revenue increased as a result of using your product, you can push back a little and say that metrics will make the case study stronger. If they still refuse, then drop it. You can say that revenue went up without providing an exact number, or you can find other great things to talk about, like improved customer service; a stat or two is not worth alienating a customer.

Before you hang up, give your customer a sense of next steps. Let them know that you’ll follow up with any questions you may have during the writing process (though you should try to keep follow ups to a minimum), and that he or she should expect to see a draft in the next four weeks, or whatever reasonable time frame you prefer.

Also tell the customer that they will have the final chance to review the case study and make changes before it’s published. This last point is absolutely critical, so let me bring out the bold again: Never, ever publish a case study without getting customers’ explicit approval. This step helps ensure that all of the information in the case study is correct. For example, you don’t want to get the name of your valued customer’s products wrong in print. It also gives customers peace of mind and makes them feel like part of the process, which will make getting customer sign-off on your content much easier and more likely.

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