I write a lot of B2B case studies, which means I conduct a lot of interviews with customers and experts. Here’s a basic set of questions I usually ask, which helps me form a kind of chronological story that I eventually turn into a case study. Feel free to use them, or add your questions in the comments section.
1) What’s your background?
The answer to this question provides context. When you know where the interviewee is coming from you can ask more directed questions, and you might also get some content that will add personal interest.
2) What was going on in your job/life that was a problem before you started using the product/service?
This is one of the most important questions. You need to discover the problem that the product or service featured in the case study must solve. You’ll also have the start of your storyline.
3) How did you hear about the product/service?
A story about how the customer first tried the product or service may or may not make it into the case study, but it usually helps paint a fuller picture of what was going on at the time.
4) What convinced you to try it?
5) How did you like it at first?
6) Did you have any trouble with it?
Questions 4, 5 and 6 all get into more detail about the customer discovering the product/service and beginning to use it. While most people think they should never put anything negative into a case study, mentioning stumbling blocks makes the story more realistic, and can help new customers troubleshoot. (For more, “Why You Need to Embrace Negative Reviews” enforces this thinking)
7) How has it helped?
Another key question. Obviously you need the answer to this to show how the product or service helped solve a problem. Real/concrete evidence is best to probe for here, such as sales increases, money or time saved, number of calls received, hits to the website, etc.
8) Are there specific stories or anecdotes you can tell me about using the product?
While numbers (if available) are key to proving a product’s efficacy, it’s the personal stories that stick in people’s minds.
9) What would you tell other people who were thinking of using the product?
This question is an opportunity to get some excellent, personal recommendations from key customers. One ad agency conducted a study showing that 92% of B2B purchases were influenced by a peer.
10) Anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
I throw this one in because it sometimes gives me the golden nugget of the case study. The interviewee might bring up product benefits that I haven’t thought of, or tell a story that really nails home the whole point of the case study, or even effuse about how wonderful the product is. See what happens when you ask it.
I don’t always follow these questions as a strict script. Usually, the conversation flows and I ask more in-depth questions based on our discussion. However, this list of interview questions offers a good guideline to go back to, to make sure I have all the information I need to write a substantial case study.
What other questions do you ask when interviewing for case studies?