What’s at the root of a good customer success story? Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to get instant reviews on products and services. Movies, restaurants, workout equipment, cosmetics—one search will get you hundreds or thousands of reviews.
But if you’re a business offering a more specialized product or service, you’ll have customers and prospects who want more in-depth information. And to get buyers to see themselves using your offering, a customer success story is one of the best tools in your marketing toolbox.
In this article, we’ll look at:
- What a customer success story is
- Why customer success stories are great for business
- How to write a customer success story
- 4 examples of customer success stories from real-life companies
What is a customer success story?
A customer success story informs the reader about what a client has gained from the company’s product or service.
They can come in a few different formats: the most common ones are as case studies, either as a page on a company’s site or as a downloadable file. Some companies also choose to turn their success stories into videos.
Remember: a customer success story is not just a customer testimonial. Success stories have a certain structure, which we’ll get to soon. They need to contain relevant information and be properly explained. A satisfied customer saying they love your alarm app because it helps them wake up on time is not a success story.
Creating a good success story takes lots of questions, lots of writing, and lots of editing. But, you may ask, why go to all this trouble? Won’t a quote from a happy customer tell people how great I am?
Why are customer success stories so beneficial for businesses?
What’s the ideal outcome when a potential client reads one of your great customer service stories?
A good story helps the client see themselves in the situation. Not in your place, but in place of the customer who found success with your product. Maybe they’re in the same industry. Maybe they’re having a similar problem. When they read about how you helped a client solve said problem, they’ll find parallels.
Customer success stories can have as broad or as narrow an appeal as you need. Just focus on who you want to read it and what you want them to get out of it. And that brings us to our next point: how to write one.
How do you write a customer success story?
To write a success story, you need a happy client. (Having trouble making your clients happy? We’ve got you covered here.) Since it’s also extra marketing for them, clients usually don’t mind being the subject of a success story. But always ask permission first!
When permission is granted, start by writing a list of questions for your client. Try to make these open-ended, so they can fill in the blanks.
When presenting these questions, a live conversation is always preferable to emailing a questionnaire—call your client over the phone or ask if you can have a video meeting. Writing a customer success story is a collaborative effort, so get up close and personal! Ideally, you’ll have a communication tool that lets you do different things like make phone calls, have video conference calls, and send messages all in the same app.
For example, RingCentral Office integrates all these communication options into one platform, so you won’t have to switch between apps for different calls:
And if you can record your customer conversations—with their permission, of course—to review later, do it! (For example, RingCentral also lets you record your phone or video calls.)
During the interview, let the qualitative information come first. You can always ask them for facts and figures later on.
Once you’ve gotten your answers from the client, you have enough information to start building the story. When writing, ensure the focus stays on the customer. Potential clients don’t see themselves in your shoes, so you need to give them a subject that they can relate to: therefore, put the customer first and showcase their struggles, so that your story will resonate with your intended audience.
A case study has four distinct sections:
1. The introduction
Introduce your client, give some background information, and explain their goals. For introduction sections, infographics or at-a-glance sections like the one below can be really useful—they present facts succinctly, instead of making the reader browse through paragraphs of text.
2. The problem
This is where you introduce the problem your client was facing before you swooped in to help. This problem must stand directly in the way of your client’s goals.
3. The solution
Here’s where you shine! Explain how the customer overcame the problem by using your product or service. Remember, keep the focus on the customer! They’re the hero of this story. Frame your product or service as a necessary tool to solving the problem, instead of making the case study about your company.
4. The outcome
This is where you present the facts. For example: since using your product or service, the customer has seen a 200% sales increase, a 500% increase in social media engagement, and so on. The more concrete numbers, the better! Another important part of a case study is customer testimonials. If you can get some good solid quotes from the client, it will help to drive home the impact of the success story.
A few more tips for this section:
First of all, make sure that you’re collaborating with your customer throughout the writing process. It’s depressingly common for companies to exaggerate or hyperbolize their capabilities in sales calls and marketing material. Don’t do that in customer success stories. These are real situations with real people, and they need to be authentic—otherwise you’re setting potential clients up for disappointment.
4 customer success stories from real-life companies
Here are some examples of customer success stories pulled from the internet. We’re going to take a close look at each of them to help you understand their strengths and weaknesses. In this section, the company will be the one writing the success story that they’ve helped their customer to achieve. All case studies are linked, in case you’d like to examine them further.
1. Keap and Burleson Orthodontics
Customer: Burleson Orthodontics
Format: On-site case study
Burleson Orthodontics is an orthodontics office located in Kansas City, Missouri. They decided to use Keap, a US-based software company, to automate some tasks in their email marketing strategy.
In the three years since they started with Keap, Burleson Orthodontics has experienced huge growth and success, and the founder, Dr. Dustin Burleson, had high praise. This story highlights Keap’s versatility as a tool for all types of business. Here’s how Keap frames Dr. Burleson’s decision to choose Keap:
This is a great approach—it actively encourages potential clients to think about how they could use Keap in their own business. Since Burleson Orthodontics was their first orthodontics company, it shows companies that Keap welcomes new industries.
The Burleson Orthodontics case study’s “at a glance” section, however, has a couple of problems:
The “Customer” heading is unclear—what does 2005 refer to? For any customer success story, clarity is key. The information should be easy to understand and process.
In addition, Burleson Orthodontics’ own website states that the company was founded in 2006. Watch out for this, as incorrect information can undercut the authority of your success story.
Key strength: Relatability. This case study tells readers that Keap is useful for all types of industries.
How it could be improved: The at-a-glance section. This section should always, always be clear as day.
2. RingCentral and Stratejm
Format: On-site case study
Stratejm is a cybersecurity firm based in Ontario, Canada. As the first cloud-based security-as-a-service company in Canada, its founder, John Menezes, knew that he needed exceptional customer success. When it comes to cybersecurity, even tiny delays can be critical.
Menezes chose RingCentral, a comprehensive, cloud-based business communications platform that allowed customers to contact Stratejm through any method of their choice. Menezes explains that RingCentral takes many problems off his plate:
While this case study doesn’t have a ton of quantitative data, it does have lots of praise for the way the software helps, as well as an estimate on staff savings alone of at least $75,000 annually. The client’s gratitude is clear, which bolsters the emotional potential of the case study.
Key strength: Client-focused. Lots of great quotes from the client about how satisfied they are and how RingCentral helped.
How it could be improved: This case study contains an estimate of savings from the client, but more numbers can always be added to show the benefits.
3. Jacobs Law Group and an unnamed demolition business
Company: Jacobs Law Group
Customer: Unnamed demolition business
Format: On-site client success story
Jacobs law group is a Philadelphia-based law firm. Due to their focus on client privacy, they don’t name any of their clients in their success stories, but that doesn’t stop them from getting into heavy legal detail.
This story is shorter than any of the others we talk about in this section. Jacobs Law Group explains that a partner had left their client’s company to start a competing business and later demanded financial records and dividends.
Jacobs Law Group was able to force out the competing partner with a single cash payment. Their legal work also uncovered improprieties by the former partner, ending the threat of future legal cases.
While this case study shows that Jacobs Law Group satisfied their client and has good legal know-how, the language was clearly written by people with a deep knowledge of the law. Their case studies, while short, consistently use complicated language and terms without much explanation. For the average reader, this could be off-putting. Customer success stories must be clear and easy to understand; otherwise, their impact suffers.
Key strength: They won the case using out-of-the-box thinking. This shows that Jacobs Law Group can find good solutions to complex legal problems.
How it could be improved: Dense language. Case studies should be accessible, so this example would benefit from either explaining some of the terms used or overall simplification of the language.
4. Amplexor and an EU-based bank
Customer: An EU-based bank
Format: Downloadable case study
Amplexor is a digital consulting and content strategy company based in Luxembourg. Their client in this case study, an unnamed European bank, was launching a new online portal and invited Amplexor to send them a proposal on how they could improve it.
Taking the needs of their client into consideration, Amplexor built a new foundation for their client’s digital communication channels using the Adobe Experience Cloud system.
This case study has a few different problems. First and foremost, it’s much more about Amplexor than it is about the client. There are no quotes, even anonymous ones, from the satisfied customer: instead, we’re treated to two different quotes from Amplexor employees, like the one below:
The whole point of writing a case study is to tell your client’s story. Your client’s success should speak for itself.
And that’s the other issue: this case study has no quantitative data whatsoever, and not even anything qualitative. While it does present the company’s abilities, as a case study, it’s missing too much information to be truly effective or to show what differentiates it from other companies offering similar services.
How it could be improved: Lots of technical details for interested clients.
Weaknesses: Too focused on the business instead of the client, and lacking any supporting evidence for the conclusion.
What’s your customer success story strategy?
Focus on the customer, make your story accessible, and if you can, always include concrete numbers and customer testimonials.
This will give you a solid foundation for any future customer success story.
Running a business isn’t easy, and neither is finding the right tools for the job; but with well-crafted customer success stories in your marketing toolbox, you’ll have the right supporting evidence to show customers why you’re the perfect choice.