The Difference Between a Customer Story and Case Study

customer story example

When talking with home builders and remodelers, I often use the terms case study and customer story interchangeably, but they are actually two different types of projects because of the detail and depth required to write each one. Both are enhancements of a customer testimonial, so let’s start there.

A customer testimonial is a short, direct quote from your customer that expresses satisfaction for the product (new home or renovation) and service they received from you throughout the project. Testimonials are usually just a few sentences long, and although they express satisfaction and gratitude for a job well done, they often lack depth. Most homeowner testimonials sound something like this:

“Thank you to JL Smith Building and Remodeling Company for a beautiful job building our addition. Their team was professional throughout the entire process, and they were extremely courteous in working around our family’s crazy schedule. We’d highly recommend them. Thanks Jay and Linda for a job well done!” – R. Hackman

Testimonials are great to use in marketing, such as in newsletters or marketing brochures, as a quick blurb, but they lack the power of detail that can be found in customer stories and case studies.

customer story example
Example of a customer story from a magazine.

A customer story (sometimes referred to as a customer success story) is a more comprehensive account of your customer’s experience. It is, in fact, a story and is usually written in article form. It contains details of the project, direct quotes from the customer, and paints a clear picture of the project – from start to finish. It is usually only 1-2 pages in length, and not only does it cover the problem, solution and results, it reveals why your customer chose you for their project.

Picture a customer story like an article you’d see in a magazine, such as Better Homes & Gardens, or on practically any HGTV show. It starts by providing some background on the homeowner and why their current home isn’t fitting their needs. For instance, if they built a new home with you, there is an explanation of why they elected to build a new home (instead of remodel), an account of the creative solution you provided to design and build their new home, and a detailed testimonial of why they are so thrilled with the results.

A case study provides even more details and specifics than a customer story. In addition to the above, it showcases the “how” – how a solution was delivered and/or how the solution works in the customer’s environment. Case studies will involve tangible measurements of results (such as cost savings or increases of efficiency). They are often written for use in the technology industry, or in the case of construction, manufacturers will use case studies to educate contractors about new building materials – and persuade them to incorporate these new materials in upcoming projects. Another application would be if a builder installs a high-efficiency furnace, for example, he may team up with the manufacturer to develop a case study for that particular aspect of the home.

As you can see, the detail is what distinguishes a testimonial from a customer story from a case study, and new home builders and remodelers will most often use testimonials and customer success stories in marketing their business. However, all have the same goal in mind: educate potential customers, gain credibility and validate your products/services.

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