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In journalism, a person’s direct quote is sacred. What’s said is said, and you don’t change a word.
While customer case studies have many similarities to journalism, they’re not. It’s marketing.
Plus, customers have the chance to review and approve their stories and direct quotes. That single fact alone is why it’s OK to change customer quotes. Just not TOO much.
So, How Much Can You Edit Customer Quotes?
In short, a little.
At this point, I’ve written well over 1,000 customer case studies, and interviewed even more customers. I’ve learned that most customers appreciate a little help with their quotes. Usually, they’re dumping a lot of information on you and don’t expect their quotes to be perfect straight from their mouths.
In fact, many customers say, “You’ll make me sound good, right?”
To do that, you can make edits here and there. However, customers get a little put off if you veer too far off course from what they said.
What You Can Change in Customer Quotes
You can clarify or shorten customer quotes. Remove the “ums” and “ahs.” Strike a statement that repeats something the customer already said.
I also merge non-consecutive sentences. I might combine something said earlier in the interview with something said later. Usually, customers don’t even notice or care that these statements weren’t said right together.
You can add product or vendor names so that a quote still makes sense when taken out of context and used in other marketing materials.
Or, you might add metrics in a quote. If the customer said, “We reduced our costs,” add how much they reduced them.
What You Can’t Change
But what does stay sacred in customer quotes is the meaning. Don’t change what the customer intended.
Of course there are exceptions, but most customers I’ve encountered – even those that offer glowing praise – push back on too much quote doctoring.
Ultimately, customer success stories aren’t fiction. They’re true accounts of a customer’s experience, and as producers of case studies, we need to maintain integrity by presenting true stories. Just keep that in mind when tempted to change any customer’s quote too much.
If you enjoyed this post, check out Create Quotes that Stand Alone.