Capturing the voice of the customer is critical for producing an engaging customer reference, whether it becomes a full-blown case study or is incorporated into a press release, solution brief, or other type of marketing collateral. Collecting quotable material almost always involves an interview, either in person or conducted by phone and recorded to accurately capture the customer’s words.
This customer interview provides a key opportunity that many organizations overlook: The recorded audio can be repurposed for a podcast. Why produce a written document alone when you can provide direct access to the customer’s unique voice? For many prospects, actually hearing real customers endorse a product or service can be very convincing. Podcasts can supplement case studies and product web pages, provide multimedia content for interactive eBooks and conference presentations, and can even be incorporated into a series offered to subscribers over iTunes or other online distribution services.
Following the important guidelines below will help make the most of your customer interviews and help you produce high-quality results.
Use a good phone in a quiet room
It’s a simple request, but it’s often neglected. Customers are busy, and many try to fit interviews into spare moments during the day, including the time when they are commuting to and from work, eating lunch, or waiting to board a plane. Unfortunately, a bad phone connection or excessive background noise will ruin the potential for using interview audio for a podcast.
To help deliver the best possible audio quality, ask customers to use a landline rather than a cell phone or IP-based phone, and conduct the call from a quiet office or conference room. Also avoid speakerphones for the interview, if possible, in the interest of good audio quality. In order to make sure your interviewee can accommodate your technological requests, it’s best to make them well in advance of the interview, and then remind and re-remind the customer to improve your odds of getting a clear recording.
Record in the highest-quality format available
Many modern recorders and computer-based recording applications offer the option of recording high-resolution audio, such as CD-quality WAV or AIFF formats. Using these high-resolution formats — rather than MP3 or WMV formats — will help generate the best possible recording from the outset. After interviewing and editing, you can always create smaller file sizes, with lower-resolution audio, when the podcast is complete.
It’s also helpful to record the interviewer and customer on separate audio tracks, as some recording software allows, which enables you to re-record the interview questions later to eliminate errors, improve the flow of the discussion, and better match the questions to the answers from the customer. In fact, some of the best customer endorsements are spoken voluntarily or in response to completely different questions. If it is not possible to separate the audio tracks, the interviewer must be sure to stay silent when the customer is speaking to facilitate editing later.
Tell a good story
After the interview is completed, you can begin constructing the podcast. Informal discussions that take place during a 30- or 60-minute interview need editing and fine-tuning to produce cohesive, engaging, and concise podcasts.
Short podcasts (between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long) often work best. In today’s fast-moving, short-attention-span world, audiences are reluctant to listen to long recordings. As a result, it’s essential to focus on the customer responses that are most articulate, most supportive of key messages and, if at all possible, most entertaining or insightful.
At TDA Group, it’s our standard practice to produce a written transcript of the interview, including time stamps (which are handy during audio editing). Working from the original transcript, we find the best quotes from the customer and arrange them into the best story possible for the podcast.
Once we have identified and arranged the best customer quotes, we fine-tune the questions. Subtle modifications to the questions smooth the flow from one topic to the next, and help the listener effortlessly follow the transitions.
Polish the audio
Using the edited, time-stamped transcript, an audio engineer edits the recorded audio. In addition to assembling the specific phrases and sentences we need, in the right order, the engineer removes awkward silences and deletes coughs, sneezes, “ums,” and “uhs”, so all participants sound their best.
We also re-record the questions to coincide with the edited audio. Finally, the engineer incorporates introductory theme music or other music as appropriate.
Get it ready for prime time
The final step involves preparing the audio files in whatever format (or formats) needed. Podcasts are usually offered as downloads, streaming audio, and/or integrated with multimedia.
Creating podcasts from customer reference interviews is an efficient way to leverage and highlight the voice of the customer, but it does require advance planning and post-production work to achieve the best results. Ask your customer reference team how they optimize customer interviews. If podcasts aren’t on their list of deliverables, they should be.
What about you? Have any podcasting or interview tips to share?