Monday, May 21, 2018

Beware the Customer Experience Case Study

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash
Case studies. Everyone craves them. But are they success guideposts to follow, or might they have the power to mislead us?

The lure of case studies is that they offer us peeks at others' success, providing useful models or best practices to follow. But I've always feared that case studies can give something a veneer of believability, sparking within us a modicum of false conviction while leaving us no closer to action and success.

In my years covering and leading social media, I have seen the Oreo "Dunk in the Dark" tweet used as a case study dozens of times, and yet no brand has ever repeated that success. That brand victory was a lightning strike--an unrepeatable occurrence that transpired thanks to the exact right mix of event, audience, context, maturity level of social media, creativity, brand, and rapid action. A thousand brands and a million tweets later, few if any have managed to recreate the alchemy of Oreo's tweet heard round the world.

We may view case studies as patterns to follow, but how many case studies are like the Oreo example? If someone walked into a casino, put chips down on double zero and walked away a thousand dollars richer, his or her case study would not help you. You can step the same way to the same table with the same bet, and your outcome will not be the same. (Well, it would be the same one out of every 35 spins on average, but you could still go broke trying.)

Case studies are created for a reason--most are designed to sell you something or to help a professional promote their career. That should not make them immediately suspect, but it should cause you to ask questions.

To learn the questions you should ask and to ponder what you can (and cannot) learn from Amazon and Zappos, please continue reading on my Gartner blog.

No comments: