At The Customer Story, and through previous work experiences, I have taken part in hundreds of customer testimonial video shoots. Most of the time I was behind the camera, and most of the time, I was the one responsible for editing together the final piece.

After witnessing hundreds of people share their stories in front of the camera, I can tell you from personal experience, scripted interviews don’t work for most people. Below I’ll explain five reasons why you shouldn’t script out your customer testimonial. Stick around until the end for three things you can do to plan ahead of time to create fantastic results.

Why You Shouldn’t Script Your Customer Testimonial

Movie Scripts

1.Your customer comes across as wooden, stiff and inauthentic.

Let’s face it, most of us are not going to be interviewing Meryl Streep or Denzel Washington. In my experience, the majority of people are uncomfortable in front of a camera. Adding a script just makes it an even more intimidating process. What we want is for the customer to be comfortable and conversational so they really showcase their business and their personality. This is what will be attractive and compelling for your viewers as well.

2. It takes the focus off of the content.

I know this may sound strange, as you would think that your customer following a script would allow them to focus only on the content…but it doesn’t. It makes them focus on the words. I’ve seen high level executives at multi-billion dollar companies, who know their businesses inside and out by the way, take ten tries just to get their company intro right. It’s because instead of talking about what they know, they try to memorize lines and regurgitate words, that often they did not write. Which leads us to our next point.

3. It takes longer.

Ok, this one may seem like I am just being nit-picky, but let me explain it like this. If you have some awesome customers who have generously offered to donate thirty minutes or an hour of their very busy schedule, just to do you a favor…do you really want to waste it? Instead of allowing your customer to speak conversationally about a topic they live and breathe every day, they are trying to “nail their lines”, and retakes become the name of the game. Plus, it works in your favor to be more economically with your time. Would you rather get this executive to say one nice thing about you in 30 minutes, or five nice things in 30 minutes? 

4. It eliminates the possibility for answers you may not expect.

This is the most important point right here. I’ve seen it time and time again where a producer will be interviewing someone with a script. The customer will bring up something that hints at a much larger, more impactful story underneath. But what happens? The producer misses it, because they stuck to the script instead, moving on to the next section. Conversations are fluid, and we can’t always predict where they will go. Sometimes, the most amazing golden nugget lays just on the other side of an unscripted question.

5. Your customer won’t want to do it again.

Let me ask you, if one of your vendors punched you in the face, would you invite them in again? For some people, talking on camera is an incredibly painful and stressful experience. Adding the extra stress of memorizing lines, repeating copy word for word – it can do people in. I’ve seen an interview that should have taken 30 minutes last over 3 hours (yes, this actually happened). Why? Because they were given a script that had taken a couple round trips through marketing and the legal department. The resulting mess was the most awful script you’d ever see, and this poor executive (a very smart guy by the way) was left trying to remember his legal team approved lines. Disaster. If I were him, I would definitely turn down a request to do that again. We want our clients to have a great experience interviewing. That way, in 2 years when they are the new beta testers of our new product, they would jump at the chance to do another interview.

Now, I can hear some of your concerns already. “We can’t just go in there unprepared” you may say. “We need to make sure we capitalize on our investment!”

The truth is, you are right. One way or another, you are investing a lot in producing testimonial videos – and you need to make sure they are effective. You do need to plan. Here are a few tips that you can use to prepare for your shoot.

1.Have a pre-call with your customer before the interview.

This isn’t done often enough. Discuss with your customer how they have used your product or service. This would also be a good time to ask them to prepare any hard numbers or results they can share in their interview.

Get as much information as you can so you can know how you want to approach the interview the day of. It also gives the customer a feeling of being prepared, so they feel less caught off guard during the interview. 

2. Do your research.

Does your company have a customer database with details on product usage or history? If so, do some digging. Find out how your customer has used your product in the past, how they are using it currently, and what products and services they might be considering in the future. All of this information can inform you of where to take the interview, and it may tip you off to a fantastic win they have had with your business that would be great to capture. It also can enlighten you to how a different business unit within your customers company could be using your product or service that you weren’t even aware of, adding another element to the story. 

3. Prepare a list of questions.

Yes, I know I spent over half of this blog saying not to script your testimonial video, but this is different. Think of your questions as one part outline, another part checklist. You are using it so remember what points you want to hit and how to frame them. But whatever you do, don’t be afraid to follow a rabbit trail if they say something interesting. You can always make your way back to the questions.

If you need a place to start, consider downloading our Video Testimonial Questions document. It is a great place to start and will help you remember the essentials.

I hope this has been helpful, and has given you some ideas of how you can approach your next customer testimonial interview, confident that you will capture gold.

Of course, I am always available for questions, if you’d like to dive deeper on this topic. At The Customer Story, we have shot and edited hundreds of customer testimonials, and we’d love for you to benefit from our experience and expertise. Let us know if we can help.