@jarodgreene via @ssharwood points out the dangers for an industry analyst of relying on vendors to provide customer references. All vendor-provided customer references need to be sniffed carefully, since many of them are a bit fishy, and some of them are what Jarod calls catfish - in other words, completely fictional references. For example, an analyst (or potential customer) may be given a phone number to call, which directs to an intern in the vendor's office with a prepared script.
Let's hope Jarod would be willing to name and shame any vendor caught doing this.
The people you really want to talk to are the people who are either struggling with a product, or have given up. Nowadays, it is often easy enough to find what appears to be independent discussion of a product or service, sometimes quite negative. However, for the sake of symmetry we should recognize the possibility of dogfish - fictional horror stories that have been constructed by the vendor's competitors, or by disgruntled ex-employees, or just random trouble-makers. Many large vendors have plenty of people who will seize any opportunity to diss them in public, and this makes it hard to detect genuine experience.
Even when we suspect a dogfish has been created by a competitor, it is pretty hard to prove it unless the competitor is really stupid or unlucky. But we should be able to detect the smell.
Jarod Greene, Don’t Let Your Vendor Catfish You (February 2013)
Simon Sharwood, Analyst says vendors offer pretend reference customers (The Register February 2013)