How to Answer Interview Questions About Customer Service

Hypothetical or Competency Based

Hypothetical and competency based questions are the most common type of questions when interviewing for customer service or related positions.

Hypothetical questions are about what you would do in a particular situation that you may not have encountered before.

Example - "What would you do if a customer complained about a work colleague to you?"

Competency based questions surround your past experiences and ask you to describe a situation you have already dealt with.

Example - "Tell me about a time when you have resolved a customer complaint."

Customer Focused

Customer or service focused questions are a popular choice with hiring managers and interviewers in order to ascertain how you will behave, react and adapt to the needs of their customers or clients.

If you have worked with customers in the past, you can draw on your experiences to describe scenarios or situations where you have achieved a positive result in order to show the hiring manager that you are a suitable candidate for the role.

If you haven't directly worked with customers in the past, don't worry, I am sure you have been a customer yourself, so the trick is to think about situations you have been in and how the staff member dealt with you.

Regardless of whether you have worked in a customer service position before, preparation is crucial in order to succeed.

Let's take a look at some of the most popular customer service questions in job interviews and how best to answer them based on your skills and experience.

Preparing examples of when you have encountered customer service in the past is essential.
Preparing examples of when you have encountered customer service in the past is essential. | Source

Customer Scenarios

Every hiring manager will want to know how you will react or have reacted in the past to situations involving customers. Their questions will assess your behaviour and whether you are a good fit for their organisation.

Typical competency based questions about customer service in a job interview include:

  • “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate customer. How did you handle the situation?”

  • “Can you give me an example of a particularly difficult customer you had to deal with and how you used your skills to successfully overcome the problem they had?”

The interviewer is looking for evidence that you kept calm, were diplomatic and methodical in your approach, and that you worked with the customer to find a solution.

Your answer should include an example of when you have diffused a situation in a professional manner.

The key points you are looking to include are that you:

  • Listened
  • Thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention
  • De-personalised the situation
  • Repeated the customer issue back to them in your own words to confirm that you have understood
  • Remained calm
  • Spoke slowly and of a low volume
  • Apologised (if this is appropriate)
  • Empathised
  • Took responsibility of the situation
  • Took action
  • Worked with the customer to find a solution that they were happy with or sought help from a more senior member of staff
  • Confirmed that they are happy
  • Thanked the customer before leaving.

If you haven’t had a great deal of experience with direct customer contact or telephone resolutions, then either choose a time where you followed company procedure and referred the customer to your supervisor, but be sure to include what you would do if you had to deal with such a scenario in the future.

If you haven’t had any experience whatsoever, you could spin the answer around so that you talk about a time when you were the customer and how your problem was resolved. What did you learn from the process and how would you use that in a work place setting?

The golden rule is to say something. Never give the answer "I haven't experienced that before." Remember, you won't have dealt with every, single customer situation on the planet, but the hiring manager will be impressed if you think about your answer and give an example of what you would do should you ever be faced with the situation in real life. If you can show you are responsible, accountable and willing to try, then you will certainly stand out from other candidates who don't.

The Definition of Good Customer Service

Meeting or exceeding the customers' expectations.

What is Great Customer Service?

Everyone is different, so everyone has a different idea on what great customer service is. With that in mind, the interviewer is likely to ask what you regard as good or bad customer service.

  • “What have you done to promote great customer service?”

  • “What does great customer service look like?

  • “How to you ensure that customers have a great experience?”

So what does great customer service look like to you? What do you like as a customer?

If during your research for the company you either called or attended as a customer then using your findings as a base for your answer would show that you have a good understanding on how their existing customers are treated and valued.

Where possible, try to find a past example where you went the extra mile for a customer or implemented a new idea or procedure. Remember, that it's not all about dealing with complaints, in fact, on the whole, most customers are lovely!

Have you ever had a thank you letter or email from a customer or has your previous boss complimented you in some way? If you have - talk about this.

If you are asked to give the definition of great customer service, you could just say, "Great customer service is meeting or exceeding the customer's expectations."

Quick Poll

Is the customer always right?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting
Be prepared for a telephone interview if you have applied for a call centre position.
Be prepared for a telephone interview if you have applied for a call centre position.

Call Centres

If you have applied for a job in a call centre, be prepared for a telephone interview in the first instance. Lots of people sound different on the phone compared with face-to-face, so the employer will want to ensure you sound positive, upbeat and articulate.

You can read my hub on how to make the best of telephone interviews here.

Before your job interview, whether it is face-to-face or over the phone, prepare fully by researching the company, it's products and services, and actually call them up so you can hear what their current staff sound like. Do they read from a script? Did the speaker sound fluid or robotic? What did they say to make you (the customer) feel good? Researching in this way will help you answer the most popular call centre interview question:

  • “What are the key factors which make a successful call centre?”

Your research will come in particularly handy, especially if you haven’t worked in such an environment as this is a common question to find out if you have an idea of what to expect by way of the work atmosphere. Thankfully most face-to-face interviews at a call centre start with a tour round the building so you will get a sneaky peek at the room first.

Always think first about what you would expect from a call centre customer service adviser and what the company might expect of your behaviour then construct your answers around the following skills and attributes:

  • High energy
  • Enthusiastic and motivated employees
  • Targets or key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Team work
  • Leadership
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Politeness
  • Articulate conversations
  • Positive attitude
  • Calm under pressure
  • Patience

Of course, only talk about the skills, attributes and personal qualities you actually have. Don't pretend to be someone you are not!

And Finally

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas on how to answer job interview questions about customer service. My top tips to finish are as follows:

  • Research the company
  • Know in detail the products of service the company provides
  • Look for clues in the job description - some questions will be there
  • Think about what you may be asked based on the information in your resume
  • Call or visit the company so you have first hand experience of their customer service
  • What do you expect as a customer?
  • Be 100% truthful - don't pretend to be someone you are not

Good luck with your next interview. Let me know how you got on.


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