Customer Service Interview Questions
Updated 30 November 2020
Customer service is the act of ensuring a satisfactory customer experience pre, during and post purchase of a product or service.
On a day to day basis, you’ll act as a company representative, taking orders or inquiries, handling queries and complaints, solving problems and providing information, alongside administrative tasks like record keeping.
You may work in a customer contact center, in a face-to-face setting or interact with customers via a live chat function.
Customer service representatives are employed across many industries, so job opportunities in this profession are both plentiful and diverse.
What Do Employers Look for in a Good Customer Service Representative?
As it’s such a broad role, a good candidate for a customer service post will demonstrate a wide variety of skills and competencies.
Things employers look for include:
People skills – The ability to empathize, build relationships and connect with people from all walks of life.
Creativity – Employers look for those that think on their feet and take an imaginative approach to problem-solving.
A positive attitude – Strong candidates are those that don’t get bogged down by negativity and are calm and resilient under pressure, as well as being incredibly patient.
Willingness to learn – You’ll need to show a commitment to ongoing development, keeping up to date with the latest on your company’s products or services.
Teamworking skills – Customer service is not a solo operation. It takes effective collaboration, and employers are looking for strong team players.
So, you’ve nailed your customer service cover letter and have been invited to the next stage of recruitment.
Now it’s time to review some customer service interview questions and answers and wow the hiring team in person.
Questions will largely revolve around the skills we’ve just covered, so keep these in mind throughout your interview preparation.
Top 10 Customer Service Interview Questions (and Sample Answers)
Below are 10 common customer service interview questions, each with a sample answer you can use for inspiration when constructing your own.
In many cases, we recommend using the STAR method, giving a concise answer with a situation, task, action and result.
1. What Does Customer Service Mean to You?
As one of the most asked customer service interview questions, your answer here should show employers not only what you understand about the role, but also what makes you passionate about it.
The interviewer is looking to establish what you take your responsibilities to be and why those responsibilities are of interest to you.
Your response should show:
- A customer-first perspective
- Strong communication skills
- A commitment to problem resolution
- Passion for the profession
For me, customer service is about making connections through effective communication. There’s no one-size-fits-all. Every customer is unique, and I find it incredibly rewarding when an issue is resolved in a way that makes them feel valued and understood. It’s not always easy, but it’s my responsibility to ensure every customer is heard, and even the most challenging of situations handled to the best of my ability.
2. Tell Us About a Time You Faced a Difficult Customer and How You Resolved the Situation
In asking this question, the interviewer is looking at your problem-solving skills.
These are skills you’ll use every day, but in certain circumstances, they’ll really be put to the test, especially when the customer in question is angry coming into the conversation.
The situation you describe might not have been completely resolved by you alone, but your answer should focus on your ability to connect with the customer, the measures you took to resolve the issue and any further escalation, where appropriate.
Key traits to demonstrate here include:
- Effective listening
- Empathy and patience
- An ability to stay calm under pressure
- A willingness to take ownership of a situation
Working in customer service for a home appliance retailer, I received a call from what seemed to be a very irate customer. The problem was twofold. Delivery of her washing machine had been moved from the date initially booked, and when it did arrive, the item was damaged.
In listening to her complaint, I discovered she was a new mother and it was clear that her anger was actually distress. I took an empathetic approach to her situation, established that the damage was cosmetic and advised she was fine to use the appliance whilst I processed an exchange with priority delivery free of charge.
I then explained that we outsource delivery and that the switching of dates was completely unacceptable. I thanked her for bringing it to my attention and assured her it was an issue I’d be taking to management so they could further investigate.
By the end of the call, the customer was much more relaxed and apologized for her initial outburst. It was a great result.
3. What Would You Do if a Customer Asked You a Question You Didn’t Know the Answer To?
In asking you this, the interviewer is assessing your integrity. A good customer service rep never tries to bluff their way through a situation. They take an honest approach, relying on the support and resources around them to source the correct answer to a challenging question.
Show you’re comfortable with asking for help and that your focus is to always provide the correct information. You also need to demonstrate how you’d inform the customer of your uncertainty without aggravating the situation.
Form your response around the key traits of:
- Problem solving
I’d be honest with them. I’d tell them it was a question I’d never come across before and that I wouldn’t want to give them inaccurate information. Depending on the circumstances, I’d either pass them on to a relevant member of my team or get back to them ASAP with an answer.
When this happens, I keep a log, so I’m prepared to handle questions if they crop up again. This also helps me support my coworkers should they ever encounter the same problem.
4. Tell Us About a Time You Went the Extra Mile for a Customer
As far as customer service interview questions go, this has perhaps the most obvious intent. The interviewer is looking for someone willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
A standout candidate will have a strong example of when they’ve performed beyond expectation, one that demonstrates a commitment to career development by raising the bar.
The best answers will be those that show:
- Exemplary standards of service
In my current role, I work for a SaaS company that provides software for remote collaboration. I had a customer call who wasn’t used to working remotely and was struggling to understand the basics. I talked them through what they needed to know to get on with their day, but it was clear this was going to be an issue for them moving forward.
After the call, I realized there was more I could do, so I contacted them and asked if they’d be interested in a virtual training session. They took me up on the offer, so I set to work writing a training plan specifically for their needs.
I delivered the session the following week, not only to the customer in question but to three other members of their team. They’ve since fed back, and it was a pleasure to hear how well they’re all doing.
5. Tell Us About a Time That You Worked Successfully Within a Team
Teamwork is an essential part of good customer service. A company’s reputation is built through a collaborative effort, and the interviewer will want to know that you’re prepared to do your bit.
It’s important to show you understand your role is only one part of the process and that great customer service involves constant development across the entire business. For that to happen, teamwork is paramount.
Beyond your teamworking skills, also focus on:
- Your investment in company goals
- A willingness to pitch in wherever needed
- Collaboration across different departments
In my previous role, there were multiple departments that relied on customer feedback to make improvements, from product development to fulfillment and delivery.
As part of the customer-facing team, it was our job to ensure that all problems were resolved but also eliminated. I suggested that we should have weekly meetings to discuss what issues we’d all faced and, where necessary, pass this information to the relevant department. We’d also share ideas on more effective ways to approach these problems until they were ironed out.
It was a great system that led to constant innovation and a business reputation we were all proud to uphold.
6. What Qualities Do You Have That Make You Well Suited for a Position in Customer Service?
The purpose of this question is quite clear. It’s about uncovering what personal attributes you consider yourself to have that are fitting for the role, and why.
There are many qualities you could mention here, most of which fall under the umbrella of soft skills, such as:
- Critical thinking
The key is to not reel off a list of qualities, but to put them into context.
First and foremost, I’m a people person. I thrive on personal interaction, and there’s no other role that provides this more than customer service. I also have a very empathetic nature. I’m very attuned to people’s emotions and can tailor my behavior appropriately. Of course, customer service isn’t just about your ability to connect. You also need to think on your feet and get creative in terms of problem-solving. These are skills I’ve developed throughout my career and apply to every new challenge that comes along.
7. How Do You Measure Success?
As we’ve already mentioned, your role exists within a wider context. Employers are looking for candidates that not only meet and exceed expectations, but who can quantify their achievements and show how they contribute to company objectives.
This is all about your results orientation. In other words, what you see as important, how you achieve it and how it is evidenced in action.
As a basic answer, success in your role would be a happy customer. It’s OK to state this but try and think a little deeper.
You could make mention of:
- Customer acquisition and retention
- Company reputation
- Sales figures
Customer service encompasses so many things that success can be hard to quantify.
On a personal level, it’s knowing I’ve connected with everyone I’ve had an interaction with.
In a business context, I’d measure success through reputation and revenue. If I’m doing my job well, both should increase. We should be seeing good reviews, more repeat sales, more referrals and of course, more turnover.
It’s important for me to understand the data relating to this. It’s the only way I can truly measure the success of my efforts.
8. How Do You Keep Yourself Motivated When Customers Take Their Frustrations Out on You?
Don’t fall into a description here of how you handled a difficult situation. It’s not what this question is about.
What the interviewer is looking for is an indication that you’re someone able to cope under pressure and that you won’t break down or fight back, even when treated badly.
Unfortunately, this is one of the major downsides of a career in customer service, and whilst it won’t be a daily occurrence, at times, you will become the target of heightened customer frustration.
It’s important to acknowledge this in your response and show you have interpersonal skills like self-confidence that allow you to take it in your stride whilst maintaining excellent standards of service.
Be sure to demonstrate:
- A positive mindset
It’s one of the most challenging aspects of the role but I find the best way to stay motivated is to remember that it’s not a personal attack and to put yourself in the customer’s position.
When you look at it from that point of view, it gives you the drive to provide the level of service you’d expect under the circumstances. If I’m having a tough day, I’ll find a quiet spot for a short break and remind myself how much enjoyment I take from customer service at its best.
Every job has its challenges but, for me, that makes the rewards so much greater.
9. What Would You Do if a Frustrated Customer Complained About a Well-Known Flaw With a Company Product?
For a customer service rep, this is one of the most challenging situations. Fixing the problem is out of your control, but you still have to find an appropriate resolution.
Employers know how difficult this can be and are looking for candidates that can rise to the challenge, applying patience, creative problem-solving and key decision-making skills to ensure brand reputation is not damaged and the customer gets a satisfactory result.
Firstly, it’s important to let the customer vent their frustrations without interruption. And in response, it’s vital to take ownership. The flaw itself may not be mine to fix, but as a representative of the company that is responsible, I need to show that we’re not shying away from the issue.
To find the best resolution, I’d consider the circumstances, and then weigh up any actions I could take along with their potential consequences for both the customer and the business.
Whatever the outcome, be it a refund, exchange or repair, I’d assure them that it’s an issue of the highest importance and we were taking every step possible to fix the flaw.
10. What Do You Know About This Company?
Customer service interview questions aren’t always about your skills and experience. Sometimes they focus on your motivations.
This question in particular gives employers insight into what attracted you to the company and why you want to work for them over anybody else. It also shows whether you’ve been motivated enough to do your research.
Before your interview, learn all you can about the company, from its core values and corporate culture, to details on its products or services.
If you have personal experience and can talk about this firsthand, all the better.
I first became aware of your company three years ago when I switched insurance provider. I took out a policy and was delighted, not just with the cost but with the personalized support I received. I’ve followed you on social media ever since and I love how much effort you put into building relationships with customers. I think that’s crucial these days. People want to know they’re dealing with human beings. It’s what attracted me to you as both an insurance provider and an employer.
The above list of customer service interview questions and answers is not exhaustive, and there are many others you may face.
Every company will have specific criteria by which they measure candidates, but in preparing answers to the most common questions, you’ll have a good bank of examples to draw on.
It’s also a good idea to prepare for some of the more generic commonly asked interview questions and to come up with some questions of your own. This shows a vested interest in the opportunity.
Of course, you should also brush up on your interview technique to ensure a stellar first impression.