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15 customer service interview questions and answers

Customer service is a big industry, and it takes the right person for the job. Here are some common questions that could be asked at your next interview.

There are many jobs available in the customer service industry today, and the interview is the best opportunity for an organization and potential employee to assess each other.

Customer service jobs are available in both brick-and-mortar and remote environments. They include cashiers and managers in retail stores and contact center employees in remote locations.

When prepping for an interview, it is wise for the candidate to group experiences and ideas together. Recruiters will ask several questions around a few main themes. Common themes and areas of conversation include attitude, coachability, adherence, problem-solving, empathy, teamwork and understanding of the role. Recruiters will ask related questions asked in several different ways, as this helps them understand job candidates and ensures they are being honest.

Possible customer service interview questions

There are many job interview questions a recruiter could ask, and the following are some of the most common. Job candidates should always be authentic and refrain from giving canned answers.

About you questions

1a. Why are you looking to work in customer service?

This question is frequently asked because it takes a unique temperament to work in customer service. The recruiter will want to know that the candidate is aware of what the job takes and that they will fit in the role and within the company.

Some suggested points to share in an answer include the following:

  • "I like working with people. For example, when I was …"
  • "I like solving problems. For example, when I …"
  • "I like to work independently but also within a team environment. For example …"

1b. Why are you interested in this position?

This question is important for the recruiter to gauge if the candidate will stay in this role long enough to be of value to the company -- or if it is just until something better comes along.

A good answer would be, "I recently graduated from school and felt ABC company would be a wonderful place to start. I love working with people and making an impact. Customer service within your company would be the perfect fit for me."

2. What skills do you believe you have that would be an asset within our company?

This is an important question for candidates to show belief in themselves and that they understand what is required to excel in a customer service job.

Some suggested points to share in an answer include the following:

  • "I am a good problem--solver and can work independently. For example …"
  • "I believe that I am very coachable with a desire to learn more. For example …"
  • "I am a good listener with empathy for others. I love helping all kinds of people. For example …"

3. Why do you feel that you would succeed in a customer service role?

This is similar to Question 2 but just asked differently. Many times, recruiters will ask related questions to ensure job candidates are speaking the truth and confident that they are aware of the role and what it takes to succeed.

Answers should be similar to the previous question and include the following:

  • "I am a good listener and enjoy solving problems for others."
  • "I like making people happy and satisfied."
  • "I enjoy working independently, as well as within a team environment."

4. What does great customer service look like to you?

This question lets the recruiter know the job candidate can identify great customer service and knows what it looks like to deliver it to customers.

Some answers to share include the following:

  • "Someone who listens from a place of empathy and solves the problem the first time."
  • "I like it when customer service representatives speak in a friendly and respectful manner."
  • "Patient and probing as to what the challenge is and providing solutions on how to solve the challenge."

5. What do you think it takes to provide an excellent customer service experience?

This question helps the recruiter gauge if the candidate knows the necessary behaviors and skills to deliver excellent customer service.

Example answer:

  • "I believe excellent customer service is provided when a customer service representative listens and shows genuine empathy. With those two skills, the customer service rep will be able to understand the problem and, hopefully, solve the challenge on the first call."

6. Why is good customer service so important to a business?

This question helps the recruiter analyze if the job candidate understands the importance and purpose of delivering great customer service. If it comes across that they do not think it is that important, then the recruiter will know the interviewee is not a fit for the role.

Example answer:

  • "Good customer service is important to any business because it is the brand of that business. If a company has a good reputation, then more customers will use or buy that product or service. If the service is poor, customers will leave or not buy that product."

Behavioral questions

When answering behavioral questions, it has long been recommended to use the STAR method. This helps job candidates shape the story they are trying to share clearly and concisely with an appropriate amount of detail.

STAR stands for the following:

  • This helps set the context of the situation to be discussed.
  • What was the task required of the job candidate?
  • What actions did the job candidate take?
  • What was the outcome or result?

7. Share a time when you were coached on a skill or behavior. What was it, and how did you modify your skill/behavior?

This question is particularly important because there is a lot of coaching and mentoring within customer service and contact centers. The ability to be coachable and motivated to learn more is an important characteristic that recruiters look for.

Here is an example of how to put the STAR method to use:

  • "I had just started at my last job, and I was nervous to upsell the promotion product. My team leader coached me and gave me some pointers to try."
  • "I was tasked to improve the way I offered the products and increase my upsell."
  • "I practiced using the words and phrases my coach shared with me, and I used the phrases on every call with confidence."
  • "By the next coaching session, my coach said my upsell conversion percentage had a 22% increase. I actually became one of the stronger agents in my team!"

Read some best practices for call center agent training programs.

8. Share a time when you had a difference of opinion with a co-worker or manager. How did you handle it?

This question is important because recruiters will want to be sure job candidates can get along with others that have different opinions and can manage conflicting ideas in a peaceful manner.

Example:

  • "I was processing credits for customers after the call to shorten my talk time, but it also increased after-call work."
  • "My manager asked me to do the credits while on the phone with the customer. I was conflicted because I knew my average handling time would be longer."
  • "I listened to my manager to understand his point of view. I then changed how I processed the credits."
  • "The end result was that the customers were happy because I could tell them that the credit had been applied and my after-call time was minimal. I was surprised that my average handling time did not go up by much. The manager was happy with my numbers."

Learn about some other customer service metrics.

9. Share a time when you helped an upset/irate person/angry customer.

This question is always asked because, in customer service, employees deal with many angry, irate and upset customers. Job candidates will be required to work with these customers, helping them in a professional manner to solve the challenge they have.

Example:

  • "A customer called in screaming because their cellphone was accidently suspended."
  • "I was tasked with solving this challenge to turn a negative experience into a positive customer experience."
  • "I just listened to him and told him that I understood his frustration. I let him know that I would look into it immediately to correct the issue and help him."
  • "The customer was calm by the end of the call because he knew I understood what the problem was and that I was actually working to get his cell service reconnected."

10. Please give an example of a time when you went the extra mile for a customer?

This question lets the recruiter know if a job candidate can deliver great customer experiences -- and if the interviewee would go above and beyond or just do the minimum. Candidates who have not worked in customer service before can share life experiences for transferable skills.

Example:

  • "A customer called in because she lost her credit card while on vacation."
  • "I asked her if she was OK and had access to cash."
  • "I called another department and had a replacement card sent to her hotel. I stayed in touch with her throughout the process."
  • "One very happy customer! When she received her new card, she was able to continue her travels and was so relieved before going on to the next hotel."

11. Share a time when you were adaptable or flexible at work.

Given that adaptability is one of the top five skills required in the job market, be prepared to have this question asked.

Customer service departments are fast-moving, rapidly changing environments, so adaptability and flexibility are critical skills to thrive in these environments.

Example:

  • Situation. "It was in the holiday season, and call volumes were really high."
  • Task. "I put my name down on the list to work extra shifts."
  • Action. "I ended up working eight extra shifts, which really helped keep service levels acceptable."
  • Result. "Service levels remained in the acceptable range, despite having less staff and higher call volumes."

12. Share a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer. How did you handle it?

This question shows the recruiter that the job candidate does not take things personally or fight back. It also shows confidence, patience and empathy.

Example:

  • "A customer called in complaining that our entire company is corrupt and that I have no idea what I am doing."
  • "I listened to him to him so that he could share his frustration."
  • "I spoke to him with empathy, showing that I understood his frustration and that I would help him. I also told him that I would follow up to ensure he does not have the same problem again."
  • "The customer left satisfied and did apologize for being rude."

Additional questions

13. Why did you leave your last job, or why are you looking to leave your current job?

Job candidates should be honest and not speak negatively about their previous employment.

Example:

  • "I was working part time during school, and now, I am ready for a challenging full-time job within a reputable organization, like ABC company."

14. Tell me about your customer service experience in a contact center.

If a job candidate's experience is in a retail or face-to-face environment, focus on the transferable skills, such as listening to understand, patience, speaking with a smile, problem-solving, empathy, teamwork and schedule adherence.

Example:

  • "I haven't worked in a pure customer service department, but I worked at the front desk at a local gym where I had to answer calls, greet gym members and even sell packages. I also handled member complaints over the phone and face to face."

15a. From your experience, where have you enjoyed working the most, and why?

Job candidates should share some experiences where they worked with people, solved problems and made a difference.

Example:

  • "I enjoyed working at ABC company because I worked with a variety of people, helping our customers with X. I liked the team environment and the positive feedback from my manager. Every day, there were new challenges to solve, which gave me many opportunities to learn and grow."

15b. Where do you see yourself in the next two to four years?

This is a chance for job candidates to show ambition within the context of the role and the company.

Example:

  • "I would like to grow in customer service after gaining the necessary knowledge and experience. Roles such as a team lead or quality assurance would be of interest to me."

Some bonus fun questions

If you were a superhero, who would you be?

Job candidates can pick any superhero but explain why. Be sure it relates to something positive at work or in life.

Examples:

  • "Superman because he fights evil and helps anyone in need."
  • "Wonder Woman because she is strong, kind and helpful."
  • "Robin because he is all about supporting the team of Batman and Robin, doing good and fighting the 'bad guys.'"

Share one of your superpowers.

Examples:

  • "Listening."
  • "Problem-solving."
  • "Being kind."
  • "Taking charge in stressful situations."
  • "Making people smile."

Job candidates should remember to listen to the full question before answering it. Regardless of the medium for the interview -- phone, video or live -- interviewees should be fully present and not distracted. Eye contact and positive body language speak volumes, so be aware of nonverbal cues, too.

And, lastly, job candidates should research a company before the interview, read and reread the specific job description, and think about how they can fit and grow in that role.

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