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Top 4 Customer Service Interview Questions for Hiring Ideal Candidates

When interviewing a candidate for your customer service role, be thoughtful of the questions you ask them. No matter what the specific position is, the heart of customer service lies in the way an employee speaks, communicates and behaves. So while a candidate’s exact answers to customer service interview questions are important, you should also be mindful of their conduct.

A candidate’s demeanor and body language during an interview provide insight into how they handle themselves in a professional setting. If you’re working to find the ideal candidate for a customer service position, you’ll need to apply your attention to detail and choose the right interview questions.

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Understanding customer service interview questions and answers

Before interviewing someone for a customer service job, it’s important to establish what good customer service is. While most jobs have fairly technical duties and responsibilities, you can’t realistically rattle off a list of qualifications and achievements to prove someone is suited for customer service. Whether someone is an Ivy League graduate or a high school dropout, the key elements of good customer service are evident in their personality.

Here are some key elements of excellent customer service:

  • Making customers feel welcome and respected by providing them room to ask questions and seek help
  • Effectively providing answers to customers’ questions and solutions to their problems or quickly finding these solutions if they aren’t immediately known
  • Presenting a sense of approachability and remaining open and available to customers and their needs
  • Demonstrating a proactive, thoughtful demeanor that facilitates anticipating customers’ needs and fulfilling them more effectively

Making customers feel welcome

A warm greeting and a smile can completely change someone’s day as well as their experience with your company. Asking for assistance isn’t second nature for many people, and it’s easier to seek help from someone who is friendly and nonjudgmental. Though companies often emphasize hiring top marketing talent or a successful CEO, it’s your customer service workers who play the greatest part in shaping the public’s perception of your company.

Answering customers’ questions effectively

Employees should be knowledgeable about the products and services your company offers so they can solve customers’ problems promptly and effectively. While no one can memorize in advance all the questions a customer may have, ideal customer service workers are resourceful enough to find answers quickly. As such, raw technical knowledge is much less important in customer service role fulfillment than a positive attitude and more general skills in critical thinking and problem-solving.

Being available for customers

Customer service workers must be able to confidently act on their initiative and balance responsibility to the customers with other duties. For instance, if you have an open retail role, the employee should regularly check to see whether people are waiting to get into the dressing room. If it is a telecommunications role, the employee should be cognizant of how long a customer has been on hold. While taking initiative is only part of a customer service job role, it represents a key element of the customer experience.

Anticipating customers’ needs

Whether a customer walks into a store or calls on the phone, employees should be able to tell how the customer is feeling based on body language or tone. They should also have some experience with the common challenges and problems that customers face. While it’s not possible to know in advance what a customer needs, most customer service tickets involve similar complaints. Reviewing these tickets for preparation and planning, as well as being an active learner, makes all the difference in anticipating the needs of customers.

Customer service interview questions and answers

When interviewing a candidate for a customer service role, asking the right questions is essential. Getting answers to these questions helps you evaluate a candidate’s problem-solving skills, their goals for the position and what customer service means to them.

1. What does good customer service look like to you?

You want to make sure the candidate’s idea of good customer service aligns with the company’s vision. If a candidate provides an answer that’s up to your company’s standards, it indicates they may be a good fit for your culture and priorities.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Knowledge of customer service
  • Real-life examples
  • Critical-thinking skills

Example: “Good customer service is being available to help the customer with whatever they need and having a positive attitude while doing it. For example, if a customer needs to return something, I would make it a pleasant and easy experience for the customer so they want to come to the store again.”

Related: Best Interview Questions to ask Candidates

2. Tell me about a time you worked with a difficult customer. What steps did you take to handle the situation?

This question will help you anticipate how the candidate handles conflicts as they arise. A candidate who can stay calm and keep the customer happy would be a good fit for a customer service position.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • A willingness to take on challenges

Example: “One time while working as a store manager, a customer was upset that we didn’t have their size. They saw the item online and wanted to get it as soon as possible for an upcoming event. I kindly explained to them that the item was out of stock because that particular size was so popular. I offered to rush order the item for an in-store pickup and told them I would make a note to order more of that size in the future.”

3. Why are you interested in a customer service role?

The ideal customer service candidate is someone who genuinely enjoys working with people. They should have great interpersonal skills, exude social energy and find real joy in being helpful. This question helps you separate those who are interested in customer service from those who are just looking for any job.

What to look for in an answer:

  • Excitement for the job
  • Interest in working with customers
  • Helpfulness

Example: “I am interested in this role because I have enjoyed my previous customer service roles, and I think this role will help me grow in the field. Helping a customer and having them go home happy gives me such a good feeling. I love working with people and finding solutions for problems as they arise.”

Related: Phone Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

4. What’s the best customer service you’ve ever received?

Being sensitive and compassionate goes both ways, and people who love to help others often profoundly appreciate receiving the same kindness. Looking for examples of a candidate taking joy in helping others allows you to understand someone’s personality. Asking them about their experiences on the other side of that dynamic is also valuable.

You should look for the following in an answer:

  • Sincerity in relaying this positive experience
  • Empathy and appreciation for the time and effort of others
  • An open and honest attitude

Example: “Once, I ordered an expensive package to be delivered to my house a week before I went on vacation. I was anxious to get it before the trip, but delivery day came and went without it arriving. Naturally, I called support and explained that it never arrived, and they were quick to offer to ship a replacement. The only problem is that I was due to leave in a few days, so I didn’t think it would get here on time. But then, the agent said they’d also arrange free overnight shipping to make sure I got the shipment before the trip. I was so worried, but this customer service agent fixed everything in a matter of minutes.”

FAQs about customer service interviews

Here are some frequently asked questions about customer service interviews:

What is the most important quality in a customer service representative?

There’s a wide range of customer service positions, from the barista at your local coffee shop to a highly trained IT expert. While many customer service positions require certain technical knowledge, succeeding in the position hinges on personal manners, professionalism and communication skills. While technical skills can be taught to a willing candidate, it’s impossible to mold someone into having the right attitude.

What skills does a qualified candidate have for a customer service role?

Above all, customer service positions demand individuals with great people skills who will leave a positive impression on customers. Ideally, customer service workers provide customers with what they need and have a great attitude when doing so. Still, customers will be happier spending ten minutes with a kind, patient, and respectful individual than they would spending ten minutes with someone curt and impolite.

Here are the key qualities to look for in a customer service role:

  • Cooperation
  • Critical-thinking skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Empathy
  • Helpfulness
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Resourcefulness
  • Respect
  • Tact

What information should I share about the position in the interview?

Use the interview to explain what the average day for someone in the position looks like. Share what their duties will be, what kind of customers they’ll be helping and what they need to know. Be realistic and honest about common challenges of the job, but also provide solutions and present a welcoming, upbeat atmosphere. An interview for a customer service position should simultaneously uplift and inform the potential hire.

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