Heath Alva
Posted June 16, 2021

13 customer service interview questions (and tips for answering them)

Learn how to answer questions like "What does good customer service look like?" and "How do you deal with difficult customers?"
Heath Alva
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13 customer service interview questions (and tips for answering them)
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You're just one short step away from landing the customer service job you applied for recently.

You wrote a great cover letter and a resume that caught the hiring manager's attention. Now all you have to do is rock the interview, and you're in.

So how do you do that?

If you're like 93% of job candidates, you're feeling nervous before your job interview. But don't worry — preparation is the key to success, and this article will help you get ready for the big day.

Keep reading for a list of common customer service interview questions, complete with tips on how to answer them and example answers for inspiration.

What are customer service hiring managers looking for?

Customer service can make or break a business. 90% of customers say that customer service is important in their choice of a brand. That means hiring managers have to make sure you have the necessary skills and traits to provide excellent customer service.

Customer service is a field where soft skills are the key to success. Soft skills are non-technical skills. For example, you might know how to use a cash register system — that’s a hard skill. But working well with a team or being good at problem-solving are soft skills.

When you interview for a customer service job, you should talk about your customer service experience and hard skills. But make sure you also emphasize your soft skills, like:

Patience

Customer service isn’t always fun. Customers come to you when they have a problem, and that means they’re often in a bad mood. The problems you have to solve may be complex.

The interviewer wants to know that you can patiently help customers while maintaining a positive attitude.

Communication and listening skills

Helping customers means listening to questions, understanding the issue, and clearly communicating a solution.

Empathy

You’re going to deal with customers who are frustrated and unhappy. Being able to understand where they’re coming from will help you provide great service.

Customers appreciate it when you show empathy, and employers appreciate it when customers are happy.

Positivity

When you have a positive attitude, your interactions with customers are also more positive. This creates a better customer service experience.

Conflict management

Sometimes customers are already angry or upset when they start talking to you. A good customer service employee can resolve the situation in a positive and helpful way.

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How do you prepare for a customer service interview?

Preparation is essential for any interview. For a customer service interview, it’s especially important because communication skills and a relaxed, friendly attitude are part of the job. The interview is a chance to show the interviewer that you have excellent interpersonal skills.

If you want to go into your interview with confidence, here’s how you can get ready:

Research the company

76% of employers say that not knowing about the company is the biggest mistake a candidate can make. Sometimes “What do you know about our company?” is even an interview question, so it’s important to be prepared.

Start by looking at the organization’s website. Check out the “About” page and read about the company’s products or services. Social media is also a good place to do your research.

Know your resume by heart

It’s easy to forget the specifics of past jobs, especially if they were a long time ago. Make sure you can answer any questions about your employment history.

Practice your answers

Go through the list of interview questions below and come up with an answer for each. But don’t memorize your responses — it’s important to sound natural during the interview. Just remember a couple of main points you want to cover for each question.

Practice saying your answers aloud. Try to get a friend or family member to play the part of the interviewer and conduct a practice interview.

What questions are asked in a customer service interview?

A customer service interview will have many of the same questions as any interview, such as:

But for customer service positions, you should also expect many of the questions to be related to that profession, including questions about your customer service skills and experience as well as your views on customer service.

(Image Source)

These are some of the most common customer service interview questions you might encounter:

What does good customer service look like to you?

This is one of the most common customer service interview questions, so make sure you’ve thought about your answer. The interviewer wants to see if your ideas about customer service align with the organization’s.

You might mention things like:

  • Timely service

  • Ensuring that every customer problem is resolved

  • Being knowledgeable about products

  • A friendly attitude

As with most interview questions, it’s best if you can give a real-life example. For instance, you might say:

“I believe that good customer service means treating customers with respect and empathy while solving their problems as quickly as possible. When I worked at Widget World, I made sure to learn about all of our new widgets so that I could easily help customers use them without wasting time looking up the information.”

Why do you want to work in customer service?

This question isn't just about your career goals, but about your passion for the job.

If you’ve worked in customer service before, think about the most rewarding part of the position. If you’re interviewing for your first customer service job, think about what sounds the most enjoyable.

Are you a people person who will enjoy interacting with customers all day? Does helping people make you happy? Are you a natural problem solver? Are you passionate about the products or services the company is selling?

Any of those answers would be acceptable. The goal is to show the interviewer that you’re enthusiastic about working in customer service.

What are some skills or traits a person should have to provide good customer service?

The interviewer wants to see if you know what it takes to provide great service.

You can start with a list of skills and character traits, but it’s even better to give examples of how you embody those qualities.

If you need ideas for traits to talk about, look at the section above about what hiring managers are looking for.

Tell me about your previous experience working in customer service.

Don’t just list your past jobs — the hiring manager already knows that information from your resume. Talk about how your past experience will make you good at your new job.

For example:

“I got my start in customer support working at Acme Anvils. It was a challenging role, but I learned a lot about helping customers efficiently in a busy environment. I’m eager to bring those skills to your company.”

Tell me about a time you received good/poor customer service. What made it good/poor?

You might be sensing a theme here. Customer service interviewers want to find out what you see as good (or bad) customer service.

Think about your experiences as a customer. Which interactions stand out the most? The interviewer wants to know that you can tell the difference between poor, average, and exceptional service.

(Image Source)

How do you handle difficult customers?

Angry customers are a fact of life for any customer service employee. The interviewer wants to know that you can handle those situations without getting upset yourself.

The best answer is a real-life example of a time when you helped a difficult customer solve their problem. Focus on situations in which you provided excellent service.

For example, maybe you:

  • Listened to the customer’s complaint and empathized with the problem
  • Stayed calm and professional
  • Found a creative solution to the customer’s problem
  • Made the customer happy in the end

What do you do if you can’t answer a customer’s question?

33% of clients say that efficiently answering questions is the most important skill that a customer service agent can have. But no matter how good you are at customer service, situations will arise where you just don’t know the solution.

This question is about how well you deal with those situations. The interviewer wants to know that you can find a way to help the customer, no matter what.

Good answer: “I research the answer and get back to the customer quickly.”

Bad answer: “I just make something up.”

Good answer: “I transfer the customer to someone who knows the answer.”

Bad answer: “I don’t respond to the customer’s email.”

Tell me about a time you used teamwork to help a customer.

Teamwork is a soft skill in high demand. 86.3% of recruiters say they look for the ability to work in a team on applicant resumes.

If your past customer service roles haven’t required collaboration, try to remember examples of times you’ve effectively worked with a team in other areas of your life.

Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to help a customer.

The interviewer wants to see if you know the difference between okay customer service and great customer service. They’re also trying to find out if you’re committed to providing great service.

Your story shouldn’t be about doing the things you’re expected to do for every customer, but about a time you went the extra mile. For example, maybe you helped a customer solve an especially complex problem or anticipated a customer’s need before they had it.

Have you ever received negative feedback from a customer? How did you handle it?

When an interviewer asks this question, they’re looking for two things.

First, are you able to take negative feedback in stride? A good customer service employee will remain professional and positive in the face of criticism.

Secondly, did you learn from the experience? The customer isn’t always right when they provide negative feedback, but tell the interviewer if the feedback helped you provide better service going forward.

If you haven’t ever received negative feedback from a customer, that’s great. You should still talk about what you would do if it happened.

How would you handle a customer you couldn’t understand?

This could be due to a language barrier or simply because the customer isn’t explaining the situation clearly.

Interviewers ask this question to make sure you can help all customers, not just the ones who are easy to understand.

If you have any examples of times when you’ve helped customers you couldn’t understand at first, tell the interviewer. If you don’t have a real-life example, talk about how you would try to better understand the customer.

For example, you could talk about being patient, speaking clearly, or using Google Translate to help with a language issue.

What are your strengths and weaknesses when interacting with customers?

This is a twist on the typical “what are your strengths and weaknesses” question, and you should answer this tough interview question the same way.

For your strengths, talk about specific skills and traits you have that make you good at interacting with customers. For example, you could mention that you’re a good listener.

Be honest about your weaknesses, but also talk about how you’re working to improve them.

Are you proficient in the use of any customer service software?

If you’re familiar with customer service software, this question is easy.

If you’re not, emphasize your ability and willingness to learn new skills.

What questions should I ask in a customer service interview?

In any interview, it’s important to ask the interviewer questions. This demonstrates your interest in the position and helps you determine if the job is a good fit.

Some examples of questions you might ask are:

  • What is a typical day in this job like?
  • What are the biggest challenges of the position?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What is the company’s customer service philosophy?
  • Why do you like working at this company?

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Remember that this isn’t the time to ask about salary, benefits, or time off. You can talk about those things if you get a job offer.

Ace your customer service interview

Preparation is the best way to make sure you impress the recruiter or hiring manager.

Research the company and use the list above to prepare for the most common customer service job interview questions. You’ll be working at your new customer service job before you know it.

For more job search tips, visit the Jobcase Getting Hired Resource Center.

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