Have you ever dreaded the “What does customer service mean to you?” question during a job interview? You’re not alone. It’s one of the most common interview questions a potential employer is sure to ask.
Any pause or hesitation in your voice may present a lack of confidence or enthusiasm for the role. That stumble may set a poor tone for the rest of the interview, which might be challenging to turn around.
Ideally, you’d anticipate this tricky question well in advance and have the perfect answer rehearsed and ready to go.
Here’s where thorough preparation for this interview question comes in handy.
Knowing that an interviewer will ask you to explain what customer service means to you, it’s your job to give the best answer you can to make a great first impression.
Read on to find out how to nail your answer.
According to research, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.
Anyone who’s ever felt mistreated, unimportant, or abused by a company understands the value in choosing a company that prides itself on outstanding customer service.
But what does exceptional customer service actually look like in action?
Author of the book The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty, says,
“Customer service should be less about offense—bending over backwards to please customers—and more about defense, in the sense of preventing frustration and delay.”
To put it plainly, customer service is less about dazzling customers and more about providing them with a quick and simple solution to their problems.
It’s about not making them jump through hoops like complicated phone trees or digging through your website for the ever-elusive phone number that’ll actually reach a human being.
84% of customers claim that customer experience is just as important to them as the company's products or services themselves. This is the reason companies have started prioritizing great customer service experience above all else.
Take online retailer Zappos as an example. They don’t take customer satisfaction lightly. Instead, they’re notorious for going above and beyond for their customers and even sending care packages to Afghanistan or assisting a customer during a 10-hour phone call if needed.
Before answering the million-dollar question that will either make or break your customer service job interview, you should identify what makes good customer service.
Let’s start with the basics.
There are 3 main components that indicate excellent customer service:
Customer-first focus: no matter the issue at hand, good customer service representatives always have their eyes on the prize (i.e., customer). Every decision needs the lens of, “will this improve or detract from the customer experience?”
Great attitudes: it’s true when they say that if you change your attitude, you can change your life.
In the world of customer service, a good attitude can indeed change the life of the customer and of the company, if it wins the customer over, and make them a real fan of the brand.
To demonstrate to your hiring manager that a positive attitude is your second nature, try to stay upbeat during the entire interview. Show that you can be engaging with customers on social media and that patience is no stranger to you.
Highly knowledgeable reps (employees): It’s not enough to just have a good knowledge of the products or services your company offers.
A good customer service associate also knows what answer to give and where to refer the customer when they have a problem that needs to be solved.
Understanding the ins and outs of the job is an important part of being a customer service agent.
During an interview, the hiring manager needs to figure out if you’re a good fit for the position.
So naturally, asking leading questions like
“What does customer service mean to you?”
gives them a good idea about whether your perception of strong customer service matches with that of the company.
And for a company to deliver the best customer service possible, its employees need to share the same vision.
As a part of the customer service team, you have the responsibility to maintain the company’s brand image in every customer interaction.
If you don’t value customer service in the same way as the business, they will worry that hiring you could lead to poor online reviews and less than desirable word-of-mouth about their service offering.
The graph below shows just how important customer satisfaction is to the public’s perception of a company.
In 2020, 92% of customers confessed that they’re less likely to use a business if the company’s online reviews are negative.
Businesses care about their clients as much as they do about their reputation. So, employees that don’t seem to share their values won’t be able to contribute to the company’s success.
Once you’ve done your research — a job interview is a two-way street — forming a relevant answer won’t seem like such a high mountain to climb.
But do keep in mind that customer service tends to vary from industry to industry. Some sectors, like healthcare, finance, and real estate, are notorious for providing good customer service while others ... not so much.
To make sure your interviewer relates to your answer regardless of the industry, collect the company-related insights, gather your thoughts, and use the templates below to create your own answer that fits right in.
When it comes to healthcare and the public sector, the wellbeing of patients and citizens, respectively, comes first.
For customer service, this translates to making sure the other party is heard and helped.
A sample response could sound like this:
“It’s important for me to prioritize the customer’s needs and listen to their requests before I can help. This way, they feel heard and understood, and I, in my turn, am able to make relevant suggestions and help them out”.
If you’re applying for an entry-level customer service position, chances are you’ll still be learning how to address customer issues while remaining calm.
For you, it’s crucial to show the interviewer that you’re able to go the extra mile when handling complaints and ensuring that the customer expectations are met.
“I’ve been on the other end, as a customer receiving poor support, and the customer service rep's attitude greatly affected my feelings about the company overall.
That experience taught me the value of customer service and why remaining calm and solution-oriented is the best tactic to not only resolve the issue but maintain the customer’s satisfaction.”
As someone whose job will revolve around helping customers goods (anything from clothing to cars) you’ll have to read the room and show empathy constantly with customers.
To show that you are understanding and supportive to to the customer, consider answering the question in this manner:
“I recognize that customers may become overwhelmed when problems arise at various points in their shopping experience, so it is my goal to help resolve those issues in a way that converts their anxiety into excitement or delight.”
Every member of the tech industry will tell you that the number one query customers tend to have is how long will it take to solve their issue. This is a clear indicator of the type of service they expect to get from you.
Craft your response in the following way:
“Apart from closely listening to the issues the clients are having, I’m quick to come up with a hands-on solution that would make them stay loyal to our company. And I always make sure to give them clear, realistic estimates of how long a solution will take.”
Management roles require an all-inclusive approach that often involves other team members.
When applying for a job that calls for your direct supervision, you should both anticipate the issues before they arise and empower your team to solve them while keeping a friendly yet persuasive voice tone.
Take a look at what your response might include:
“There’s a certain degree of responsibility that comes with being in charge of a team. I know that by setting the tone on how to deal with clients, I can foster open communication between team members and empower them to make good decisions on behalf of the company. As a result, both sides win”.
Your definition of customer service needs to feel, and sound natural. As consumers, we’ve all been in the customer's shoes at some point. You can pull from those situations, in addition to your work experience, to craft your own unique answer to the question, “what does customer service mean to you?”
If you’re a seasoned customer service representative, then channel the energy from your best calls. How did they feel when you helped them? What did they say in the follow-up survey? Use that motivation and experience to land the job!