Top questions for customer service applicants you should ask

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”- Sam Walton

Everything that you make and do, today, in any industry is for the customer. After all, he is the boss, isn’t he?

Every product and service is developed and provided only if the customers demand them i.e. if there is a market for them. Understanding customer needs and satisfying those needs is the most vital aspect of any business. Therefore for every business, it is imperative to gain customers’ faith and retain it. But not to forget, there is stiff competition in the market. Multiple suppliers provide the same product/service as you, and hence the customer has a lot of options to choose from. In such a scenario, the quality of customer service is the only key differentiator!

Table of Contents

What is Customer Service?

Serving the customer and supporting them proactively to their satisfaction is Customer Service. Every employee in the organization is responsible for providing Customer service to the customer. Every action and function that an employee performs in an organization should be customer–centric. Good customer service should be one of your USPs (Unique Selling Proposition) if you want to succeed in business. 

Importance of Customer Service

Even when you have the best product/service to offer, getting a customer is a one-time phenomenon. But retaining him and having him as a repeat- customer depends on the customer service that you provide. 

As a customer, we always look for a good ‘buying experience’. That experience is provided by the frontline – customer service agents. Hence these agents must be well-trained and equipped to handle customers and their queries efficiently.

Customers want to be catered to and that is what precisely customer service means. Catering to the needs of the customers and supporting them – during and after the shopping/buying experience is critical to retaining them.

A customer has many options. He can go somewhere else to get the service he wants. Hence it is essential to give the best treatment and support if you want to retain him.

To provide customer service is to listen, care, empathize, understand customer needs, and provide timely support.

If you are looking to hire a candidate for a customer service position, you will need to be ready with the questions that can help you understand if he/she can handle the job well. 

Here are some questions that can help you get started: 

20 Customer Service Interview questions

After the general pleasantries and icebreaker questions, you could start with: 

#1 What was the reason for leaving your previous job?

If the candidate comes with experience, there is a reason for him/her to leave the previous position. This answer will give you an insight as to what pushes and drives them to take such decisions. They may categorize it as a lack of growth, lack of money, family, or a bad relationship with their reporting manager.

#2 Can you tell us about your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths are something that every candidate will be happy to speak about. It’s how they perceive their weakness that you need to look at.  Not every candidate will be honest about this aspect of the question as it shows you how they perceive their flaws.

#3 How do you motivate yourself?

A Customer service job requires patience as the employees will have to deal with multiple people on any given day. Knowing what motivates them will give you an idea that they are capable of handling the everyday pressure, without losing their gumption to work.

#4 How do you prioritize and manage your time?

This shows how organized the candidate is and if he/she has multiple assignments and tasks given at one time, how they would be able to schedule their work to achieve their goals.  While multi-tasking is considered to be a skill, it becomes important that the candidate knows which task needs to be prioritized. 

#5 If you have a disagreement with your team member how would you handle it?

A conflict can arise at any time and the response to this question shows how well the candidate will be able to manage this situation. There are certain things that need to be followed if there is a conflict with a team member and the answer from the candidate will let you know whether he/she can do during such a time.

#6 What does customer service mean to you?

A conflict can arise at any time and the response to this question shows how well the candidate will be able to manage this situation. There are certain things that need to be followed if there is a conflict with a team member and the answer from the candidate will let you know whether he/she can do during such a time. 

#7 What happens if you get passed over for a promotion?

Getting passed over for a promotion can bring the morale down of any employee. The answer to this will help you understand how the employee will handle this situation; by open communication or will they choose to leave the position. 

#8 Is recognition for a job well done important for you?

Everyone wants to be recognized and appreciated if they have done good work. If the candidate says that recognition isn’t important to them, then they are probably lying to you or taking the job for intermediary purposes, until the position they want comes along. 

#9 Why did you choose a customer service job?

This question is very critical. Customer service orientation is a skill. Not everyone is skilled in it. By asking this question you would learn whether the candidate is genuinely customer service oriented or treating this job as a stepping stone or easy access to the company.

What you need to look for in the answer is: has he put effort into finding this job opening or has he just waltzed in to try his luck? What is the reason he wants to be in Customer service? You can probe deeper into the reason that he states to understand if he is interested.

#10 Why should we select you for this job?

This is a question that catches many off-guard. The answer to this question will help you gauge the passion of the candidate for customer service.  If the candidate starts listing his positives as a response, you can probe deeper into each of those qualities to understand how those qualities will help in doing this job.

#11 What if we don’t offer this job to you?

This is a trick question. This question helps you check how serious and passionate the candidate is about this job. If he says he will apply somewhere else in some other department you would know instantly that he isn’t keen on customer service but for ‘any’ job. If his answer implies he will try again in some time for the same role – you can probe further. This will at least tell you that he is keen to pursue this role.

#12 What are the key qualities that a Customer Service representative should have?

A Customer Service representative should have domain knowledge and should be able to support the customer and understand his needs. Some of the qualities that a customer service representative needs to have is patience, empathy, the ability to listen and comprehend. They should also be able to articulate the conversation in a manner that would be acceptable to the customer, even if they are unable to help them at that point. 

#13 How to deal with an irate customer?

The customer service job is not easy. It requires a lot of patience and empathy. Check the empathy quotient of the candidate with this question. Sometimes one has to deal with irate customers but that needs to be handled patiently and calmly. If the matter escalates, introduce the customer to the manager so that the customer feels heard but patience is a virtue. Give scenarios to the candidates to check their responses and their attitude.

#14 What will you do if you don’t know the answer to one of the questions that the customer asks?

This question is meant to check if the candidate can manage a stressful situation. Not knowing something can create a stressful situation but the ideal response is to remain calm and not fumble. There is nothing wrong in admitting that you don’t know the answer and will check with your superior for the solution. The candidate needs to be calm and composed to admit and get the solution for the customer.

#15 Give us an instance of good customer service and bad customer service.

The answer to this will give you insights into the candidate’s understanding and grasp of customer service as a concept. 

#16 What would you do if a customer gives you negative feedback?

Sometimes even after doing their best, customers might give negative feedback about the customer service agent. This question will evaluate the emotional intelligence and attitude of the candidate. Don’t give too much time to think as the answer can be fabricated. Let the answer be as close to the truth as possible to understand the candidate’s fitment better.

#17 What would you do if there is a conflicting opinion between you and the customer?

There are situations when a customer is wrong. The customer service approach is extremely important in such scenarios. A diplomatic answer is expected while responding to this question. Seeking balance in approach is important and the candidate needs to show that maturity while responding to this question.

#18 What would you do if you get reprimanded by a customer because of your colleague’s fault?

Emotional maturity is expected in the answer to this question. A customer services agent has to be a team player. He should be able to manage the situation with maturity and grace if he wants to grow. 

#19 If a customer has spoken to multiple representatives, but hasn’t been offered a solution and has now come to you, how will you handle the situation?

Dealing with an unhappy customer with patience shows if the candidate has empathy toward the customer. You should want to hear real-life experiences in such situations which shows how they handled it. This will also give you an opportunity to cross-question them when they speak about their experiences to you.

#20 You have been informed about a faulty product or part in the product and you will have to call the customer and explain this to them so they return the product to you. How will you take the conversation forward?

The answer to this question will give you a clear idea about the communication skills with the customer, especially when you know that the product is faulty. What information they would choose to inform and leave out will indicate the level of understanding that is required to do this job successfully. 

If these questions seem too exhaustive in some cases, you can also choose to ask questions about personal interests and world events. You can also ask them for any recommendation about a movie or a book or ask them how they achieve work-life balance. 

They may seem frivolous, but it helps them relax during the interview if it is getting intense for them. 

Wrap up

Customer service orientation is vital to every business. There is no exception to it. Everybody is in the business of gaining and retaining their customers and that comes with quality service. While interviewing for customer service, it is essential to look for empathetic candidates, who have a good attitude, and are hungry to learn. Experience will teach the rest. 

FAQs on Customer Service Interview Questions

What are the 6 Cs of Customer Service?

1. Competence – Only the competent can provide the best customer service
2. Concern- Concern for the customers and empathy help in providing the service that a customer needs.
3. Consistency – Customer Service is a continuous effort. Consistency is the key when you need to retain your customers and create goodwill.
4. Creativity – Dealing with different customers every day and handling their queries, and problems involve creative thinking to keep them engaged. 
5. Courtesy and Composure – These are the big Cs of Customer Service. Being Courteous and maintaining composure while serving the customer is paramount. Being professional and patient with a customer helps provide the solutions and customer care that one needs. This helps retain the customer and ensures repeat purchases.
6. Commitment – Customer service without commitment is impossible. This is a job for those who are committed to providing the best customer care in all situations.

How to handle an angry customer?

Sometimes one has to deal with irate customers but that needs to be handled patiently and calmly. If the matter escalates, introduce the customer to the manager so that the customer feels heard but patience is a virtue. A customer always wants to be heard and catered to. If he is angry about something, the reason needs to be understood and handled delicately to solve it. Empathy plays a major role in resolving such issues.

What is the question that can be asked at the end of the interview?

The last question can be:
What if we don’t offer this job to you?
This question will take the candidate by surprise. It will help you understand how serious is the candidate for this job, is he just considering this job as a stepping stone or is he willing to do what it takes to get it? The attitude of the candidate can be easily determined through the response to this question.

What are the questions you should ask the interviewer during an interview?

As an eager candidate you should ask the interviewer the following questions:
– Will training be provided for product/ domain knowledge?-
– Will a buddy be assigned to me whom I can accompany to learn the job?
– How big is the team? Will I get the support of the team members while I learn in the initial days?
– Would I get some reading material to learn better?

What are the 3 important qualities of good customer service?

Good product/Domain knowledge, Empathetic listening, and prompt service are the 3 important qualities of good customer service.

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