16 Customer Service Interview Questions

16 Customer Service Interview Questions

Finding the right customer service candidate is never easy, but using these tried and true interview questions will help you along on your journey.

catherine heath

May 1, 2023

11 mins read

If customer service is important to your business then you will know the value of a top-notch customer service agent. Conducting customer service interviews is all about finding the right candidate and ensuring that they can fulfill the requirements of the role. After all, if your customers aren’t happy, they won’t stick around to buy more products and your business will inevitably suffer. 

The customer service job interview is a chance to find out more about how the candidate would behave if you hired them for the role. You’ll be able to filter out those applicants who don’t have a genuine interest in customer service and therefore will be unable to represent your company in a customer-facing role. 

Much of great customer service is down to the temperament of the person you hire. Empathy, compassion and problem-solving abilities are skills that can’t be taught but they are essential for helping customers effectively. Customer service agents can always learn about your products and services but it’s much more difficult to teach the ability to help customers. 

You need to use tried and tested customer service interview questions to help find agents who will be perfect for your business. 

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What are interviewers looking for in a customer service interview?

Despite the huge range of customer service jobs available, there are some core qualities that companies are looking for in their customer service reps. As well as being able to answer common customer service interview questions, candidates should also be able to demonstrate the following key customer service skills. 

  • Communication skills – customer service agents need to be able to demonstrate competency in communication skills. Effective reps will be able to communicate a point clearly to customers over a variety of different mediums, and stay calm under pressure. The act of giving an interview should be enough to show you how the candidate communicates during a typical interaction. 
  • Problem-solving abilities – the life of a customer service agent is inundated with problems. If there were no problem to fix, then customers would have no reason to get in touch with customer service! How candidates deal with these problems is key to identifying whether they would be successful in a customer service role. 
  • Commitment to the role – when companies hire a candidate for a customer service role they want to know that the person is committed for the long-term. If the candidate is simply applying while they wait for something better to come along, you’ll find yourself recruiting again after only a few months. 

Candidates who demonstrate these qualities are well-placed to flourish in your typical customer service job. Ideally, but not essentially, great candidates will have prior customer service experience. The following questions will help you uncover whether candidates have these key skills and how they would react to certain types of situations. 

What questions are asked in a customer service interview?

The questions you ask in a customer service interview are completely up to you, and some of them will be very unique to your business. For example, you may want to ask questions that help you identify customer service agents who will be pleasant, efficient and helpful. 

The right questions will help you elicit which candidates will flourish in a customer service position and be the right fit for your company. 

Nevertheless, there are some common customer service interview questions that every business can use to help them find the right candidates. Although interviews are a high-pressure situation, they can be a valuable tool to help you assess how candidates will behave in situations with customers. 

1. What do you think could make a customer unhappy?

Companies need to know that their candidate has an understanding of what makes customers unhappy. The flip side of good customer service is bad customer service, and they’ll need to demonstrate that they know the common triggers for unhappy customers. They’ll need to know the common pitfalls to avoid so they can focus on the reverse: making customers happy. 

Answers should show an awareness of what makes customers unhappy and how to avoid it. 

2. Tell us about a time when you’ve gone above and beyond for a customer?

Even more than understanding good customer service, companies want to hire candidates who can go “above and beyond”. This means doing more than the bare minimum for customers so they can present your company in the best possible light. Being able to recall exceeding expectations in a situation with a customer shows true passion for customer service and indicates to your business that the agent will be able to align with your values. 

The answer should be a very specific situation related as a story of a time when the candidate exceeded expectations for a customer. 

3. Tell us how you would deal with a difficult customer? 

The reality of working in customer service means that you will encounter some customers who are difficult to deal with, and you need to know that your prospective hire will be able to handle working in uncomfortable situations. If an angry customer severely impacts your candidate’s mental health, this casts extreme doubt on their suitability for the role. This question helps identify agents who will be resilient and yet unfailingly helpful with all types of customers. 

Hypothetically speaking, the candidate should demonstrate the skills they would use in dealing with a difficult customer. 

4. What does “excellent” customer service mean to you? 

The ideal customer service agent will have a previous opinion on their meaning of excellent customer service. They should have thought about what excellent customer service means to them and be able to express their definition in an articulate manner. In answer to this question, candidates may relate their ideal version of customer service to a particular company that they admire, and will definitely not regurgitate a dictionary definition. You’re looking for original answers that show a depth of thought. 

The answer should include details of the candidate’s opinion on how they would define excellent customer service. 

5. Tell us about the best customer service you’ve ever experienced?

It can be good to find out a bit more about a real-life experience your candidate has had with the best customer service. If candidates can recognize excellent customer service in the field, they are more likely to be able to achieve it in their own role. This question also uncovers whether the potential hire is passionate about customer service and is on the look-out for exceptional customer service in their own life. 

In this answer, you’re looking for a story of a time that the customer has experienced memorable service. 

6. What would you do if a customer asked a question you didn’t know the answer to? 

This question tests whether an agent would be able to think on their feet and how they would help a customer when they didn’t know the answer. The worst possible response is to either dismiss a customer or pass the buck to another colleague, and you’re looking for candidates who will be tenacious and resourceful. Customer service agents who simply give up when faced with a challenging customer are not a good fit for the role. 

You’re trying to elicit an insightful answer of how the candidate would behave when faced with a question they couldn’t answer right away. 

7. How would you react if a customer gave you negative feedback?

Sometimes in a customer service role, customers will submit negative feedback about the service you gave. Whether or not this feedback is justified, you need to find out how your candidate will react when faced with potential criticism, and ideally they would use it to make constructive improvements without taking it too personally. For example, it may be the case that the agent did rush the customer off the phone, and could have taken a little more time to dive into their problem. There are always ways that you can become a better customer service agent. 

You’re looking for candidates who can calmly accept criticism and use it to improve their approach to the role. 

8. What do you think is the role of customer service in a company? 

Good candidates for customer service will understand the role that customer service plays in a company. No team operates in isolation and the right agent will understand how customer service supports and interacts with other functions in the business. Candidates should be able to show that they have thought about how customer service fits into the wider purpose of the company and understand how they will be able to contribute to its goals. 

In this answer, candidates will demonstrate that they know customer service is a function that integrates with every aspect of the business. 

9. What excites you about customer service? 

Companies want to hire candidates who are passionate about the role, and that means being able to articulate what exactly excites them about customer service. It may be something along the lines of being able to work in a role that helps people, or being able to put their qualities of empathy and compassion to good use. You want candidates that will be able to represent the company in the most positive way. 

This answer should show that candidates are genuinely excited about customer service and view it as a potential career. 

10. Tell us about a time when you collaborated with teammates to help a customer? 

Customer service is very frequently a team effort and you’ll want a candidate who can demonstrate the skill of collaborating with others. Ask them about a particular time when they collaborated with multiple teammates to help a customer and tease out the relevant skills that they used to accomplish their goals. Patience, humility and good communication skills are key to working effectively in a team. 

Candidates’ answers should show that they have been able to work as a team and can demonstrate good collaborative capabilities. 

11. Can you share a time you helped a customer who had been passed around multiple agents without having the problem resolved?

A common situation that will result in a dissatisfied customer is being passed around multiple agents, potentially repeating information and failing to have their problem resolved. You need to find out how your candidate would handle this situation and turn it around to result in a happier resolution. Candidates should be aware of customer’s needs and the potential damage to the reputation of the business if this scenario were to occur. 

In this answer, candidates should reveal the ability to turn a negative scenario into a positive. 

12. How would you break down a technical concept for a customer?

Customer service agents very frequently have to break down technical concepts for customers and customers will be coming to the conversation with different levels of abilities. Candidates have to be able to tailor their explanations so that customers can troubleshoot their own errors successfully. Customer service agents need to be patient and take their time over relating to customers, so that they can understand the information being conveyed. 

This answer shows that candidates have clear communication skills and proficiency in technical concepts. 

13. How would you approach customers about a known error with your product? 

Unfortunately, from time to time customers experience errors with your product and customer service agents must be in a position to reassure your customers that the issue is being dealt with. In this type of situation, customers might be understandably worried or frustrated so agents should be able to deliver the correct response. The right candidates will avoid criticizing the company whilst having the humility to admit that there is a problem being handled. 

In this answer, candidates should reveal an ability to represent the business in a good light even in potentially damaging situations. 

14. What do you think makes a great customer service representative?

Any worthy candidate should be able to tell you what makes a great customer service representative, in their opinion. Their response should be original and creative, and yet align with the values of your organization so that they can best represent the interests of your company. The assumption here is that candidates should be able to live up to this ideal if they were selected for the role.

Candidates should show that they understand what type of person would be best for a role in customer service.  

15. What do you like about [company]?

The best customer service agent candidates should have researched your company before ever arriving at the interview, and they must have a thorough understanding of your products and services. By sharing what they like about your company, you’ll uncover whether the candidate will be passionate about working for your business which will translate to better customer service. You want to know why the candidate desires to work for this particular company versus any old customer service role. 

In their answer, candidates should show knowledge of your company and be able to say something positive about it. 

16. What’s the best book on customer service you’ve ever read?

Ideal customer service representatives should spend at least some of their time reading around the subject of their work, and can recommend relevant books on customer service. Having a personal interest in the topic will show that the role is more than just a job and that candidates are actively interested in learning more about their field. Even just reading interesting articles about customer service can be sufficient to demonstrate that you are interviewing an exceptional candidate. 

If candidates can recommend more than one customer service book, even better! 

What are the 7 qualities of good customer service?

Naturally, you’ll want to hire candidates who exemplify good customer service and in order to do that you’ll need to get very clear on what that means to you. If you don’t understand how you want your brand to be portrayed, you won’t be able to find customer service candidates who can do it for you. 

Each business is unique with their own particular customers but there are some typical qualities that are common across all instances of customer service. To maximize your chances of hiring the perfect candidate, sit down and define what good customer service means to your business. 

Here we’ve got the 7 qualities of good customer service that should be exemplified by any agent you hire. 

1. Empathy

Good customer service requires understanding how the customer feels, and in order to put yourself in another person’s shoes you need a strong sense of empathy. Not only does empathy help you come up with an appropriate response to a problem, but you can also convey your solution in a kind and caring manner. Empathy enables agents to appreciate how customers would like to be treated individually instead of adopting a cookie-cutter approach to everyone. 

Empathetic customer service reps are generally better at connecting with customers and establishing a rapport. 

2. Speed

Customers require fast responses to their problems and hate to be kept waiting around by your agents. Not only do agents need to provide quick responses to customers, but they also need to make sure they are offering speedy resolutions. Of course, good customer service should never be a race to get customers off the phone, but the right agents should be able to power through the queue in an efficient manner. In times of high volume, this aspect of customer service is critical. 

If agents can respond to customers quickly, that’s fewer customers who drift off to your competitors who can offer a faster service. 

3. Effective resolutions

We’ve already covered the importance of helping customers quickly, but effective resolutions are another key component of good customer service. Your solutions should actually solve the problem for the customer, no matter what it might be and prevent them from getting back in touch again. It’s the customer who decides if the resolution is effective, not the agent, and the conversation should not be concluded until the customer is satisfied. 

The whole point of customers contacting your customer service team is to get their problems solved, so make sure you do. 

4. Clear communication

Agents must be able to open up a channel of clear communication with the customer to ensure that they get their point across and also hear what’s being said. Clear communication is about choosing the right words and being able to adapt your message over different mediums. How agents present themselves can have a significant impact on communication and can determine whether customers hear what you are trying to say. 

Clear communication means agents don’t need to waste valuable time in unnecessary back-and-forth with customers. 

5. Helpfulness

It goes without saying that customer service should be innately helpful. Many companies fail to act pleased when customers get in touch with them, and treat them as an inconvenience. No matter how the customer is coming across, agents should be as helpful as possible and eager to come to their assistance. Follow-up questions can determine whether customers have additional problems and ensure that customer service is comprehensive and complete. 

Customers who encounter a helpful customer service rep are more likely to be forthcoming about their issues. 

6. Politeness

Being polite and courteous is essential to good customer service. As representatives of the company, agents need to conduct themselves in the appropriate manner and ensure that they are always in the right frame of mind. Proper manners can be so easy to neglect in the rush to help the next customer, and no one’s expecting your company to be excessively formal. Treating others as you would wish to be treated is the ideal baseline for polite customer service. 

When customer service reps are polite, this makes conversations with customers so much smoother and positively impacts the customer’s attitude. 

7. Positive language

Using positive language in customer service means interacting with customers in a constructive way. You need to be careful about the words you choose, which can make all the difference between being dismissive of a customer and offering alternative options. Customers are turning to your customer service department to help them, and framing the interaction in a positive way helps create satisfying customer experiences. Focusing on what you can do, rather than what you can’t do, is the key to good customer service. 

Positive rather than negative language increases the chance that you will arrive at an effective resolution that will be satisfying for both parties. 

Wrapping up

Finding the right customer service candidate is never easy, but using these tried and true interview questions will help you along on your journey. Asking insightful interview questions will uncover valuable qualities in candidates who have the potential to become assets to your team. 

The right customer service candidate will bring a mixture of hard and soft skills to the table. In addition to these general interview questions, you may want to add some of your own such as those relating to proficiency with specific customer technologies. Many skills can be learned on the job but prior experience in relevant areas is always a plus. 

Customer service reps are essential for making your vision of good customer service a reality. They quite literally represent your business in the day-to-day interactions with customers and have the power to impact key metrics like customer loyalty and retention. It’s worth taking the time to find the best candidates. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at https://awaywithwords.co.

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