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Top 21 Customer Service Interview Questions and Answers

By Biron Clark


Interviewing for customer service jobs? We’ve got you covered!

We’re going to look at 21 sample customer service representative interview questions, including the top behavioral customer service interview questions. These are the questions you can expect to hear in any customer service interview… whether it’s a first phone interview or face-to-face interview.

Make sure you can answer ALL 21 before going into your interview. Let’s get started…

What Are Interviewers Looking for When Hiring?

Hiring managers are looking for a few specific skills that you’ll want to display during your customer service interview:

Communication Skills

Customer service roles typically have one thing in common: they will need to communicate directly with customers at some point.

So no matter what type of organization you’re applying for, you’ll want to ensure you display excellent communication skills when talking with the hiring manager. Listen carefully to their questions and reply with articulate and considerate answers. Maintain eye contact, and don’t use body language that might be off-putting.

Problem-Solving Skills

Customer service professionals frequently deal with complex questions that require them to make swift decisions to resolve client issues. As such, your hiring manager will likely ask you a few questions that give you an opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.

For example, in an interview for a customer service position in a retail store, the hiring manager may ask how you’d handle a client who demanded a refund for a product despite not having a receipt. A good answer would involve calming the customer and explaining how the company’s return policy works.

Product Knowledge

Many customer service roles require extensive product knowledge. So if you’re interviewing for a customer service position where you’ll need to understand the products the company sells, make sure you investigate the company’s products and services and learn their basic features. 

If the company’s products are complex, the hiring manager won’t expect you to be an expert on their functions during an interview. They’ll typically provide you with extensive training if they decide to hire you. 

Industry Knowledge

Customer service roles typically require industry knowledge to be a competitive candidate, especially in the financial, insurance, and tech sectors.

If you don’t have extensive industry experience, you can perform some research before the interview so you’ll pick up on the basics. Check out the company’s website and products and search its competitors’ websites for further information.

Sample Customer Service Representative Interview Questions

1. Why Do You Want to Work in Customer Service?

This is a pretty simple question to answer. You’ll want to indicate what attracts you to the customer service profession and tie it back to the organization you’re applying to.  For example, many people apply to customer service roles because they like people and feel comfortable interacting with them every day. They’re usually pretty extroverted, or they might feel a calling to help others.

Whatever the case, identify a few key reasons why you’re applying for a customer service role, and explain them in your answer.

Example answer:

“I have over ten years of experience in various customer service roles. I chose this profession because I enjoy working with people and consider myself friendly and personable. I love that my work varies from day to day. There are always new people to meet, and they all have different questions. I enjoy finding solutions to customers’ problems and finding products that suit their needs.”

2. Do you have any previous customer service experience?

Not everyone’s great at dealing with customers, and employers want to make sure you’ll do a good job before they hire you. So they’re going to want to know if you’ve done similar work before.

They’ll start by asking if you have any previous customer service experience, and if you do, then the hiring manager will ask a lot more about it.

They’re going to ask for details like:

  • How you interacted with customers (phone, in-person, etc.)
  • How many customers you served per day/week
  • The types of customers you served (retail customer service, business customers, etc.)

So brush up on your past experience and review your own resume when preparing for your interviews. Be ready to go into detail about everything you’ve done in the past in the field of customer service.

If you don’t have any previous customer service experience, don’t worry. They obviously liked SOMETHING on your resume or they wouldn’t have invited you to interview. So you can be direct and say, “no”. Or if you have some other experience you think is relevant even if it wasn’t exactly customer service, you can say, “no… but…” and then talk about what else you’ve done and why you feel it’d help you succeed in this customer service job.

Example answer:

With experience: 

“I’ve worked in my current role as a front desk attendant for Marriott for three years. My responsibilities include handling customer check-ins, service requests, and complaints. I enjoy making a client’s experience memorable and strive for 100% satisfaction.”

Without experience:

“I don’t have specific customer service experience, but I am a people person. I enjoy getting to know others, and my acquaintances constantly tell me I’m helpful.”

3. What does good customer service mean to you?

Next, the interviewer is going to want to see if you have a basic understanding of the purpose of customer service.  This is a tough interview question because it’s so open-ended.

I recommend saying something like the following:

“To me, great customer service is going above and beyond what a customer expects to make sure they have an outstanding experience and want to tell friends about how positive their interaction with our company was.”

It’s important to show that you know your job involves making sure customers are happy with the company, not just you as a person. You’ll notice a lot of customer service surveys say, “From 1-10, how likely are you to recommend the company to a friend?” And that’s how they evaluate their customer service representatives.

They’re not asking customers, “Was Jake a nice guy when he helped you?”… They’re asking whether you’d recommend the company. So that’s what your job really is as a customer service representative – to help customers and give them a positive impression of the company overall.

Example answer:

“When I provide someone with excellent customer service, I’ll know I met their needs by the look in their eyes or their tone of voice. People with a positive experience leave happy; you don’t need to worry that they’ll leave a bad review of the company or complain to the manager.”

4. What Do You Think of Our Product or Service?

When an interviewer asks this question, they want to know whether you understand their business and what they sell.  Answering this question comes down to one thing: research. If you’re interviewing for a company with products or services you don’t understand, you’ll need to thoroughly review the organization’s website or store so you can speak about their products. 

No one expects you to be an expert, especially if the products are particularly complex, but you’ll want to respond intelligently.

Example answer:

“I find Apple products to be innovative, user-centric, and designed with great attention to detail. I admire the seamless integration across devices and the company’s commitment to advancing technology, like Face ID and M1 chips. As a potential customer service representative, I’m eager to contribute to Apple’s  approach to customer satisfaction, encompassing both product development and after-sales support.”

5. What motivates you in your career?

Employers want to know what motivates you and keeps you going aside from money… especially when you interview for a difficult/stressful job like customer service representative positions. These jobs are DEFINITELY stressful at times.  So employers want to make sure there’s something that will motivate you and keep you going when a day gets difficult.

Don’t say “money” when you answer this question.  They want to know what’s going to keep you motivated besides the paycheck.  That’s what hiring managers are curious about when they ask this question in an interview.

Example answer:

“I find motivation from the people I work with and those I help. My work colleagues are an extension of my family, and I want to see them do well. Similarly, I find customer service very rewarding; there’s no better feeling than making someone’s day when you resolve an issue.”

Here’s some further reading on answering the “what motivates you” interview question.

6. What are your career goals/Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?

Most people don’t dream of being in customer service and don’t want to stay there forever. So employers are probably going to ask about your long-term goals in a customer service representative interview.

You don’t need to lie and say this is your dream job…

You just want to show that this customer service representative position fits into your overall goals, even if it’s not where you want to be forever.

For example, do you want to become a manager? Learning the “ins and outs” of customer service can boost your people skills and help you learn about a vital part of the organization. Want to work in sales eventually? You can say that you hope to build A+ interpersonal skills and communication skills, and you thought customer service was a great place to build that foundation.

That’s the basic idea when answering this interview question.

Example answer: 

“I’m currently working toward a marketing degree I hope to finish in the next three years. I believe that experience in customer service will help me be an astute marketer who can anticipate clients’ needs.”

Further reading:

Must-Know Behavioral Customer Service Interview Questions

Next, you’ll want to prepare for behavioral questions. These are questions that start with phrases like, “tell me about a time you had to ___.”

Behavioral questions are very common for customer service representative jobs. Employers want to make sure you can handle difficult situations with customers BEFORE they hire you. They also want to make sure you won’t do anything to harm the company’s reputation, like yelling at a customer, walking out, etc.

Here are some sample behavioral interview questions to make sure you’re ready to answer for any customer service job:

7. Describe a time when you provided or observed high-quality customer service

This is one of the most common behavioral interview questions for customer service representative roles. If you have prior customer service experience, focus on discussing that.

However, you can still ace this question in your customer service interviews even if you’ve never worked in this type of role. You can simply describe a time you observed high-quality customer service.

When did you see a service employee go above and beyond what was expected to please a customer? Think about recent trips to the supermarket, Starbucks, etc. Or, when did you see an employee be especially patient and kind with an angry customer to resolve an issue?

Talking about how you’ve observed those customer service skills, and what you learned from the experience, shows you appreciate and understand excellent customer service and will fit well in the job.

However, if you do have any experience as a customer service representative, it’s best to talk about your own work. Sharing a time you delivered great customer service to a satisfied customer is a bit more powerful than telling a story of how you observed another customer service representative.

And in general, pay careful attention to the wording of each question when you interview for a customer service position.  Some interviewers will ask, “Describe a specific situation where you provided excellent customer service.” In that case, they’re asking only for your direct experience in prior customer service positions or similar roles.

Example answer:

“I’ll never forget the time I visited a family-owned hotel in Tampa, Florida. The owner was struggling to get it off the ground, but he always went the extra mile, like when he personally gave my family a complimentary breakfast on the beach. It’s been ten years since I visited, but I’ll never forget it.”

8. Tell me about a difficult customer you had to deal with and how you handled it.

For answering behavioral interview questions, I like the S.T.A.R. method.

Situation. Task/Challenge. Action you took. Result.

That’s a good way to organize your answer. So when you’re in a customer service job interview and they ask about a difficult customer you encountered, you could say:

“It was Friday afternoon and we were about to close the store.” (Situation)

“A customer came to me extremely unhappy because __” (Task/Challenge)

“So I quickly did ___ and decided to offer her ___ to rectify the situation” (Action you took)

“She was very grateful and completely understood after I explained ___. And she was thrilled that I was able to give her ___ as compensation for her hassle. She said she’d be back soon to shop again.” (Result).

I’d recommend using this method to break down your answer into smaller pieces and tell clearer and better stories. This is useful for any behavioral customer service interview question.

Example answer:

“It was a bustling Friday night at an Italian restaurant where I worked as a hostess. A customer came in and claimed they had a reservation for four people, but I couldn’t locate it. However, there was an extra table we had taken out of the dining room to make the space bigger. The manager agreed to let me bring the table in, and I sat the family within five minutes. They were so thankful.”

9. Tell me about a time you went above and beyond what was expected to please a customer.

Employers don’t just want someone who does the bare minimum or sticks to their exact job description as a customer service representative. So they ask behavioral questions like this one to see if you’re able to really please customers and go above and beyond the basics. If you have any previous customer service experience, be ready to go into detail about a time you got creative or put in the extra effort to please a customer.

For example, if you worked in a grocery store, what was something you did that they really didn’t expect, and made their day?

Maybe you helped them find their lost child as the store was closing.

Maybe you special-ordered a product that you don’t normally carry.

Think about those things that aren’t on the job description. That’s what to talk about when answering this interview question.

If you’ve never worked in a customer service role before, they might ask a similar question like, “tell me about a time you went above and beyond what was expected of you at work?” So even if you’ve never worked in customer service, be ready to talk about a situation where you did more than what was expected in your job.

Example answer:

“I worked in the dress department of a Macy’s, and a young teenager came in searching for a prom dress. I asked about her budget and selected dresses I knew would highlight her best features. Once she found a dress she liked, I even helped her accentuate it with jewelry. She was so satisfied that she came back the next day with three friends that also needed help!” 

Read sample answers to “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond” here.

10. Tell me about a difficult day you experienced at work. What happened and how did you handle it?

You’re going to have difficult days as a customer service representative.  So employers want to know that you’re resilient and can handle it. They want to know that you won’t freak out, throw your uniform and quit.

So show them you know it’s not always easy being in customer service, but that you’re able to stay professional and come back the next day no matter what happens. Use the S.T.A.R. method (mentioned earlier!) to tell a clear story about a day that really didn’t go your way, and what you learned from it and how you turned it into a positive experience.

What were you able to improve from that experience?

How did you make sure the customer was satisfied?

How did that experience help you avoid problems/mistakes/difficult situations later in your career?

That’s the general approach I’d take when answering this type of question in your customer service interview.

Example answer:

“I was working as a barista at a sports bar when one night, a customer drank too much and became sick at the bar. I quickly organized a team to help the customer and clean up the area. It was an awful experience, but we salvaged the evening by offering everyone a free appetizer.”

11.  Give me an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client or coworker. How did you make sure they understood you?

Communication skills are vital for any customer-facing job, so employers want to see how you explain yourself and communicate. They’ll judge this throughout the interview with EVERY answer you give them, too.

So make sure all of your answers are clear, concise, and to-the-point.

Example answer:

“As a customer service representative for Verizon, I once had a customer who wanted to reduce their bill. They were already on the most inexpensive plan available, but they were also paying $100 monthly for financing their phones. I printed a copy of their most recent bill and explained each component. I also pointed out that their financing program would be paid in full in just a few months, after which point their monthly payments would decrease. They left satisfied and informed about their circumstances.”

12. Tell me about a time you thought you communicated clearly but were misunderstood. What happened and how did you handle the situation?

This is another customer service interview question designed to measure your communication skills and your ability to recover when things don’t go exactly as planned. They’re looking to hear a story showing your ability to solve a problem/issue after your first attempt to communicate didn’t go so well. If you work in customer service long enough, you’ll be misunderstood once or twice. (No matter how great you are).

So the hiring manager or interviewer wants to see you can keep your cool and recover even if a customer totally misunderstands you and gets upset.

Example answer:

“When I worked in a department store, I once told a customer that we were offering a 25% discount on all clothing on the clearance rack. They seemed excited and headed directly for a rack of full-price sweaters. I walked over and gently told them that a few sweaters qualified for the 25% discount on the clearance rack nearby. When they realized the miscommunication, they were glad I stepped in quickly.”

13. Describe an instance when you had to improvise or think on your feet to solve a problem

Another part of being great at customer service is solving problems and improvising on the spot. Sometimes the unexpected happens.

A power outage.

An injury to a customer (if you’re in retail, etc.)

So try to use the S.T.A.R. method that we discussed earlier to tell a story of how you improvised in the past to find a solution to an unexpected problem.

Example answer:

“When I was working as a hostess, an injured woman ran in one night. She had been in a car accident and had no cell phone to call for help. She had a few cuts, so I helped clean the wounds and bandage them. I called the local emergency services for help, and they took her to the hospital and took care of her car.”

14. Tell me about a time you were under a lot of stress at work and how you dealt with it

You’re likely to be asked about stressful situations in any customer service interview. Mainly, because customer service jobs aren’t easy and usually do bring some stress. Employers know you’ll be better able to deliver good customer service if you don’t let the stress get to you, so they ask interview questions about the topic.

To sell yourself in the customer service interview, prepare an example of a high-stress situation, ideally involving a customer, and how you got through it.

Try to show the hiring manager that you’ve seen plenty of tough, stressful situations before and it doesn’t phase you. Make your answer as closely related to the job you’ll be performing for this hiring manager in order to demonstrate that you’ll be a great customer service representative in their role.

Example answer:

“In my last job as a night auditor at a hotel, a guest decided to rent three rooms and throw a major party. Approximately 50 people attended the event, which was against the hotel’s guest policies. I was scared to confront the guest because he was burly and inebriated. I decided it was better to call the police, and I’m glad I did.”

Read full sample answers and more tips on this question here.

15. Tell me about a time you made a mistake at work, what happened?

This question isn’t specific to customer service jobs, but it’s most commonly asked when interviewing for a customer service representative role. Hiring managers know that everyone makes a mistake from time to time. With this question, they want to hear that you can own up to it, be accountable, and not let it affect your ability to bounce back and deliver great service for each new customer that comes in.

One trick to answering: You can name a mistake that you made involving your interactions and work with other team members, rather than a customer. Most hiring managers for a customer service-oriented role care about pleasing the customer above all else, since negative reviews and word of mouth can harm a business long-term.

So if you’re able to share a minor mistake involving another team member, you can avoid casting any doubt on your ability to deliver good customer service in your interview.

Example answer:

“In my last role as a customer service representative for Best Buy, I was expected to keep on top of all new sales and promotions in the computer accessories area. One day, we had a 25% sale on Sony speakers, but I’d forgotten to put out the sign. A customer who had heard about the sale online came in, and when he asked about the sale, I realized my mistake and corrected the issue. Luckily this was just 30 minutes after opening the store, and this mistake made me evolve the habit of putting out sales signs the day prior to a sale, after closing.”

Read sample answers to this question here.

16. When you’re working with a large number of customers, it’s tricky to deliver excellent service to all. How do you go about prioritizing customers’ needs?

There isn’t one correct way to prioritize in a customer service job. It depends a lot on your industry and whether you interact face-to-face with customers, whether you’re working in an office and talking to customers on the phone, etc. Your goal in your answer should be to explain how you try to remain fair and use your best judgment to keep all customers satisfied.

Try to show hiring managers that you’ve been in tricky situations in the past (ideally as a customer service representative) and that know how to handle it without panicking.

Example Answer:

“I try to be fair and treat our customers equally. Of course, if there’s a large client that is crucial to our business I am going to make sure they’re well taken care of, but I want every customer to feel like they’re important to us. In any situation or challenge, I maintain excellent communication. I’m not always able to handle every customer request the instant it comes in, but I respond and give a timeframe for how soon I can handle it. I show that I understand their concern and that I’m working on taking action to resolve it. This goes a long way to keeping customers happy. One more thing I do in my response is invite them to follow up if they have any further concerns or need an update. That way they feel comfortable checking in, and aren’t left waiting anxiously without an answer.”

17. Describe a time when you had to interact with a difficult client. What was the situation, and how did you handle it?

Employers want to know you can do some quick problem solving to help a difficult customer (or calm an angry customer). And they want to see you can help a customer in this situation while also staying within the company’s policies and guidelines.

If you are applying to a service industry job, like a server or retail worker, the flexibility to do whatever it takes to appease an unsatisfied customer is usually larger than if you are working in a corporate environment. Either way, the customer should come first, so they want to hear that you retained their business and did everything possible to make sure they were satisfied.

Example Answer:

“My last job was in a call center for a large e-commerce company, and a customer called in yelling about an email he had sent us. He said that he had emailed us three days ago and we hadn’t responded, in regard to an item that arrived broken. I apologized and told him I understood his frustration. He was still very loud and upset but I asked him if he could please hold for two minutes while I look into the issue. I looked in our records and saw that the email had been overlooked by another associate. I put in the request for a replacement to be sent out immediately. I got back on the phone and reassured him that his replacement was on the way. I explained when he could expect to receive it. He seemed satisfied once I was able to tell him when the new item will arrive. Staying calm and showing him I understood why he was frustrated was what kept the call under control and kept him from getting more hostile.”

18. Tell me about a time a customer was pleased with your service

There are a few important things you should cover in your answer. First, demonstrate your skill and your ability to do high quality work in your field. Then show that you have excellent communication and are dedicated to customer service. If you can end your story by saying the experience led to more business for the company, that’s ideal (but don’t worry if you can’t).

Example Answer:

“I worked with a difficult customer to resolve a few issues they were having with their internet service. I stayed patient and took the time to fully understand the issue, and then came back to them promptly with a solution. They had spoken to a few other customer service representatives in the past who didn’t take the time to address the whole issue, so the problem kept occurring. After the issue was fixed, the company went out of the way to tell my manager how satisfied they were with the service I gave them. Later that year they signed a contract to expand our service into three more of their office locations for a total of $70,000 in revenue for our company.”

19. Give me an example where you did not meet a client’s expectations. What happened and how did you attempt to fix the situation?

To answer this customer service interview question, think of a misunderstanding or a time you or your team failed to deliver what the client expected.

Explain what happened, how you corrected it, and what you learned from the situation that you still use today with your next customer.

Example Answer:

“We had a brand new web design client and I was asked to handle their first project, along with another junior designer. I took the lead but wasn’t on the initial conference call due to a conflict in my schedule. So I relied on the junior designer to talk with their website manager and gather the specifications for the project. My colleague misunderstood a few of their requests and didn’t ask enough questions so it resulted in us having to schedule another call and do a few revisions on our initial work. The project turned out great in the end and the client was happy, but it cost us valuable time. I learned that if I am responsible for a project, I need to be communicating with the client first-hand to understand their needs and then delegating tasks after.”

20. Describe a time when it was especially important to make a good impression on a client. How did you approach things?

With this question and answer, make sure you show them you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help the company if you’re hired. Chances are they put the client first if they’re asking this, so you need to show that you do the same if you want them to feel comfortable offering you the job.

Example Answer:

“I had been working as an account manager for two years in my previous company when the person who managed our largest account resigned. The account was given to me. The client had a lot of special requests that I needed to learn about. I spent time reviewing the previous notes in the account, and I scheduled a call to get acquainted with our contact in the company to introduce myself. I was attentive and set expectations for what I would deliver, and was able to keep the client very happy. They actually gave us 20% more business later that year.”

21. How Would You Handle a Customer You Know Is Wrong?

Most customer service professionals have encountered customers who are convinced they’re right despite not having their facts straight. These encounters can be highly frustrating to both the professional and the client. If mishandled, the customer may become very angry, and it could potentially damage the business’s reputation if not handled properly.

In your response, you’ll want to demonstrate that you understand the consequences of not handling the situation tactfully. You should describe how you’ll approach the problem with empathy and explain to the customer the missing facts they don’t understand.

Here’s a sample answer that might work well.

Example answer:

“In a past role, a customer was upset about a limited-edition product being out of stock. I listened and empathized with their disappointment. Since I couldn’t change the product’s availability, I took a different approach. I found a similar product that met their needs and offered a one-time special discount as a gesture of goodwill. Additionally, I suggested signing them up for our newsletter to receive updates on future limited-edition releases. This solution transformed a problematic situation into a positive customer experience.”

Conclusion: Acing Your Customer Service Job Interview

If you follow the advice above and practice these common customer service job interview questions, you’ll be better prepared than most candidates, and you’ll give yourself a great shot at getting the job offer!

If you want more help succeeding in your interviews, here are two additional free resources to help you:

Biron Clark

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