If you work in any type of a public-facing role, customer service skills count among your most valuable assets. The ability to communicate with clients, to propose solutions to problems, and to deliver on promises increases your credibility, helps you build a strong list of customers and collaborators to vouch for your work, and bolsters your professional reputation.
When interviewing for a customer service-related position, it’s important to put your most congenial and welcoming foot forward, but it’s equally crucial to understand the norms of your industry and to answer your interviewer’s questions in ways that will set you apart from the rest of the talent pool. To help with this pursuit, we’ve pulled together a list of common interview questions in the customer service sector, with specific tips for how to answer depending on your field.
Clever interviewers will come up with creative questions that get to the heart of your relationship with customer service, but if you look closely at the most common questions asked in these meetings, they can be fundamentally distilled to one overarching theme: “What does customer service mean to you?”
Unfortunately, this question feels pretty vague when you’re on the other side of the table.
To help give you some clarity and a useful jumping-off place to spur your answer, it can help to rephrase it in your mind.
When asking this question, interviewers really want to know what you consider most important about customer service, and why you personally feel a connection to this type of work. Therefore, when an interviewer drops this question on you, try answering with these more-specific questions in mind:
What do you enjoy about customer service?
If a client asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, how do you proceed?
Do you consider yourself a “team player” and why?
Why do this particular company’s services and/or products appeal to you?
Questions about your commitment to a positive customer experience may seem universal across all fields, but “correct” answers definitely differ across different industries.
Fields like tech, healthcare, business, hospitality, and finance all involve their own set of norms, and in order to display your fluency with industry culture and your understanding of client needs, you’ll need to study expectations and use this information to hone your answers. A few examples of great responses, tailored to each of these major industries:
As anyone who’s ever stood in line at AppleCare can tell you, customer service in the tech industry revolves around troubleshooting and helping clients solve issues with products and services.
Therefore, when asked what customer service means to you during a tech interview, you’ll want to take a problem-solving approach. For instance, your response could be:
“To me, customer service is about listening to my clients and finding quick and efficient solutions to their difficulties, allowing them the best possible experience with our product/service.”
While “healthcare” covers a broad spectrum of careers and innumerable products, procedures, facilities, and programs, the core principle behind the industry as a whole is promoting, protecting, and restoring the health and well-being of clients. When considering a career in healthcare, regardless of the particular position, your priorities should center around serving clients with warmth, patience, and the determination to offer help.
During your interview, make these priorities clear by answering “What does customer service mean to you?” with a response like “We’re responsible for making our clients and patients feel respected, supported, and safe, and I take that duty very seriously.”
Government and nonprofit employees frequently need to liaise with the public, but they operate under an unfortunate (but pretty well-deserved) stigma surrounding bureaucracy.
Generally, these organizations are perceived as inefficient, understaffed, and needlessly complicated in their procedures and their customer-service philosophies. Smart hiring managers know this, and they combat it by actively seeking out public-service employees capable of connecting with clients and making them feel personally heard.
A “What does customer service mean to you?” reply like “I think it’s imperative to not only listen to our clients/residents/visitors, but to enter each conversation with clear next-step suggestions and to approach each situation from a place of positive action” will convey your desire to fully engage with the population you hope to serve.
Because retail and hospitality are the most directly public-facing industries on this list, customer service is an integral element, and the vast majority of any interview in these fields will focus on your skills in that department. So it’s best to cut right to the chase and to answer “What does customer service mean to you?” with “I want to do everything in my power to make our guests feel welcome, appreciated, and happy that they chose to visit.”
As far as financial questions and concerns go, many people outside the industry (who may need to wade in as clients in order to make investments or keep track of their holdings) find themselves challenged by a general lack of understanding. The nuances of this field are complicated for the uninitiated, so a public-facing finance employee should operate under a constant commitment to teaching, advising, and using her knowledge to benefit her clients. “What does customer service mean to you in the finance industry?” asks for an answer like “I’m deeply fulfilled when I can use my training and experience to guide clients through processes like X and help them reach conclusions like Y.”
Even if you’ve spent years working in a customer service-centric field, it never hurts to brush up on the latest industry news and to make sure your skills are in the best-possible shape before heading to an interview. Need some pointers? These Fairygodboss articles will set you on the right path: