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20 Customer Service Interview Questions and Answers

Updated on Apr 19, 2023 3319 views
20 Customer Service Interview Questions and Answers

Customer service personnel go a long way in helping a business grow. The number of customers retained in a business largely depends on customer service. So, when you are invited for an interview for the customer service representative role, how do you prove that you are the right person for the job? How do you let them know that their customers are safe with you? 

There are specific questions recruiters will focus on when interviewing someone. Generic interview questions will come up, but there will also be specific questions based on the role. 

Read through this article to find out those questions, what the recruiter is expecting and how you can answer the questions. 

Responsibilities of a Customer Service Personnel

It is easy to overlook the responsibilities of customer service personnel because they may seem straightforward. After all, it is basically acting as a bridge between a business and its customers. However, being a customer service representative is much more than that and requires specific skills to function in this role. The main reason is the sensitivity of what the job role requires. 

Here are some responsibilities a customer service personnel will take up when he fills any customer service vacancy

  • Manage large amounts of incoming phone calls.

  • Generate sales leads.

  • Identify and assess customers' needs to achieve satisfaction.

  • Build sustainable relationships and trust with customer accounts through open and interactive communication.

  • Provide accurate, valid and complete information using the right methods/tools.

  • Meet personal/customer service team targets and call handling quota.

  • Handle customer complaints, provide appropriate solutions and alternatives within the time limits, and follow up to ensure the resolution.

  • Keep records of customer interactions, process customer accounts and file documents.

  • Follow communication procedures, guidelines and policies.

  • Take the extra mile to engage customers.

  • Place, track and cancel orders.

  • Answer customers' questions about warranties or terms of sale.


Top 20 Customer Service Interview Questions and Answers

To help you get ready for your next interview, here are the top 20 customer service interview questions you'd likely be asked and how you can give an answer that will get you hired. 

  1. What does customer service mean to you?

  2. What is customer satisfaction? 

  3. What skills do you have that will help you in this position?

  4. What do you do when you don't know the answer to a customer's question?

  5. What is the difference between good and great customer service?

  6. What are your biggest strengths when interacting with a customer?

  7. What are your biggest weaknesses when interacting with a customer?

  8. Why do you think you'd be a good fit for this position?

  9. Describe a time you provided high-quality customer service.

  10. Describe a time you made a mistake at work and how you handled it.

  11. Tell us about a time you helped a customer resolve a difficult customer issue.

  12. What will you do if your coworker behaves rudely to a customer?

  13. What is important- an excellent product or friendly service?

  14. What are customer service tools that you know?

  15. How do you keep your cool in a stressful situation?

  16. Tell us about a time your customer service skills helped to increase company revenue.

  17. Are you ready for the job 24/7?

  18. Tell us about a company/individual that delivered excellent customer service to you and why you liked it. 

  19. Tell us about an experience you had with an irritating customer and how you handled it.

  20. What do you know about our products and services?


What does customer service mean to you?

When an interviewer asks this question, he's not expecting a generic response about what customer service is. He knows it and also assumes you know it too. But with this question, the recruiter wants to know your perspective of what customer service is, and most often than not, it would be a product of your experiences. 

Weak Answer 

"Customer service is simply about providing a customer with support they need for a product or service." 

  • There's no connection to your experience with this answer.

  • There's little focus on the customer and his experience with a product.

  • There's no strong sense of responsibility with the journey of the customer's experience. 

Strong Answer 

"To me, customer service is the act of providing the customer with the support they need to decide on a product or service. From my experience, I've seen it to be the extra effort you make to ensure a good experience for a customer, so they can understand and interact with the product better." 

  • There's an emphasis on a personal experience as a reason for the answer.

  • There is a strong sense of responsibility of the service personnel towards the customer's experience. 

  • There's a subtle communication of a hardworking employee. 

What is customer satisfaction?

Here, you must show a strong or at least average understanding of the company's values. This will help you answer the question well because the interviewer wants to be sure that your definition of customer satisfaction aligns with the beliefs and values of the organization. 

Weak Answer

"Customer satisfaction is the ability to meet the needs of a customer and ensure they are happy after the transaction." 

  • There's no connection to the company values, products or services. 

  • There's no specific point on how it can be achieved.

  • There's no emphasis on the outcome of achieving customer satisfaction.

Strong Answer 

"Customer satisfaction is the ability to ensure that our products and services meet the needs of the customer, thereby upholding the value of quality service. The idea is to pay specific attention to each customer as an individual, understand them and help them through the process of interacting with the product. The good thing about this is that it leaves the customer with an urge to refer the company's products to everyone around him or her." 

  • There's a reference to the values the company uphold and what the company stands for. 

  • There's a strong point as to how customer satisfaction can be achieved. 

  • There's a clear understanding of the outcome of customer satisfaction and how it can affect the business. 

What skills do you have that will help you in this position?

This question is the opportunity to sell yourself and what value you bring on board. Your recruiter has gone through your CV, which is why you have a shot at the table. So yes, he knows your skills. However, he wants you to own them. He wants to hear you talk about them and how they can be relevant to the organization. 

Weak Answer

"I'm creative and can communicate well. I'm also a good listener and strongly understand emotional intelligence when interacting with people." 

  • The list of skills sounds good but shows no practical instances of using them. 

  • They are very generic and are not tailored to specific events and needs. 

Strong Answer 

"I love helping customers and am always excited about making them feel special and valued. With my ability to listen, I am able to understand each customer and handle them based on their specific personalities and needs. Recently, while attending to a customer, as I listened to him speak about the challenge he had, I realized that there was an underlying fear of having the same experience he has had with similar products in the past. I would have missed that if I didn't pay specific attention. I was able to assure him that he would have a unique experience with the product." 

  • There's a practical experience to back up the skill. 

  • There's an emphasis on how the skill helped the customer and the organization, and not just listing them out. 

What do you do when you don't know the answer to a customer's question?

Here, your interviewer wants to know your ability to take responsibility for a particular challenge and also how you will respond if you are caught off guard. Of course, this can happen a lot of times, but with your answer, you must be able to show how you can handle it. 

Weak Answer

"When I don't know the answer to a question, I try to find out from my colleagues or supervisors what the answer is and relay it to the customer." 

  • There's no step to assure the customer of your help

  • There's no sense of urgency attached to your answer, seeing that this will keep a customer waiting.

Strong Answer 

"While I'll do everything in my power to ensure that this does not happen, when I do not know an answer to a question, I'll first assure the customer that the answer isn't far-fetched and will come shortly. Then, I take a step to reach out to my colleagues, superiors or anyone else privy to the information and relay it to the customer. I'd also ensure to note down the answer to avoid such occurrences in the future. However, while this process is going on, I'd be sure to keep the customer abreast of the happenings and pay attention to his emotions so he does not get angry. But one thing I'd never do is leave the customer hanging." 

  • There's an outlined system of helping the customer. 

  • There's an urgency attached to the response. 

  • There's an after-step taken to take responsibility for future occurrences. 

What is the difference between good and great customer service?

The trick here is simple. The recruiter wants to know if you understand that excellence requires just a little extra effort, what you think of it and if you are willing to do that for a customer. So good customer service only offers what the customer is looking for, great customer service offers something extra. 

Weak Answer

"The difference between good and great customer service is about putting in extra effort to make the customer happy while getting the product of service." 

  • The answer is vague with no clear examples. 

Strong Answer 

"Great customer service is about giving the customer both what he is looking for, and also what he is not looking for but needs. It doesn't have to be big; it could be a simple smile, a warm greeting, or even an offering to help him set up the product for use. It is about giving something extra to the customer." 

  • There's an example of what great service could be. 

What are your biggest strengths when interacting with a customer?

Here, the interviewer wants to know what you are good at and what value it can bring. You don't have to include so many things. Focus on your strengths that are most relevant to the job, how the company can benefit from them and also examples of how you've used them. 

Weak Answer

"My strengths are empathy and communication. I'm very good at communicating with clients and can help them through any challenge." 

  • There is no example of how it has been helpful in the past. 

  • There's no connection to what role it can play in this new position. 

Strong Answer 

"My biggest strengths are empathy and communication. I am able to listen to a customer to understand their emotions and then talk them through their challenge. I always try to put myself in a customer's shoes while relating with them. Besides, in my experience of which a good example from last month comes to mind, I have understood that a calm and friendly approach to communication always works with customers. With this, I'm certain that I will be able to communicate effectively with customers during my stay here." 

  • There's a connection to past experiences. 

  • There's a highlight of how this strength can fit into the current company. 

What are your biggest weaknesses when interacting with a customer?

Everybody has weaknesses, including your recruiter. However, he wants to know how self-aware you are, what you are doing about your weaknesses and how they will affect or not affect your job. 

Weak Answer

"My biggest weakness is my tendency to want everything to be perfect. I often find myself wanting to make things perfect before sending them out." 

  • This answer is very cliche and recruiters are bored with it. 

  • There's no real connection to the customer or organization.

  • There's no indication that it is being worked on, or at least you're willing to work on it. 

Strong Answer 

"My weakness is that sometimes I tend to get too involved in a customer's case. When they have a problem, I want to make sure I can help them solve it and most times, it takes longer than it should. I try to improve this by asking a coworker to help check me to ensure I don't overstay on one client." 

  • It's direct and easy to understand. 

  • There's an indication of wanting to checkmate that weakness. 

Why do you think you'd be a good fit for this position?

This is basically the opportunity you have to present yourself as the best candidate for the role. The employer wants to know why you believe you are the right person for the job. This is the best time to show you did your research about the organization properly. 

Weak Answer

"I'm a good fit for this position because I believe that I can use my skills to add value to the company. I enjoy working with people and I know I'll do well with XYZ company."

  • There are no specific skills mentioned. 

  • There's little knowledge about the company and what they expect. 

Strong Answer 

"On your website, there's a clause that states that XYZ company values teamwork and personal development. Aside from my customer service skills, I know I'm a good fit for this position because I enjoy working with people. I value hard work and I want to keep growing professionally. I know XYZ company will be a great place for this to happen."

  • There are specific skills mentioned. 

  • The answer shows you read up about the company which impresses every recruiter. 

Describe a time you provided high-quality customer service.

This is your opportunity to show how much effort you can put into delivering a great service to a customer. Ensure to include details of how you provided the service and what it cost you to do that. 

Weak Answer

"I once helped a customer resolve an issue he had recently. He was finding it difficult to set up the appliance he got from us. I finally spoke with him and told him how he could do it."

  • There are no details on how the issue was resolved. 

  • There is no proof of extra and demanding work done by you to help the customer. 

  • There was no specified outcome of the great customer service.

Strong Answer 

"A customer once contacted us saying he was finding it difficult to set up the appliance he got from us. I scheduled a video call with him later in the evening and asked him to pull up his manual. With it, I walked him through the process of setting up the appliance, step by step. In about 45 minutes of the video call, I not only helped him set up the appliance, but also showed him to manually reset it if need be, and simple tips he could use to ensure optimal use of the appliance. At the end of the day, he was so excited and promised to keep doing business with us because of the excellent service."

  • There are specific details on how the issue was resolved. 

  • There is proof of extra work done to deliver high service. 

  • There was an outcome of the excellent service. 

Describe a time you made a mistake at work and how you handled it.

This is not you talking about your failures, but mistakes. Therefore, own your mistakes and talk about them, but most importantly, show what you've learned and how you've improved since that mistake. 

Weak Answer 

"I once made a mistake of mixing up clients' orders and it wasn't funny. I had to come back to the office that day just to sort out the orders for the delivery guys to handle."

  • There is no continuation of what the mistake taught you and how you are improving to avoid it.

Strong Answer 

"I once made the mistake of mixing up clients' orders. I had to come back to the office to sort out the orders for the delivery guys. While I was reworking it, I noticed that I made the mistake because I was in a hurry, trying to finish up and get involved with another set of orders. I was able to sort out the orders, but I learned how to pay attention to every detail and ensure I completely finish a task before taking up another. To help me too, I developed a system to check all I need to do for an order before it is sent out so I don't make the mistake again. "

  • There is a continuation of what was learned and how you are improving to avoid the mistake in the future. 

Tell us about a time you helped a customer resolve a difficult issue.

This question helps the interviewer assess your problem-solving skills. You will handle quite a number of issues daily, and it's important that you know how to deal with them. 
Weak Answer

"One time, our system was down at work, and customers were trying to reach us. It was a lot to handle, as most of them were impatient. I tried to communicate the challenge we were having and that we were fixing it. After much talking, I had to get a colleague of mine to step in and also talk to them. Together, we were able to calm them down."

  • The challenge was actually handled by two people and not one person.

  • There was no strong sense of responsibility portrayed in handling the issue.

Strong Answer 

"One day at work, our system went down, and my colleague was on sick leave. We had dozens of people trying to contact us on the phone, via email, and through our integrated live chat. When I was receiving communication from clients, I explained what happened and what we were doing to fix it. They needed reassurance that we're working on it and that it will be back soon. By providing a calm and structural response to clients' complaints, I was able to calm them down. The system was back up and running within 30 minutes, and we got a few emails from customers thanking us for the excellent customer service we provided to calm them down."

  • There were details on the gravity of the issue handled and how it was handled.

  • There was a sense of responsibility towards handling the issue.

  • There was feedback received by the service personnel to ensure customer satisfaction. 

What will you do if a coworker behaves rudely to a customer?

The answer to this question shows how much of a team player you are, first to the organization as a whole and then to your coworkers. The recruiter wants to know if he can count on you to ensure the right thing is done at all times. 

Weak Answer 

"I'll be sure to let the manager know about it so it can be resolved."

  • It shows no commitment of a team player to your colleague.

  • It tells of a readiness to throw your colleague under the bus.

Strong Answer

"I'll try to speak to him about it and find out why he's behaving that way. Then, I'll remind him of our commitment to excellent service to our customers. But if it persists, I'll draw the attention of our supervisor to it." 

  • It shows the commitment of a team player to your colleague and the organization as a whole.

  • It shows empathy towards your colleague and the issue he may be having.

What is important- an excellent product or a friendly service?

The trick here is to understand that none is more important than the other. They work hand-in-glove to create a complete customer experience. Your recruiter wants to be sure that you understand this and don't trivialize any of them. 

Weak Answer 

"I think that an excellent product is more important. People will always go for excellent products irrespective of where they may be."

  • This answer puts one ahead of the other.

  • It shows a lack of understanding of how important customer service is to a business. 

Strong Answer 

"I believe that for every customer to have a superb experience, both excellent product and friendly service are important. It shows the customer how important he is and makes it easy to retain him."

  • It puts none ahead of the other.

  • It shows the impact of both to the business.

  • It identifies an important factor in every business; keeping customers. 

What are customer service tools that you know?

This is where you explain how tech-savvy you are and your understanding of different tools that will enable you do your job. If you don't know much, also let them know that you are willing to learn. 

Weak Answer

"I am aware of tools like email, social media, and others. I have used them often and can find my way around them." 

  • There are not many details about the tools.

  • There is no mention of other tools and your proficiency with them.

Strong Answer 

"I used a traditional POS system at my last job. I also know how to use tools like Olark for Live Chat and Hubspot Service Hub. However, I'm a very quick learner and would be happy to train in other programs to grow my skill set and better perform the job."

  • There are details of specific tools.

  • There is a commitment to openness to learn if need be. 

How do you keep your cool in a stressful situation?

Your job will get stressful and the recruiter knows this. Answering this question, you should be able to say exactly how you tend to handle stressful situations without losing your cool. You can use an example to explain this. 

Weak Answer 

"When I experience a stressful situation, I tend to take a break to cool off so I don't get mad at the customers."

  • There is no example included.

  • There are no specific actions to be taken in this situation.

Strong Answer 

"Being prepared helps me stay calm in stressful situations. At my last job, I got a phone call from an angry customer. It was difficult for me to understand his issue because his sentences were mashed together in anger. I started piecing together what the problem was and why he was upset. I said that I understood his problem and emphasized his frustrations. He calmed down and told me fully about his situation. I knew our products and services thoroughly and managed to fix his issue in under 5 minutes. The whole interaction lasted 20 minutes, but I stayed diplomatic and acknowledged the customer. When I showed him that I valued what he was saying, it de-escalated the heat and got the client on my side so that we could solve the issue together."

  • It shows details of actions taken.

  • It shows a preference for the customer and his emotions.

Tell us about a time your customer service skills helped increase company revenue.

By asking this question, the recruiter wants to remind you that one of the aims of the business is to make a profit. So, he wants to find out how you will contribute to that. It is also important to use examples at this point with specific details. 

Weak Answer

"I was able to help my previous company increase its customer base through my customer service. More customers were happy, and not only did they stay, but they also referred their friends."

  • There were no specifics as to the number of customers gained and retained and how it increased revenue.

Strong Answer

"After I joined ABC company in Johannesburg, I was able to improve our customer service. This led to an increase in customer retention by about 40% and an increase in the customer base. In fact, we noticed that 20% of our new customers were referred by those who had experienced great customer service through our automated client celebration system, which I developed, which increased our revenue by 30% annually."

  • There are specific details and numbers to the information and how it increased revenue.

Are you ready for the job 24/7?

This question tells the recruiter your availability and commitment to the work. As much as you want to answer that you'll do your job, you should be careful not to shoot yourself in the leg and make excessive commitments to your own detriment.

Weak Answer 

"Yes, I am available 24/7 and will not be missing at my job at any time."

  • You have committed to constant availability despite what may be happening to you.

  • You may come off to the employer as needy and lose your value.

Strong Answer 

"I understand that the role of a customer service personnel is demanding. I'll always do my best to ensure that I am available to customers and give them the support that they need."

  • You commit to be available when you ought to be.

  • You make room for uncertainties that may come up.

Tell us about a company/individual that delivered excellent service to you and why you like it.

As a customer service personnel, you will recognize good or bad service when you see one. Also, you could have a few things to learn from it. This is what the recruiter wants to know with this question. You should also be able to tell what you enjoyed about the service exactly. 

Weak Answer 

"I once visited a store in Capetown and the customer service personnel was so kind. I literally enjoyed it because he made me feel good." 

  • This answer does not include details as to what made the service excellent. 

Strong Answer 

"I recently visited a Walmart store in Capetown and a member of staff saw me looking confused. Their staff was very helpful and talked me through the different sections, products and their unique features. I am impressed by his personalized advice and patience she had till I was done buying." 

  • It includes details that made the service excellent.

Tell us about an experience you had with an irritating customer and how you handled it.

Customers are not always right, and your recruiter knows it. So, this question is aimed at knowing how you would handle a customer that is clearly wrong and probably irritating too. You can also bring in an example to help.

Weak Answer 

"I really do not like dealing with irritating customers. In cases like that, I usually refer them to my colleagues or superiors."

  • There's a lack of responsibility.

  • There's a lack of certain soft skills like emotional intelligence, communication and patience. 

Strong Answer 

"When I have an irritating customer, I always try to find out why they are irritated by paying attention not just to what they are saying, but also to what they are not saying. I try to be patient with them and not escalate the situation. I once helped a customer who wanted to use a coupon we no longer accepted. He was very unhappy that I wouldn't accept the coupon and continued to tell me he was right and was already irritated. I told him I was sorry about it but that the coupon was no longer valid and offered him some alternative discount options."

  • There's a sense of responsibility.

  • There's a show of soft skills to handle the situation.

  • There's an extra effort to help the customer deal with the issue. 

What do you know about our products and services?

This is where you let the recruiter know that you have a good understanding of the services and products the company offers. Talk about the unique selling points of the products as determined by the company and what interests you about the product. 

Weak Answer 

"I know that your company offers cleaning services to homes and offices in Pretoria. I also know that the company strives to be the best cleaning service company in the future."

  • There are no unique selling points included. 

  • There are no interests included in the answer.

Strong Answer 

"I'm aware that XYZ company offers cleaning services to homes and offices in Pretoria. I'm also aware that the company takes time to train their staff, owing to the strong affinity to excellence as a value. Personally, I have fallen in love with the fact that XYZ company always sends an inspector to inspect the cleaning done by their staff. In fact, I came across the recent publication rating XYZ company as the 5th best business in Pretoria and in the words of the manager, "We are heading to number 1!"

  • It gives specific details in the answer.

  • It includes a unique selling point.

  • It shows thorough research of the company and its services. 


Questions you can ask your interviewer during the interview.

An interview is a two-way conversation and you are permitted to ask the interviewer questions. Actually, asking an interviewer questions at the end of the interview show that you are attentive and you are eager to be a part of the organization. In addition to the common questions you can ask the recruiter during an interview, here are some customer service questions you can ask during the course of the interview. 

What are the day-to-day responsibilities of the customer service role?

When you ask this question, the interviewer knows that you are eager to be a part of the organization and you want to be careful to understand your role and what it entails. No employer wants to micromanage anyone, so asking this question shows you are ready to take up the responsibility. 

What is the immediate customer service challenge that needs to be solved?

When you ask this question, your interviewer knows that you are goal-oriented and you understand that you are being hired to meet a need and solve a problem. This will also help you prepare effectively for whatever challenge may be coming your way. 

What is the current customer retention capacity of the organization?

Your job is a customer service role, and the aim is to retain customers. Asking this question shows the recruiter that you want to know what you are up against, and you are willing to begin to develop innovative ways of retaining and even attracting customers if you are hired. 

What will be my major focus for the next three months?

Anyone that asks this question in an interview sends the signal that he knows there are targets to be met, but they must begin from somewhere. This shows the interviewer that you know that despite the fact that there may be so much work to be done, it will have to be one step at a time to achieve the maximum result. 

What makes the company's products and services different from others?

When you ask this, you let the recruiter know that you understand the place of a unique selling point because it will help you in relating with customers based on the products and services. It will also give you more insights into the products and services, showing your inclination to learn more about the company you'll be working with if hired. 

Who are our biggest competitors in the industry?

Organizations know their competitors and always want to stay ahead, or at least match up if need be. When you ask this question, the recruiter is assured that you understand the business side of the company and you are willing to step up your game to ensure the company remains in business. 

What are the company's long-term goals?

Companies want loyal employees that will stick around for a long time. Whenever a recruiter is asked this question, he knows that the candidate is beginning to see a future with the organization and will probably be there for a while as long as their goals and values are aligned. This question sends a signal that says, "I want to be here for a long time."


With these questions, you are sure to ace any customer service interview you may be going for. Also, South Africa has numerous customer service vacancies available that you can explore to land your dream role. 


Staff Writer

This article was written and edited by a staff writer.

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