Customer Service Interview Questions
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Our 150-page in-depth ‘Interview Skills’ guide will provide you with lots of insider tips and advice on how to pass any job interview. It contains sample responses to 50 of the toughest interview questions!
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Hi, there, and welcome to How to Pass Customer Service Interviews. My name’s Richard McMunn and for the duration of this program I’m going to teach you how to prepare for and pass any type of customer service interview. Now, it’s important to state from the offset that you should get yourself a pen and a piece of paper and take a note of the important hints and tips that I’ll be providing you throughout the duration of this
program. There’s lots and lots of essential tips that I want you to follow and then take away and embrace in your preparation for your customer service interview.
Now, for the duration of the module, I’ll make sure that I cover every single part from preparation, through to actual sample interview questions, and tips on how to answer them. So it’s important that we take our time and we go through in a methodical and logical approach.
Okay, let’s look at the module content.
We will look at what is a customer service interview and you might think, “Well, I know what a customer service interview is.” But I would say, do you? I’m sure you do have a good knowledge, but if you have an understanding of what a customer service interview is and the reason why they’re actually interviewing you, then you have a better chance of giving them the information and the presentation that they require.
We will look at whereabouts they take place.
Well, they basically generally take place at a test center, or the company organization headquarters, or the shop or place that you’re actually going for the interview. So, you’ll actually be, generally, going along to the place where you will probably be employed. That is unless, of course, the company decided to outsource the interview to a recruitment agency; you might have to go to a different test center.
How long do they last?
Well, predominantly, they will last between 30 and 60 minutes, but it all depends on how long your answers are to the questions. Some people say to me, “How long should I respond to at the interview?” I generally say, if you’re well prepared and you don’t want to be waffling when responding to the questions, but I generally keep talking. And, I make sure that I generally speak relevant information that they are asking and that they are looking for, and I wait for them to say, “Okay, fine. We’ve had enough from you, we’ll move on to the next question.” Obviously, you don’t want to be waffling, but you want to make sure that you give them concise and succinct information.
What are they looking for?
Well, generally they are certainly going to be looking for somebody who is polite, who is respectful, who has got an in-depth knowledge of customer service, who has experience in customer service; and that’s important, because you will get asked situational interview questions, which I’ll come on to later on. But, they are basically interview questions that say, “Can you give us an example of where you have delivered exceptional customer service?” And, you obviously have to give an example of where you’ve already done that. So, therefore, it helps if you’ve had previous experience in the role.
If you haven’t, try not to worry, because if that was me in that situation, I just say that I haven’t any experience yet, but this is what I would do in that situation. So, you give them an example of how you would perform. We will also look at some sample questions and tips on how to answer them. So, that’s basically the module content.
Why have a customer service interview?
Basically, as you are aware, it’s specialised role that involves interactions with customers and clients. The organisation or the company, who will be potentially taking you on, want to know that you’re not going to do their company any harm. More importantly, they want to know that you’re going to be able to deliver a high standard of customer service that is in parallel with their mission, their vision, or their aim.
It’s important to state at this point, and I would ask you to write this down, is that in your preparation, I would research the company and I would find out what their mission, their vision, or their aim is and also what their customer service charter is; and I would learn that off by heart before I go to the interview. So, if they say to you, “Tell us about our company, what you know,” then you can give them lots of information and say, “I know your customer service charter is this and I know that I am capable of delivering it.” So, it’s basically a specialized role.
Some interviews, are more predominantly looking for technical knowledge; what they are looking for is your style and your personality. Now, with a customer service role, you’re either going to be dealing with customers face to face, or on the telephone, or a combination of the two. Therefore, you may have to go for a telephone interview first, which I’ll talk about in a second, but predominantly they want to see what you’re like as a person. So, are you a polite person, do you have a respectful manner, do people warm to you, how do you speak? Do you get irate when customers get irate with you, or do you stay calm and do you always focus on the customers needs?
The face to face element is crucial to a to assess manner and your personality. That’s why they will want to see you, but as I mentioned earlier, you may have to undertake a telephone interview first. The reason, generally, that telephone interviews do take place is simply because the organization may have many hundreds of applicants for a specific job and therefore they want to whittle it down.
If you do have to go for a telephone interview, then you can follow the information that’s provided within this module, because it is quite relevant, but make sure that you speak in a polite manner and that you address the person who is interviewing you with total respect at all time. So, obviously, how you present yourself is very important. I’ll talk a little bit about interview technique in a little while, but that is very important, how you present yourself.
When I’ve applied for different jobs in the past, I would look at the company and I would think to myself, how would they expect me to come across? Do I need to wear a suit? Do I need dress smart? In this case, you certainly do. When it’s customer service, therefore, you need to present yourself smart. So make sure that you get yourself a suit or a formal outfit, and make sure that your shoes are clean, you’ve got your hair cut, you’re looking smart, you’re clean shaven. Really think carefully about whether you’re the type of person they would want to work for their company.
Always focus on delivering a very high level of customer service and I’ll keep going on about that, but it is very important. That’s the job that you’re applying for. I’m sure that you are very good with people, if you’re applying for a customer service role. But, we’ve all had experiences of poor customer service, haven’t we? I went out last night and I went to a restaurant and the service wasn’t that great. Simply, because when myself
and my partner walked into the restaurant the manager came up to us, and it was probably about nine o’clock in the evening, so, they were probably wanting to close at ten.
I could just see on her face that she was thinking, “These are going to be here for over an hour, it’s going to take longer.” And, I just felt straight away it was a little bit uncomfortable. She wasn’t rude, but she wasn’t very welcoming. So, that is a poor example of customer service and you could use that during an interview. I would. If they said to you, “Give us an example of where you’ve seen poor customer service,” and you could
explain the reasons why that is poor. So, we’re always going to focus on delivering a very high level of customer service.
What is a customer service interview?
Well, it is the first or last stage of a selection process. If you’re going for a face to face interview it is more likely to be the final stage. If it is the first stage, it will be probably a telephone interview. So, it’s the first or final stage of the selection process. Make no doubt about it, if you are invited for an interview, then you’ve done very well and they are interested in you. They’ve either seen your C.V. or they’ve seen your application form, and they think, “Hey, this person has the potential to do the role.” So, therefore you have to go into this in a positive manner.
Basically, the interview assesses whether you have basic skills, qualities, and attributes; because they will train you in the role, but obviously you have to have some experience of a customer service role and you also have to demonstrate that you have the ability to perform in the manner that they expect. You do that by reading and understanding the job description or the person specification, which I’ll talk about in a second.
Now, the job description or person specification is basically the blueprint for the role that you are applying for. When a person, say a builder, decides to build a house, what does he or she do? Well, they get themselves the foundations laid down. They’ll go to an architect and say, “Can you build me the plans?” It’s basically a blueprint for a role and that’s what a job description is; it’s a blueprint for the role. So, therefore, it would be not unreasonable for the employer to expect you, as the interviewer, to understand the job description.
The job description and person specifications are very powerful documents. Again, take a note of this, make sure that you get a copy of the j.d. and the person specification before you go to interview, because you can predict the interview questions that you’re going to get asked from these important documents.
Let’s take a quick look right now. So, this is a job description for a customer service advisor and the one that you may be going for is potentially quite similar. So, the purpose of your job: to work as part of a team, delivering a first class, professional customer service. Straight away, they’re talking about team work and delivering a first class customer service. It says that you will use a wide range of communication methods to insure that where possible customer inquiries, payments, and complaints are resolved at the first point of contact.
If I was you, I would have a copy of my job description to hand and I would also have with me a highlighter pen, and I would be going through and highlighting the key words and phrases and I would be able to predict interview questions. Here’s the first interview question, “Can you give us an example of when you’ve worked as part of a team?” That’s part of the job. They may say, “Can you give us an example of when you’ve delivered a first class service? Can you give us examples of the different kinds of the range of communication methods that you’ve used when delivering customer service? Can you give an example of when you’ve dealt with complaints in a successful and efficient manner?” So, you can see, that just by using the job description, it is very powerful to predict the type of questions that you will get asked.
What this also does is provides you with the principal accountability, so that’s basically what you’re required to do in the role. On the right hand side, they’ve very kindly given us the percentage of the part of the role. So, we see that the first one to assess in resolving inquiries, requests, and complaints, primarily on the telephone, but also by other electronic assets, channels, etc., accounts for 40% of the role. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to believe that they will be assessing you heavily in this area.
So, again, a question,
“Can you give us examples of when you have dealt with certain inquiries and complaints?
How did you manage your day?
How do you resolve inquiries?
Talk us through how you would resolve an inquiry.”
Okay, so you can see how I am predicting the questions.
The second part is 20%, using sound judgment and making decisions with an established procedure for each service request to agreed key performance indicated in service level agreements and quality standards to maximize customer satisfaction.
So, “Can you give an example of where followed procedures to maximize customer satisfaction? Can you provide us with examples of where you’ve used sound judgment and made decisions in line with company policies and performance indicators?”
That’s how you predict interview questions and I would say, for this specific role, is that these are the kinds of questions that you will get asked during the interview.
Okay, the next part, 10%, we’re coming down the grade now, to receive and process payment made to council, resolve queries, with agreed processes.
So, they may ask, “Can you give us examples of the types of databases that you’ve used? When have you processed payments? Is it important to take your time? How do you process payments? What are you thinking about when you process payments?”
And so, it goes on. So that, I would certainly urge you to take that approach when preparing for your customer service interview. Make sure you’ve got the job description and the person specification next to you.
Basically, the interview is thorough test of your skills, motivations, and knowledge. What do you need to know? Well, first of all, you need to know about the role. You may be saying to me, “Oh, Richard, of course, I need to know the role,” but, yes, you do. But very few people, when I have assessed them in the past, and I say, okay, tell me about the role you’re applying for, they struggle to say exactly what it is.
The only way to do that is to actually read the job description, read the person specification, that’s a great way to learn about the role. Then you can say, “Having studied the job description and the person specification, I know that the role involves dealing with customers from first point of contact through to resolution, from inputting payment into the process channel, adhering to key process indicators, etc., etc.,” and just taking that information from what I have just read from that person specification. So, you can see that you’re using powerful keywords and phrases that the person assessing you will relate to, because, let’s face it, they will
created the job description and the person specification. So, if you start using key words and phrases that are relevant to that document, then you are going to be ticking boxes without a doubt.
Now, you certainly need to know about the company that you’re applying for and you can do that, basically, in a number of ways. The first way is to go onto the internet and look at the web site of the organization. Okay, and don’t forget what I said earlier, write this down. Learn about the mission. Learn about the vision. Learn about the objectives. Do they have a customer service charter? Who are the key people? What is the company’s USP, and that USP is the unique selling point, what is the company’s unique selling
point? So, look at the web site, what do they do? What kind of services do they provide?
You need to know about the requirements of the role.
Again, that can be done through a job description or person specification, which I have highlighted there. You need to think about your experiences. Now, it is not unreasonable for the interviewer to say to you, “Can you give me an example of when you’ve carried out excellent customer service? Can you give an example of when you have dealt with a complaint, from initial point of contact through to resolution?”
Experiences that you have will be extremely powerful in helping you to pass the interview and I will come on to situational interview questions in a second, but you need to think about experiences that you have that you can give to them during an interview. Obviously, you need to think about the reasons for applying and also the reason why you’re leaving your current job, and I’ll talk about this in a second.
What can you offer?
Now, obviously, everybody dedication, commitment, yeah, that’s great. But, what specifically can you offer that is different to the next person? And, that might be years of experience. You may have years of quality appraisals that you can say, “Look at my appraisals from the past; they’ve been exceptional.” It’s all about building value into your C.V. You might have had great appraisals, you may have won awards, you may have got loads of qualifications, you may have been praised in your previous job for
doing such a fantastic role. Think about your strengths and also your weaknesses, and I’ll talk about those in a second, so why you are good for the role and why you are good for the company.
Let’s face it, in today’s climate, and it’s not going to get any better, is that there will be lots of people applying different jobs. You need to put yourself right up at the top and sell yourself. That’s very important.
What are they looking for?
Well, they want to see whether you have the right customer service knowledge, the right level of skills, personal attributes, desire, motivation for the role. If you do have all of these,
then you will be offered a position.
How to prepare.
First of all, you need to think about the interview questions and your responses. Now, it would be foolish for me to say that you need to write down all of the questions and then write down your
responses word for word. I think that can be quite dangerous sometimes, because you’ll be sat there in the interview and a question will come up and then you’ll be thinking about how you can actually respond to it and
that’s not always the best thing to do.
What you need to do is to write down the perceived question. So, go through your job description, your person specification. Think about the perceived questions and write down bullet points of what you’re going to say and that way you’ll be able to remember them during the interview.
And, also, when you carry out a mock interview, take a look at your C.V.; make sure you learn it. So, they may say as an opening question, “Tell us about yourself,” or “Tell us about your C.V., talk us through your C.V.” Obviously, unless you have learned it, you won’t be able to respond to the questions.
What is the time and location of the interview?
A simple thing, but sometimes people fall foul of the location. Make sure you learn the time exactly, so you know exactly where it is the interview. Are there any road works? If you’re using public transport, which we all know can be unreliable at times. get there early. You can sit there in the reception and go through your questions, or your C.V., or the person specification, but don’t push it and arrive late.
Take along a notepad and a pen. If you want to take notes it just looks professional in the fact that you’re prepared. Take along any relevant documentation, such as qualifications, different certificates, etc., because it shows, again, that at the end of the interview, “Look, I’ve got these certificates, here they are. These are the qualifications I’ve got,” just to back up what you’ve got. You might want to take photocopies of them because you don’t want to leave them with the hard copies of yours.
Take notes of any questions you may wish to ask and I’ll talk about asking questions at the end, in a moment. Have a copy of the person specification. Also, think about how you will dress. Think about the role; you’re applying for a customer service role, very important that you dress smart for the interview. Okay, whether you’re actually going along to a shop or you’re going along to an office, just dress smart. Make sure your shoes are clean. Think about you standing in front of the interview, when you walk into the interview room, what are their first impressions? What do they think about you? Do you look smart, because they will be thinking, straight away, “Is this the kind of person that we want working for our company?” So, when you stand there before you go to the interview, and you look in the mirror, think about who you are and whether you’ll be suited to that position that they’re looking for.
Interview technique is very important.
Let me ask you a question, what do you think of this person sat in the chair? If he was going along to an interview and you were interviewing him, would you take him on board? Personally, I wouldn’t, even if he gave excellent interview questions.
And, the reason is, to me, he just looks too relaxed, too casual, and also over confident. He looks a little bit cocky to me. That’s just my view and it doesn’t matter how well he performs in the interview, I wouldn’t give him the job. Simply, because if he’s coming on for a customer service interview, then he’s going to be sat there in front of my customers and my clients like that. There is no way I’m going to give him a job.
First impressions are very important.
When you walk into the interview room, stand up straight, smile, be polite, say, “Hello. Nice to meet you. My name is Richard.” Shake their hands. Don’t sit down in the interview chair until invited to do so. Sit upright in the interview chair. Don’t slouch or fidget, just rest the palms of your hands facing down on top of your knees.
Address the interview panel correctly.
You know, you don’t have to call them sir or ma’am, but you can call them Mr. Smith or Mrs. Brooks, or whatever their names are. If they invite you to call them by their first names, that’s absolutely fine, but don’t overdo it. So, just address them correctly.
Smile and be confident.
Remember, the customer service element, they want to see what you’re like. You know, are you good at customer service? Therefore, you need to smile and be confident and positive. And, don’t use slang, or waffle, or abbreviations. I spoke earlier about USP, but I backed it up by saying it’s a unique selling point.
How about this chap, what do we think of him? Well, I actually quite like him. He’s smiling. He’s sat there. He’s dressed smart. He’s made an effort. Now, I know it’s a cartoon character, but he looks smart and I’d be straight away thinking, “Yeah, let’s listen to what this chap has got to say.” He’s dressed smart. He’s certainly made an effort, whereas, the other person, not really interested.
They are looking for potential. So, you don’t have to be the finished article, because they will train you up, but they want to see that you have the potential to deliver in the role. And, this person, I think, might be able to do that.
Remember, the role you are applying for is customer service based. Look at the interviewer. Say there are two people on the interview panel. When you’re responding to the questions, look at them both. Okay, so you can just look across, speak to one person, then the next.
Don’t stare them out.
Okay, you don’t want to do that, but smile and look at them around the eyes, where nose is, the mouth, and just use soft eye contact. Don’t look down at the floor when speaking to them. Remember, customer service assistants should be confident, and that’s what they want you to be.
Think about how you speak and communicate. That will only come with practice and practice comes from carrying out a mock interview.
Asking questions at the end, be very careful about the type of questions that you ask at the end. You don’t need to go on, and on, and on and ask four or five questions. If you do, limit it to two questions. You don’t
have to ask any questions at the end.
Sometimes, at an interview, I might have a couple of questions in mind, but generally, I would say, if they said, “Have you got any questions,” I would say, “No, it’s fine. You’ve told me everything I need to know. Thank you very much. I know you’re busy and thank you for interviewing me.” There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to ask questions. If you do, make sure they are appropriate. I’ll give you a couple of examples in a second.
At the end of every interview, regardless of how well it’s gone, I will always say something along the lines of, “I just want to say, thank you very much for interviewing me today and giving me the opportunity to come along and be assessed for the role. If I am successful, I can assure you that I will work very hard and I will be a role model within your company and I won’t let you down. Thank you very much for seeing me.”
That just leaves on a positive note and they will remember you for that. So, think about something that you can say at the end of the interview that is positive. Okay, it’s not cheesy. It’s not brown-nosing. It’s just you being positive. All right, and that is important.
Be polite at all times. Smile and be happy. Be enthusiastic and positive. Be succinct in your responses and don’t waffle; and the only way you will do that is by practicing your responses. Avoid using jargon during the interview. Don’t use inappropriate language or use abbreviations.
Now, sometimes at interviews, people have come along and they tell a joke at some point in the interview, because they just want to break the ice. Don’t bother. All right? Unless you know that it’s going to get their attention, what is the point, because most of time it will fall flat on the ground. So, don’t take the risk.
Be respectful to the interview panel; address them as Mr., Mrs., or Miss. Look at the interviewers, but don’t stare them out, as I mentioned before. And, also, this is important, use the company name a few times, “Well, I have been researching Tescos…” or, “I’ve been researching Coca-Cola …” whatever company you’re applying for, use their name because it will show that you have researched them properly.
Okay, let’s take a look at a number of questions.
Q.”Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself?”
Now, when responding to this question, think about the job description. Think about the role that you’re applying for. If I was applying for a customer service role, I would think that I need to be positive. I need to be enthusiastic. I need to be organised. I need to be prepared, professional. I need to be able to cope with stress. So, therefore, I would say I need to be a fit and active person, so I’m trying to align my response with what’s required in the role.
I would say something like, “Well, my name is Richard. I’m 39 years of age. I have lots of experience in many different roles. I’m an enthusiastic person and I’m also very caring. I’m a family man, which means that any job that I go into I generally stay there for a long time, because I’m settled, I’m stable. I have lots of qualifications in customer service and I’m always looking to improve myself. I don’t generally get stressed out, because I keep myself fit and I keep my mind occupied at all times.” So, you can see the kind of response that I’m trying to put across, which, basically, is in line with the type of person they’re looking for, for the
Q.”Why did you apply for this position?”
Okay and only you will know the reason why you are applying for this position. I would say something along the lines of, “I’m applying for this position because I believe I am excellent at delivering high quality customer service. I enjoy working in a customer service environment and I noticed this position came up and I didn’t take it lightly. I researched the company well, I’ve been on your website, I’ve spoken to people who have worked for your organization, and you have a fantastic reputation for what you do. And, the service that you deliver is fantastic and it’s of high quality, and that’s the kind of person that I am.”
So, what I’m basically saying it that the kind of person I am, which is professional, succinct, organized, is in parallel with the company that I’m applying for. Because, what you don’t want to do is just go along and apply for any old job. You want to have a really good reason why you’re applying for them.
Q.”How would you summarise your main skills?”
Well, again, this is simple. You just summarize your main skills and qualities in line with the person specification. So, have a look at the person specification. So, my main skills would be: I’m a great team worker. I’m excellent at delivering first class customer service. I am capable of using a wide range of communication methods; so I’m good at writing, I’m good at speaking, I’m competent in use of e-mail and IT services. I’m very good at resolving complaints.
You can see what I’m doing. Use a highlighter pen and go through and highlight them, and those will be my main skills in the role. Okay, so you can see how it all sort of falls into place as we progress through this.
Q.”What experiences do you have in a customer service role?”
I would say, “I’ve got lots of experiences in this role. To begin with, I’ve dealt with many, many different customers and in 99% of the cases I deliver an excellent customer service where the customer is actually satisfied. Only on a very small number of occasions have I had to deal with unhappy customers. I have lots of experience in dealing with complaints from the first point of contact through to resolution and this is how I deal with complaints.”
So, you can talk about how you would deal with a complaint, which I’ll come on to later on. Also, talk about the qualifications you’ve got, whether you’ve been on any customer service courses where you’ve got an N.V.Q. in customer service, etc. Think about the experiences. Also, in terms of time, how much time have you spent in that particular role?
Q.”What do you know about our company?”
The thing to understand is what is the company’s mission, what is their vision, what are their aims and objectives? How many people work for the company? Whereabouts are they located? Who are the key partners or the key players in the company. How do they deliver customer service? What is their customer service charter? You can find all of this out by going on the web site. What is their unique selling point? What are they really, really good at?
Q.”What are your reasons for considering leaving your current job?”
Okay, so what are the reasons for leaving? This is sometimes a very difficult question to respond to. I will give you a very good piece of advice. What ever you do and whatever the reasons for leaving, don’t be negative towards your current or previous employers, whatever you do. Even if it was the case that they weren’t fantastic to work for, or you did have bad experiences, don’t be disrespectful towards them.
Just say, “I really enjoyed working for the company, but for me it was time to move on. I’d spent a long time in that role and I’m now looking for a fresh and new challenge.” Okay, you may have your own genuine reasons for moving, maybe you want to move location. There’s nothing wrong with saying to somebody, “I’m ready for a new and fresh challenge. I’ve looked to your company and I think that you are the kind of company that I would like to work for. I would like to improve my skill set and I want to continually improve in this environment. I believe your company can take me to the next level.”
Q.”Where do you see yourself in five years time?”
I’ve had some awful responses to this question. I can remember some chap saying to me, “I want to be sat where you are,” and I was quite high up in the company at the time and apart from there was no way he was going to get there in five years time, because it just wasn’t possible, I thought that it was a little bit rude and disrespectful.
So, what you want to do is to say, “Yes, I want to progress in the organisation,” or if you don’t you could just say, “All I want to do is become a highly respected person in the organization and become extremely competent in the role that I’m carrying out. I want to become a great team player, and I want to become settled in my position, and I’m delivering, and my appraisals are fantastic.”
If you want to progress in the company, you can say, “Well, in five years time I’d like to see myself as hopefully manager in the organization, or a director in the organization, but I wouldn’t sacrifice that progression for not being competent in the role. I want to make sure I go through each position and make sure that I master that first of all, because that will get me respect amongst my peers, and it will also give me the qualifications that I need to move up through the positions in the company.”
Q.”What can you bring to this company?”
Just think about different key words and phrases, such as exceptional customer service, level of dedication, enthusiasm, I’m great at motivating people. I’m flexible. I’m committed. I’ve got a very good sickness record; I very rarely go off sick. I believe I can bring a freshness to the organisation.
Q.”Please tell me about your salary expectations.”
Now, only you will know the salary range at the job that you applying for. It may be a dead-set salary; so, it might 18-grand, 25-grand, whatever it is that they are offering. If there is a salary range, or if it is negotiable, the only piece of advice I can give you is to be totally honest; not with just them, but with yourself as well.
Let’s say the salary range is between £18-25,000. You go in and say, “Right, I want £25,000.” They are going to come back and go, “Why are you worth £25,000?” So, the key is, whatever you are asking for you need to be able to back it up with evidence of why you should be offered that amount of salary. If you have no experience in customer service, then I would suggest that you need to be asking something around about the lower end of the scale, because you can always move up later on. So, think carefully. Be honest, not just with them, but with yourself as well.
Different questions to prepare for. Give an example, these are situational questions, and you will get asked these kind during the interview. They start off with something like, “Can you give us an example of when you have delivered excellent customer service? Can you give an example of when you’ve had to deal with an unhappy customer? Can you give an example of the best level of customer service you have ever encountered or witnessed? Can you give an example of worst or poor customer service?”
I’ve already given you an example of when I went out last night and that was poor customer service.
Now the way to respond to these questions is to use what I say is the S.T.A.R. Principle, which is Situation, Task, Action, Result. So when preparing for these responses, use that bullet point, that four part bullet point. Write down what the situation was. What down what the task was, so whatever you had to do, or what other people had to do. What action you took or other people took. And, what was the result.
So, let’s take the, “When you have delivered or someone else has delivered poor customer service.” And I could give, “Right, the situation was I was out last night with my girlfriend and we entered into a restaurant. Obviously, the job of the manager was to make us feel happy and feel welcome. Unfortunately, the action that she took, because it was quite late at night, I could detect that she was thinking, you know, this is going to take them close to their closing time. There weren’t many people in the restaurant and you could see that she wanted to close. Therefore, the result of that was that is made me feel unwelcome. So, even though it wasn’t horrendous customer service, it wasn’t brilliant in the fact that it didn’t make us feel welcome. So, that was the net result of her actions.”
So, by using that S.T.A.R Principle in situational interview questions, you can make sure that they are fully structured, and they are great pointers to help you respond to the questions. So, “When have you delivered excellent customer service,” and you’ll use the S.T.A.R. Principle. “When have you had to deal with an unhappy customer?” And we all have to deal with unhappy customers at some point in our careers.
Okay, the key is to remember that the customer is the most important person. Sometimes customers can be difficult to deal with, but you have to do all you can to help them. Okay, you need to remain calm. You need to focus on their needs at all times. So, when you’re dealing with a complaint, you need to first of all listen carefully to the customer. Explain who you are and tell them that you’re here to, first of all, listen to what they have to say.
Sometimes, a customer will go, they’re rant on, saying about a certain situation that they have encountered. It is important that you listen at all times. You can use effective listening skills by, when they’re talking to you, nodding your head, or if you’re on the phone just going, “uh huh,” and listening to them carefully.
Once they’ve finished, then what you need to do is, if the company is in the wrong, you need to apologize. You need to sympathize with them. You need to reassure the customer that you are there to help them and you will do all that you can to resolve this to their satisfaction. You then need to set about explaining what you’re doing to do to resolve the situation. So, you need to explain to them, “This is what I propose to do to make this better for you.”
Once you’ve explained what you are going to do, you need to confirm with them that they are happy with your resolution. Then you need to state to them that you will contact them again and keep them fully informed with how you’re dealing with the complaint. And, you then need to contact them again at a later point to make sure that they are happy with the resolution.
You are contacting the customer at all times to make them feel valued. That is what is important. An unhappy customer will go away and tell 10 people of their bad experience with the company. A happy customer may go away and tell one or two people about their experience with your company. So, there’s a key point there to learn, that it’s very important to look after, not just happy customers, but unhappy ones as well.
That’s how you would respond to those kinds of questions and I would urge you to think of certain situations that you have been in at any time when you have delivered excellent customer service, dealt with unhappy customers, or the best level of customer service you’ve encountered.
So what do know about the role? You will know a lot about the role form the person specification and the job description.
Q. “What are your strengths?” And, again, I would go through the person specification and think about the strengths that you have that are aligned to that role, to that part, and that description. So, whether you need to be a good communicator, good at dealing with complaints, good at inputting data; think about your strengths that are relevant to the role. You’re a good team worker.
Q. “What are your weaknesses?” And, that’s a very difficult question, because what you don’t want to say is something like, “Well, sometimes, I’m late for work, I get stuck in traffic, I haven’t got great sickness record,” that kind of thing. You need to be thinking about a weakness which is it a bit of strength.
One that I have used in the past, and I’m not saying this is good for a customer service response, somebody asked me this question once and this is genuinely what I can be like, if somebody’s late for something, it generally irritates me and I have to say something to the person, which isn’t always a good thing. I’m not confrontational, but I might say to them, “Do you not think it’s disrespectful, the fact that you’re late? It’s just the way that I am. I like to be punctual at all times and I like to be organized.”
I’ve used that in a response before and said that, “Sometimes, I don’t like people who are late, or not punctual, and sometimes I say something to them. What I need to do is maybe take a bit of a back seat, and not worry about it too much, just make sure that I’m on time.” And then I will say, “But, when I do think about it, it’s quite a strength actually, because it helps a company and helps other people to develop, because punctuality is very important.”
Think carefully about your weaknesses. Some people will say during an interview, “Well, I don’t have any weaknesses.” I don’t believe them, to be honest with you. We all have weaknesses. A girl who came for an interview once, and I said, “What’s your weakness?” And, she said, “Chocolate,” and it was funny at the time, I started laughing, but it was funny and it was just a one word answer and it broke the ice a little bit and it was a good response to that question.
Q. “Do you have a good sickness record?” Well, obviously, only you know if you do or not. Some customer service roles can have a high turn over and they can have high levels of sickness, because they can be sometimes quite stressful environments to work in. So, only you will know what your sickness record is like. All I can say is, if you have a poor sickness record, the company may not look at that in a favorable manner.
So, you should always be thinking ahead, you know, when you wake up in the morning, a genuine sickness you can’t help, but I know that I’ve interviewed some people before for roles and they’ve had something like 15 or 20 days sickness in a year and it all falls on a Friday night or a Monday morning. And I just start to question, I don’t want that in my organization. So, think carefully about your sickness.
Q.”Do you have any questions you wish to ask?” Here’s a couple of good questions. Is there the opportunity for progression in the organization? If I’m successful and I learn my job well, is there the opportunity for progression? Because that tells me that that person wants to stay in my organization. That’s quite positive.
Also, how long would it be before I start, if I’m successful? That shows to me that the person is eager and they’re keen to get on. That’s just a couple of questions, but as I said before, you don’t have to ask questions.
You can just say, “No, I’ve learned all I have done today. It’s been fantastic. Thank you very much for seeing me.”
A final statement, I’ve mentioned this earlier. I think this is very powerful. At the end of the interview you can say something like, “Thank you very much for interviewing me today. I’m sure I can contribute a lot to your company. I’d really like to have the opportunity to excel and I could assure you that, if I’m offered the position, I will not let you down.” So, you can take a note of that and use it, adapt it how you wish for your final statement.
Okay, we’ve come to the end of the training module. I wish you all the very best in your pursuit to passing your customer service interview.