23 Customer Service Interview Questions to Ask Every Candidate



How can you tell if that smart and eager customer service candidate will be an engaged and productive team member? Short of inventing a time machine, there’s no guaranteed method, which makes your interview one of the most important tools you have to vet customer service and support candidates.

The right interview questions reveal useful information because they force interviewees to think on their feet and draw on their experiences. Seeing how they react speaks volumes about how they will handle real-life situations and will help you avoid wasting time and energy hiring the wrong person.

Ask every candidate the 23 customer service interview questions below to get the information you need to hire top talent. And if you’re a candidate for a customer service job who’s trying to get ready for an interview, we’ve also included some resources you can use to prepare for these common questions.

23 customer service interview questions to ask candidates

  1. How would you define good customer service?

  2. What appeals to you about this role?

  3. What’s the best customer service you’ve ever received? Why?

  4. Can you tell me about a time when you received poor customer service?

  5. Is there a difference between customer service and customer support?

  6. Can you tell me about a time when you were proud of the level of service you gave a customer?

  7. Have you ever dealt with an unreasonable customer? How did you handle it, and how would you handle it today?

  8. Have you ever bent the rules in assisting a customer? Tell me about the situation and the outcome.

  9. In your past work, have you ever received negative feedback from a customer? What did you do with that feedback?

  10. Can you tell me about a customer who you found difficult to understand and how you approached that interaction?

  11. Can you describe a time when you had to say no to an important customer’s request?

  12. What’s the best way to help a customer who has worked with multiple agents and hasn’t received the help they need?

  13. Tell me about a time when a customer was reporting a technical issue that you didn’t know the answer to. What was your approach, and how did it end up?

  14. Can you tell me about a situation with a customer when there wasn’t a clear policy to use and you needed to make a judgment call? How did you approach your decision, and what happened?

  15. Can you give me an example of a situation where there were major problems with your product/service and you needed to respond without having all the answers yet?

  16. Can you give an example of how you handled alerting a customer when your product/service caused a major problem?

  17. When responding to a customer, how do you decide what information to include and what to leave out?

  18. Can you tell me about a time when you needed to convince a customer or teammate to change the way they were working (e.g., adopt a new procedure or modify their language) and how you went about doing so?

  19. What’s the last new skill you learned? Why did you choose that skill, and how did you learn it?

  20. Can you tell me about a time when you made a great contribution to your team?

  21. What’s the next book I should read? Why?

  22. What are you better at today than you were this time last year?

  23. What do you think makes a good teammate?

What to look for in candidates’ answers to these questions

Asking the right questions in an interview is only half of the battle. You also need to know what you’re looking for in candidates’ answers. If you’re not sure, we’ve provided some guidance for each question group below.

Look for a shared approach to customer service

The first five questions on our list help you find candidates who share your underlying beliefs about the role customer service plays in an organization:

  • How would you define good customer service?
  • What appeals to you about this role?
  • What’s the best customer service you’ve ever received? Why?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you received poor customer service?
  • Is there a difference between customer service and customer support?

You know what you consider to be great service; does your candidate have the same high expectations?

Good candidates will be able to explain why customer service matters to a business and give clear examples of good and bad service. They should be prepared to talk about your specific company and how customer service might contribute to its success.

Watch out for people who really want a different role but see customer service as the easiest way to get a foot in the door. They’ll be less likely to have thought through what great customer service means to a business.

Resources for candidates: If you need some inspiration to come up with your own answers to these questions, check out these other resources:

Look for emotional intelligence, empathy, and reflectiveness

Questions 6-12 measure candidates’ emotional intelligence, empathy, and reflectiveness:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you were proud of the level of service you gave a customer?
  • Have you ever dealt with an unreasonable customer? How did you handle it, and how would you handle it today?
  • Have you ever bent the rules in assisting a customer? Tell me about the situation and the outcome.
  • In your past work, have you ever received negative feedback from a customer? What did you do with that feedback?
  • Can you tell me about a customer who you found difficult to understand and how you approached that interaction?
  • Can you describe a time when you had to say no to an important customer’s request?
  • What’s the best way to help a customer who has worked with multiple agents and hasn’t received the help they need?

In the answers, you need to hear specific, true stories of past service experiences. Even a very junior candidate may have prior retail experience to draw from.

Good candidates will share detailed examples from their own experiences and will be able to answer follow-up questions about those examples. Look for people who show humility and take responsibility for their mistakes.

Watch out for people who give theoretical examples rather than real situations or who only provide examples where the customer or their colleagues were at fault.

Resources for candidates: If you need some inspiration to come up with your own answers to these questions, check out these other resources:

Look for problem-solving skills

Questions 13-15 measure a candidates’ ability to solve problems — an invaluable skill that can always be improved:

  • Tell me about a time when a customer was reporting a technical issue that you didn’t know the answer to. What was your approach, and how did it end up?
  • Can you tell me about a situation with a customer when there wasn’t a clear policy to use and you needed to make a judgment call? How did you approach your decision, and what happened?
  • Can you give me an example of a situation where there were major problems with your product/service and you needed to respond without having all the answers yet?

The best candidates will be able to walk you through their approach to situations where they didn’t immediately have an answer. Ask them for examples of how they learned from those situations and applied them to another problem.

Beware of people who claim never to have been stumped or who can only give examples where another team or colleague provided the final answer.

Resources for candidates: If you need some inspiration to come up with your own answers to these questions, check out these other resources:

Look for communication skills

Questions 16-18 are designed to measure candidates’ communication skills:

  • Can you give an example of how you handled alerting a customer when your product/service caused a major problem?
  • When responding to a customer, how do you decide what information to include and what to leave out?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you needed to convince a customer or teammate to change the way they were working (e.g., adopt a new procedure or modify their language) and how you went about doing so?

There’s no greater skill for customer service employees than the ability to communicate clearly and with the appropriate level of detail. This section is an opportunity for your best candidates to stand out by explaining how they talk or write to customers.

Great candidates will show an ability to interpret a customer’s needs and modify their communication styles for different audiences. Look out for candidates who can only describe a single communication approach; they may be too inflexible.

Resources for candidates: If you need some inspiration to come up with your own answers to these questions, check out these other resources:

Look for a positive attitude and approach to work

The final five questions on our list are designed to measure candidates’ attitudes and approaches to work:

  • What’s the last new skill you learned? Why did you choose that skill, and how did you learn it?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you made a great contribution to your team?
  • What’s the next book I should read? Why?
  • What are you better at today than you were this time last year?
  • What do you think makes a good teammate?

These questions give you an opportunity to understand what a candidate will be like to work with. Are they always looking to learn new skills? Will they be supportive of their colleagues as well as customers?

People who can talk about their interests and carry on a casual conversation typically perform well in a customer service role.

Resources for candidates: If you need some inspiration to come up with your own answers to these questions, check out these other resources:

Make your customer service interviews more than just question-and-answer sessions

The best interviews are not strict question-and-answer sessions; they’re structured conversations that draw out candidates’ attitudes, strengths, and challenges.

Encourage candidates to use a storytelling approach: Tell them you’re not looking for hypothetical “this is what I would do if that happened” answers. Ask for specific, detailed stories about their customer support experiences. Ask them about times they’ve been a customer and experienced great (or terrible!) service.

Don’t be afraid to dig deeper: Your questions are only starting places for conversational topics. If the answer is interesting or concerning, ask follow-up questions to uncover more details.

It’s OK to ask similar questions: Often, the best stories will come out when candidates have had a few minutes to think about an earlier question. By revisiting important areas, you give them the best chance to reveal their character and skills to you.

Don’t rush to fill silence: It’s OK to let your candidates sit quietly before they answer a question. It can give them time to formulate their thoughts, and it can also result in them revealing more than they initially intended.

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