These Are the Interview Questions You Need to be Asking Customer Service Representatives

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There was a time when customer service departments/jobs were solely reactive. The job was to answer questions and resolve problems. But increased competition and higher expectations from customers have led companies to require customer service professionals to take on a more proactive role.

Customer service representatives are spokespeople and even sales people in addition to problem solvers. Customer service professionals have significant influence on customer loyalty and purchasing habits. Therefore, the hiring, selection and performance of customer service professionals are of extreme importance to the overall success of organizations. We have prepared a selection of interview questions to equip you to hire capable, right-fit employees for the critical customer service role.

The following questions are designed to elicit specific examples of the core competencies of successful consumer affairs professionals. All questions are open-ended and call for the candidate to offer an illustration of their performance in each of the core areas. You should take detailed notes on the responses during the interview so you can go back and review in greater detail.

I’m going to share with you 7 categories of great interview questions. Consider setting the meeting up like this: “I’m going to ask you some questions and what I’m looking for is specific examples that illustrate how you have responded to specific situations in the past. I’ll be taking notes as you talk, but you keep going. Feel free to take your time and think about responses before answering the questions.”

1. Customer Service 

Clearly, any candidate for a consumer affairs position must have a customer service mindset. This includes anticipating customers’ needs, thoroughly answering questions, having a positive attitude and understanding that the client is the reason you are in business.

  • What does giving “excellent service” mean to you?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty to serve a customer.
  • What do you like most about being in customer service?
  • What do you think is likely to be the difference between success and mediocrity in this position?


2. Tolerance for stress

Candidates must demonstrate a healthy response to stressful situations and an ability to maintain control in the midst of chaos.

  • Describe for me one of the most stressful situations you’ve encountered in the workplace and how you responded to that situation.
  • How do you deal with the stress of constant and heavy customer contact?


3. Decision-making skills

Consumer affairs professionals must be able to work independently and make decisions that balance the interest of the customer and the company and make decisions that are cost effective.

  • Describe a situation in which you had to consider details/opinions from multiple sources to make a final determination.
  • Describe the process you recently used to make a critical (bottom-line impacting, customer-impacting, etc.) decision in the workplace.

4. Creative problem-solving skills

Tough challenges for customers’ demands quick and creative solutions. Your people need to be able to think out-of-the box, think on their feet and find innovative ways to delight unhappy customers.

  • Describe a tough challenge you faced that required you to think out-of-the box (challenge assumptions, break the rules) to solve the problem.
  • What was one of the most creative ideas you’ve had recently? 

5. Ability to effectively deal with difficult people

Customers can be demanding, and your employees need to be able to respond to challenging behavior with diplomacy and tact. Ideally, you’ll want professionals who are skilled at defusing anger, creating rapport and influencing behavior.

  • Customers can, at times, be difficult. Please give me a specific example of how you have handled a demanding, angry or irate customer.

6. Little need for control

People who have a great need for control or rigid structure might find consumer affairs work challenging. Consumer affairs work is unpredictable, chaotic and in a constant state of flux.

  • Can you walk me through a situation in which you felt you had no control over the outcome and discuss how you felt about that? (What you’re looking for is the person’s need for control. Some of us have a high need for control, and a situation in which we have no control is frustrating or stressful for us. Others can actually adapt to situations in which they have little control.)

7. Motivational fit

In addition to the core competencies, you’ll want candidates who are a “motivational fit” for the job. Candidates should have a customer-centered mindset, be comfortable with high call volumes and high customer contact. Essentially, they must be intrinsically motivated to work hard and succeed in this extremely valuable position.

  • What do you like most about being in a customer contact position?
  • What do you want from your next job that you’re not getting from your current job?
  • What part of your current job do you enjoy the most? The least?
  • What are some of the things in a job that motivates you?

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