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21 questions for the perfect customer service interview

The average job interview is shockingly ineffective. Hundreds of studies have come to this conclusion. Rather than picking the most qualified candidate for the job, most interviews favor those who are attractive, sociable, articulate, or tall.

There are proven strategies for recruitment procedures - including for jobs in customer service.

We wanted a structured approach to our customer service interviews. We have developed a guide based on the tips from the Harvard Business Review for the perfect job interview.

As the HR manager, he will help you plan the interview. If you want to apply for a position in customer service, you can use it for practice and preparation. The complete guide, including examples and questions, is available for download at the end of the article.

Reduce stress

Stress reduces performance. Most people are more stressed than usual during the interview. But that does not mean that customer inquiries also disturb them.

So, to break the ice, start with a few small talk questions: “Did you find your way around?”, “The weather is surprisingly good today, isn't it?” Any standard question in this direction will do its job as long as it is friendly , 3-minute conversation transferred.

Once a friendly atmosphere has been created, you can move on to the next part of the interview, the "potential assessment". A nice question about the transition:

Who have you been in contact with during the application process and what have you discussed?

At Userlike, we like to use this question in interviews. Not only is it a nice bridge, but it also shows if the applicant has the ability to memorize names and details - important skills for customer service.

Evaluate potential

The first goal in the interview is to find out whether the applicant has the necessary motivation and important qualities that the job requires. Fernández-Aráoz, senior consultant at the global personnel consultancy Egon Zehnder, suggests in HBR that "curiosity, insight, interest and determination" be assessed by the applicant. "

Tell us about your last position - what did you do there?

This question is about getting a quick overview of the applicant's experience. Use your personal list of desired traits as a checklist and source for follow-up questions.

What did you like and what didn't you like?

With this question you evaluate the motivation of the applicant. Is it the people? The pressure? The challenge? It's also a great way to gauge character, such as whether or not he speaks badly of his previous employer.

What were typical problems you encountered in your previous position in customer service?

The answer allows you to get an idea of ​​whether the challenges from the previous job are similar to those in your company. You can judge how transferable his experience is.

How do you keep up with new developments in customer service?

Blogs, magazines, YouTube channels, etc. This question helps you to assess whether the applicant is concerned with the subject of customer service. You can also check the quality of the resources mentioned.

How do you think the customer service sector will change in the next 5 years?

There is no right or wrong answer here, but the answer gives an insight into the applicant's thought processes and how much they are involved in the topic.

Have you used our product before? What is your opinion?

A well-prepared applicant will have tried your product or service as much as possible. His answers will give you more insight into how motivated he is to become a part of your company.

Can you name some of the most common mistakes you've seen service people make?

The answer to this question shows again how much the applicant is involved in the subject of customer service. Recognizing typical mistakes is a sign that the person is beyond their own responsibility in the matter.

Which service tools have you used so far? What do you like about it and what don't you like?

In addition to possible overlaps with the tools used in your company, this question shows how much the applicant has thought about how he can use certain tools to improve customer service.

Ask for real solutions

When you hire a chef, ask them to cook a dish. You can do the same when hiring account managers by asking behavioral and situational questions.

“That is the situation. Describe what you would do. " These questions will give you an idea of ​​the applicant's communication skills and way of working.

The customer asks you a highly technical question to which you have no answer. How would you react?

At this point, you expect a well-worded answer in which the applicant admits that he lacks the technical knowledge to answer this question, but that he forwards the customer to a knowledgeable colleague or creates a ticket so that technical customer service can be contacted immediately can get in touch with him.

The customer asks about a feature that we don't offer and could never implement. Guide us through the situation. How would you react?

Again, it is important that the answer is well communicated. The applicant should express understanding for the necessity of the desired feature and explain why the implementation is not possible or intended.

The customer is pissed off because their product just broke and they claim that it was because of the wrong information from one of your teammates. Show us how you will deal with the complaint.

You expect an answer here that shows that the applicant knows how to deal with angry customers. That means keeping a calm mind, reassuring the customer with questions, apologizing, explaining what likely went wrong, and then looking for a solution.

The customer suggests improving your product / service. How would you react?

The answer should express appreciation for the suggestion and explain the process for new ideas. The inclusion of contact information should also be discussed so that the customer can be informed about the future implementation.

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Assess cultural match

Much has been written about cultural correspondence. Even if it is important that the candidate feels comfortable in the job, HR expert Sullivan warns against clinging too much to the "cultural fit". What matters is whether the person can adapt.

How would you describe good customer service ’?

This question is suggested by one of the leading customer service experts, Shep Hyken. You can use the candidate's response to determine whether you share their view of what is meant by good customer service. Is it about meeting or exceeding customer expectations? Is the customer always right or should he also be shown limits?

Please list 3 good qualities of a good service staff

This question is similar to the previous one, but more specifically related to the service employee. See if you think the same way and if the answer matches the characteristics you wrote down.

Should customer service try to exceed customer expectations?

This is an interesting question because it revolves around an ongoing discussion in the industry. One side is in favor of exceeding customer expectations; the other is of the opinion that it is too expensive and not very beneficial (read this post for more information on this). The answer gives you an insight into whether the applicant fits your service philosophy.

Do you believe that customer concerns can be better resolved in a team or by an individual?

There is no right or wrong answer here, both have their advantages and disadvantages. But the applicant's personally preferred way of working will shine through his response.

A customer misread the contract and is politely asking for the extension to be reversed and for a refund. What do you think is the best way to solve this?

There is no wrong answer to this behavioral question; it's about evaluating the candidate's mindset and seeing if they fit your company. The answer also shows whether the applicant is thinking short term (no refund) or long term (refund).

Do you prefer fixed or flexible working hours?

A simple question with no wrong answer, but one that again gives an insight into the cultural match.

"Sell" the job

This part is often forgotten. Remember that a hiring process is more like a partnership than a transaction. You also need to sell the applicant the benefits. Fernández-Aráoz therefore recommends that you dedicate the last part of the interview to selling the position, should the applicant have convinced you.

What is important to you in the workplace?

Primarily, this question shows that you care about the applicant's needs. Then you can address the answer by combining the benefits your job has to offer with the applicant's desires.

Is there anyone on our team that you would like to meet?

According to Sullivan, the best, most credible people a candidate can speak to are those who are already doing the job. Think of the people in your company who would make the best impression on the applicant.

Best practices: interview questions

Some general tips for conducting interviews:

  • Prepare your questions and desired answers. Since your recruiters evaluate the applicant's answers, we recommend defining the answer you would like in advance.
  • Aim for a dialogue, not a sales pitch. Many interview tips suggest very straightforward questions that have only one correct answer. "Are you a team player?" Yes, of course I am. "Why are you perfect for this job?" Now an obvious sales maneuver follows. Instead, focus on questions that do not have a correct answer, but rather reveal the applicant's basic mindset.
  • Make a list of the properties you want.HBR suggests making a list of the desired employee characteristics for the job. You can use this as an additional rating list and align the characteristics with those of your current top candidates. What is it that makes you so great? For customer service jobs, you can rank applicants based on characteristics such as patience and communication skills.
  • Tell people in advance what topics you would like to discuss. HR expert John Sullivan explains in HBR that it is important to reduce the unknowns of an interview. Because unknowns cause stress - and too much stress reduces performance. So let applicants know what kind of questions they will be discussing, who will be in attendance, and what the dress code is.
  • Ask for examples. Nothing beats experience. This is what makes a trained HR manager sit up and take notice and what the applicant should use to underline his answers.
  • Involve others. Fernández-Aráoz explains in the HBR that it is important to include several people in the interview so that they can compare opinions. But don't overdo it, as this will only lead to long processes. He suggests an ideal number of three people: the manager, his or her manager and an HR representative.

the guide

You can download the guide here.

Of course, you can adapt the questions to your company. Just make sure you ask the same questions of all of your applicants. And in everything you do, please avoid the hackneyed “what is your greatest weakness” question.