10 Questions to Ask Any Customer Service Applicant

Great customer service is something that every eCommerce and retail business strives for. It builds reputation and boosts customer loyalty, which in turn improves WOM (Word of Mouth) marketing and brand strength. But it’s not always simple finding the right staff to offer an unrivalled service. Asking the right questions is a helps a lot. So here are Userlike’s top tips for pick out your next customer service star.

photograph picture of a man in a black shirt sitting at a table
( photo by markus spiske / CC BY )

#1: Give an Example of Excellent Customer Service that You’ve Received

This is a relatively obvious question but also a very good one as it gives you a great idea of what the candidate believes to be at the heart of customer service. If their answers are mundane, such as ‘I received $10 off my next order because I made a complaint’ then this indicates that they don’t really understand the question.

This isn’t fatal. In fact, it can be a good thing to have a ‘clean slate’ to put through training as they perhaps haven’t had any decent training before and you won’t have to spend time undoing what others have done before you. That’s not to say that training from another company is a bad thing either, it’s just that it may not be suitable for your business.

However, if they really can’t express what they think good customer service is, then it could also mean that they haven’t done any groundwork to prepare for the interview.It’s unlikely that you’ll want to employ them if this is the case.

#2: How Would You Deal With an Angry Customer Who is Becoming Abusive?

You can ask this question both with regards to how they would react personally when they are expected to deal with it, and how they would approach the subject if a colleague comes to them with advice. This is clearly a very important question as customer service reps really are the people on the front line who often have to deal with angry customers and even abusive ones at times.

photograph picture of a woman in an office on the phone
( photo by AnnieAnniePancake / CC BY )

Their answer should demonstrate a certain amount of compassion and patience, they will need it to be an effective customer support rep. They should also display a certain amount of assertiveness and offer the answer that they would either pass the call to a manager (if policy dictates this) or politely tell the person calling that unless their abusive behavior stops immediately they will hang up the call.

#3: What Do You Know About Our Products?

This question is about finding out how much initiative a potential candidate is willing to show in order to secure a position at your business. A serious candidate will have carried out their own research into the company and ideally, should know everything that an outsider can find out in a few hours. It’s not too much to expect that they should have put some work into getting the job, it proves that they want to work for you and they have put some time into proving that.

photograph picture of five men in office sitting around a table
( photo by Joi / CC BY )

The candidate should be able to display a good working knowledge of your principle products and be aware of everything that you sell, more or less.

#4: What Do You Like About Our Company?

A slight variation on ‘why do you want to work for us’ but the above gives the applicant the opportunity to let you know how much groundwork they have put in again. It also allows you to see if your ideals and company mission match those of the applicant.

#5: What Did You Like and Dislike About Your Last Position?

This question allows you to gain insight into the way that the person carried out their job in their last customer service position. A lot can be gleaned from this – for example, if they say that what they hated about their last job was the level of abuse that they had to put up with and your policies dictate that they should, then it’s not going to be a good fit for either of you.

However, if they say that they loved solving problems for people, then you know that you have someone that is willing to go perhaps the extra mile for both your customers and your company. This question can tell you an awful lot about a candidate if you have a little insight, such as how ambitious they are and how well they deal with people.

#6: What Are the Best Qualities to Have as a Customer Service Representative?

Again, perhaps an obvious question, but an important one nonetheless. This is where the applicant can really shine if they’re good at what they do.

Good answers include:

  • Patience
  • Understanding
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Team player
  • Time management skills
  • A calming voice/presence
  • Ability to read customers
  • Ability to calm an irate customer quickly
  • Goal oriented
  • Ability to react quickly to unexpected situations
  • Tenacity
  • Ability to close a call/deal

To some extent it will depend on the nature of your business when it comes to how important each of these are, but for the most part it suggests that the candidate is experienced and good at their job if they can define many of these qualities off the bat.

photograph picture of five men in office sitting around a table for meeting

#7: Do You Prefer Working Alone or With Others?

This question is important to a potential customer service rep as they do tend to work as part of an overall team. This means that other team members have to be kept in the loop when customers complain or there’s a problem with a product or delivery, for example. It’s not enough to just be a good communicator on the phone, it’s necessary to the job all round. Applicants are not really to choose for one option but prove they can adapt to both.

Candidates should demonstrate an ability to work alone with minimum supervision and should be able to work with the team in order to meet goals and improve on overall productivity. Collaboration in the workplace is one that’s proven to improve productivity and so this should be made clear, as should the need for the applicant to work as part of a team.

#8: When Have You Gone Above the Call of Duty to Assist a Customer?

This question gives the applicant the opportunity to really get down to the nitty gritty of what makes them great at their job and they should be able to relay this to you very well. It also gives you the opportunity to see if perhaps they have taken it too far. This could be an indication that they’re perhaps a little bit of a walkover when dealing with confrontation. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t employ them, but instead means that they could benefit from assertiveness training.

Either way, they should use the question to demonstrate to you that they are good at their job and really care about the customers.

photograph picture of a headset customer service

This will depend on whether your business is looking for call center staff or for employees who deal with customers on a face-to-face basis. You can use it in either scenario but the most important is when the candidate is going to be customer facing.

Have you ever been into a store and found that you’ve been irritated because the person serving you is more concerned with gossiping with a colleague or reading a magazine from the rack? These people are obviously lacking in decent training (it’s also a pet hate of mine – some people just stand behind a till and hold out their hand for your money without so much as glancing at you – grrrr) but the question will let you know how they deal with customers and how much they glean from other people’s body language. In customer service it’s relatively important to quickly assess if the customer is happy or unhappy so that you can adjust your own position accordingly. If the candidate doesn’t know how to answer this then it’s a good indication that they’re not really suitable for the job.

#10: How Would You Build a Great Customer Service Team?

This question not only assesses experience and what the candidate considers to be key skills vital to a good customer service environment, but also allows you to assess their future suitability for promotion. What this also does is let the applicant know that there’s scope for climbing the career ladder with your company, which is important to many people.

photograph picture of a four men sitting around table for meeting

Their answer should demonstrate leadership qualities if they’re suitable for progression, as well as a good understanding of what drives a team. If they don’t possess these qualities then it’s likely that further training will be necessary if they’re to move into a supervisory position.

There are many questions that you will no doubt come up with that are to do with your business, but these give you and excellent starting point for interviewing and assessing suitable candidates. Of course, you can ask about qualifications too but this kind of work is classed as unskilled, so often qualifications mean very little and it’s much more about personality, common sense and intelligence.