21 Customer Service Interview Questions for Your Next Hire

Ashley Kimler
August 19, 2019
Scaling your customer service team? Here are key questions to ask when hiring new agents.

Your support staff is the backbone of your company. And, the hiring process is the hardest part of building the right team. If you don’t hire the right people, precious time and efforts are completely wasted. So, you need to know the right customer service interview questions to ask. 

Some of the common interview questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” might be useful. But, more importantly, you need to know that you’ll be working with agents who have the right customer service skills. You’re going to want to understand the nuances of how your potential hiree is going to respond when faced with challenges so you can know if they are a good fit. 

Of course, problem-solving is a crucial aspect of the job, along with the ability to handle an angry customer. And, you want to know if the prospect has a grasp on the hard and soft skills required to join your customer support team. Here’s what you should be asking in your customer service representative interviews. 

Why are Interview Questions Crucial? 

You can look at a resume to determine whether or not someone might make a good customer service rep; this will show you prior experience, previous roles, awards, and information like this. But, it won’t tell you or your hiring manager if the prospect has what it takes to provide great customer service for your brand. 

Interview questions and answers help you get a better idea of how a prospect might handle a difficult customer and how much they already know about your product or service. Once you have these facts, you will know how much training you might have to put in to get the potential hiree ready for the job. In the end, customer service interview questions can show you whether it is in your best interest to bring someone onto your staff or find a better fit. 

Customer Service Interview Questions to Ask 

At this point, you’ve been reading for about a minute and a half, and you’re ready to get into the nitty-gritty. Let’s look at the customer service interview questions you should be asking about general personality, technical abilities, and soft skills before you hire new support agents. 

1. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” (Yes, I went there.)

While it does seem cliche, there is an extremely valid reason why this question is so commonly asked by hiring managers across all industries. Unless you’re hiring for a temp or seasonal job (Black Friday, for example), you need to know if your new agent plans on sticking around long enough to make it worth the effort of bringing them onto your team. 

Financially, will it make sense for you to invest in any necessary technical or product knowledge training programs, equipment, and software or new staff accounts if the hiree leaves after only six months of working with your company? In most cases, the answer will be ‘no.’ 

So, ask what the prospect's life plans are. If it sounds like they’ll be leaving to travel abroad before next quarter, it’s likely a good idea to move on and find a better fit. 

2: “How familiar are you with our brand?” 

You don’t have to hire someone with prior knowledge of your brand, but it sure helps. The more the prospect knows about you, the less you have to teach them. So, you want to ask how familiar the prospective hiree is with your brand and what they think about it. 

It’s a bonus is the prospect is a fanatic. If they’re eager to work for your company, they’re more likely to do a great job at work. *If the interviewee is familiar with your brand, try asking if they’ve ever experienced your customer support team and ask them to give you their thoughts. 

3: “How familiar are you with our products and services?”  

Even if the interviewee is not familiar with your brand, they might be experienced with the products and services you sell. If so, it’s an excellent sign. Someone with prior knowledge will have an easier time solving problems with your products when customer issues arise. 

Not everyone you hire onto your product team will be an expert with your offering.  And, you still need FAQs and knowledge bases for your support staff to work from. Still, the more the prospect already knows, the less training will be required on your end (always awesome to hear). 

4: “Have you ever worked with the software we use?” 

Again, this question boils down to understanding the amount of time that will be spent training the interviewee in the case that you end up hiring them. Does the prospect have a technical understanding of your live chat software? Can they maneuver easily inside your CRM? The answers are key to you deciding whether or not to bring this person onto your team. 

If you’re speaking to potential who has more experience than you, it can also be a good idea to ask about other software they’ve worked with, what they thought about it, which options they recommend, and why. We have a list of our favorite Shopify apps, for example. Your interviewee may have their own. 

5: “How long were you with your last company and why did you leave?”

The answer to this question shouldn’t make or break your decision. Instead, it should be used to gauge the reliability, honesty, and experience of the person sitting on the other side of the table. In addition, you can learn whether or not the prospect is likely to have a problem with your processes. 

[Image source: Me.me]

For example, if the person you’re thinking of hiring left their last company because of a scheduling conflict and you need a new team member to work the same hours they were working before, you’ll know you need to move on. And, this will save you and your prospect the effort of joining a team that simply isn’t a good fit. 

6: “What were the most common problems with the products and services you supported in the past and how did you help solve them?”

Ultimately, you will ask this customer service interview question to get a small taste of the most recent experience the prospect has had. And, what you gain is an idea of whether or not the problems this agent helped solve in the past are relevant to the problems they will need to solve when working for you. 

If your interviewee is experienced with precisely the same type of problems your customers face, they’re likely to be a better fit. Still, if they have more practice with irrelevant problems, it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker -- trust your instincts. 

7: “Describe a previous situation at work when you recognized an emotionally tense situation and were able to turn it around to delight the customer.”

Here’s your interviewee’s golden ticket to a position at your company. When a prospect can answer this question with an answer that knocks your socks off, you will skip to the end of this list, ready to bring them onto the team immediately. 

Here’s a question that shows you whether or not this person you are thinking of hiring can think outside the box. And, this is precisely what you want. Especially when dealing with upset customers, when an agent can turn things around, this is your Rumplestiltskin -- anger into joy is no less impressive than staw into gold. 

8: “Can you give examples of methods you have used in the past to increase revenue, save time, or increase procedural efficiency at work?”

In the end, your business the same goal of all businesses: to make money. Your support staff should contribute to an increase in revenue. But, how? The answer to this customer service interview question will give you information about how you might expect the prospect to help you reach your company goals. 

Agents who have a history of improving processes for companies they have worked with in the past are more likely to do the same for your operations. So, if there’s a chance you could see increased efficiency, more work completed in less time, and increased ROI, I advise you to take it. Hire the person who has proven abilities to improve your processes.

9: “Aside from customer service positions, have you had any other professional roles that that helped you build relevant skills to the position you are applying for?”

Sometimes, the best agents have more experience with other jobs. For example, wait staff at restaurants have a ton of insights about human interactions since they serve them, in-person, for hours on end. Find out if your prospect has other experience they can bring to the table. Maybe they can teach your team a thing or two. 

And, maybe not -- this is fine too. But, you do need to ask. If nothing else, you’re getting to know about the person in front of you. 

10: “Do you have any formal education that pertains to communication?”

So, when you ask this customer service interview question, you may already know the short answer since you’ve likely seen your prospect’s resume. Still, it’s nice to hear about what someone actually learned about communication, conflict resolution, psychology, and soft skills, rather than just reading about it in a bulleted list. 

You’ll get a better idea in an actual conversation than a one-page list of credentials. Listen to what the interviewee tells you about their education and listen to the tone of their voice. Are they excited about what they know or does it seem they feel their education was mundane? Happy support staff nurtures happy customer relationships. 

11: “Do you have any formal education that relates to technology?” 

In addition to communication skills, your agents need tech knowledge. What platforms do you use to run your support operations? 

Find out what your interviewee already knows about the following types of systems: 

If there’s anything specific to your operations not listed above, do not forget to include it. It’s best to know what your prospect knows and what you will need to teach them if you bring them onto your team. 

12: “At work, what are your three core values? For example, honesty, trust, patience, etc.”

It goes without saying that you want agents that are hard-working and have excellent time management skills. But, you also want a support team filled with healthy people. Learning about workplace morals and values will indicate to you how well your prospect might get along with the existing team. 

Most of all, you want to hire people whose morals are in alignment with those of your brand. Some brands lean toward humor where others are all about professionalism. Based on your interviewee’s answer, you will gain a clue as to how well both parties’ values line up. 

13: “Can you provide an example of a time when you had to deny a customer’s request? How did you handle it?” 

Unfortunately, denial is part of the job of a support agent. Ask this customer service interview question to find out what steps the prospect is likely to take when they are faced with the difficult task of saying “no” to one of your customers. Will they offend or will they find a way to turn it around and somehow delight the shopper? 

Someone who simply denies a request without any follow-up or alternative offer might not be right for eCommerce. The industry is simply too competitive and there are so many people out there rocking it. 

So, if your interviewee does not have a sufficient answer, you will either need to pass on hiring them or provide them with insights about how you expect more from your support strategy. 

14: “As an agent, what was the most difficult customer service situation you have ever experienced?”

In asking this question, you are not trying to find out what threatens your interviewee. Instead, you are poking them to find out what they have gained from the workplace challenges they have faced. The fact that they have faced adversity puts them in a position to make great future decisions. 

15: “As an agent, what was the best customer service situation you have experienced?”

Knowing how to resolve difficult problems is important, but you also want to know what gets your prospect excited. When an interviewee talks about the best part of their job, their eyes should light up. And, hearing about what they feel is their unparalleled work experience will show you whether they are the right fit to represent your brand. 

16: “What would you do if you couldn’t find the answer to a customer’s question?”

Okay, so, a prospect probably won’t tell you, “Well, I’ll pretend to get disconnected from the conversation,” even if that’s the true answer. But, what you’re really looking for here is something that goes a little bit beyond, “I will contact my supervisor.”

A sufficient answer to this question will involve exploring the knowledge base and FAQs, using Google, and tapping into every available resource before reaching up the totem pole. Your managers are busy, so you need capable staff that are willing to figure things out on their own. 

17: “How would you handle a situation wherein you knew the customer was wrong?”

Most companies live by the saying, “The customer is always right.” But, as a professional support agent, your interviewee will know that this isn’t always completely true. So how will they handle a situation like this? 

[Image source: IMC]

When you hear the answer, you will get a deeper look into the soft skills your prospect possesses. Do they have what it takes to diffuse a situation properly without offending your customers? Make sure to find out!  

18: “What is the best book, course, or training that contributed to your customer service skills?” 

When you receive the answer to this question, you learn about the prospect in a way that inspires them to want to apply their previous training. You find out what makes them tick. In addition, you might get a fantastic book recommendation out of it. 

At this point, you also sort of force the prospect to dig back into their brain to pull old ideas back to the forefront of their mind. For, example, think about the best business book you ever read was? How does that feel right now? You’re a little inspired, aren’t you? 

On the other hand, if the interviewee doesn't have an answer to this question, it might indicate that it’s a good time for you to recommend a book or offer training. Are you willing to do that for your staff?

19: “As an online shopper, what was the best customer support experience you ever received from a brand you did not work for?”

An excellent hire isn’t just an agent -- they’re a shopper too. You need to ask customer service interview questions that provide you with insight into how your prospect might empathize with your shoppers. What exceptional experiences did the interviewee have that shaped their personality?

By learning about the good experiences, you learn how far above and beyond your prospect is willing to go to help your brand. The answer to this question will also give you a hint about how inspired you can expect their service to be should you decide to hire them. 

20: “Describe a time when you received poor customer service as a consumer.”  

In addition to excellent experiences as a consumer, it’s vital to know about the terrible experiences your prospect has faced -- this gives you a hint about what they won’t do and why. You need to know that the interviewee knows what a bad customer service encounter looks like and feels like. 

Every good customer support agent is empathetic to the needs of shoppers. And, if you can hire people who have a real-life understanding of what it is like to be disappointed by a brand, you will be a step ahead. Your agent won’t want to put others through the same awful experiences they have had. 

21: “How flexible is your schedule and how many hours do you hope to work each week?”

Of course, if you’ve made it this far, it’s time to find out when the prospect wants to work and if they are available. You’re looking at a great candidate for the position -- you need to figure out if you can work together to find a schedule that works for both of you. Should be easy enough, right? 

If the timing just isn’t the right fit (which sometimes just happens) it’s a good idea to encourage the applicant to reapply or give you a call back when their schedule opens up. When you find candidates that are good, but it’s just not the right time, you should keep a shortlist to call back on later. You don’t want to let the good ones go! 

Final Thoughts

You’ve made it this far, and there’s just one more question: “When can you start?!” As soon as you’re ready to start interviewing, make sure you’ve got these questions in your hand, ready to go. The right prospect will have answers that captivate you. 

And, if you need help with the technology portion of your customer service strategy, schedule a Gorgias demo today.

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