Here’s How to Craft a Compelling Answer to “What Does Customer Service Mean to You?” in a Job Interview (2023)

If you’re unprepared, an interview question like “What does customer service mean to you?” could catch you off guard. Is your interviewer asking you if you understand your own profession? Or are they looking for a personal confession of what your job or career path mean to you?Well, it’s actually somewhere in between.To avoid freezing up on the spot, prepare your answer to this common interview question ahead of time. Here’s everything you need to know to get it right.

Who Gets Asked This Question?

As you’ve probably already guessed, if you’re interviewing for a customer service job, you should expect to be asked what customer service means to you. But in practice, “This popular question could be asked in [an interview for] any role where you directly or indirectly impact customers,” says Muse career coach Kristine Knutter who has coached customer service workers on how to answer this question. Most commonly, candidates applying for customer service, reception, technical support, member services and account management, hospitality, retail, and food service should be ready to share their definition of customer service in an interview.

“Beyond typical jobs that have ‘customer service’ in the title, review the job description to see what type of people skills are required and with whom you would be interacting,” says Muse career coach Barb Girson, who has experience working in sales at all levels herself as well as leading recruiting and training for sales roles. If you see that you’d be working with customers or clients in any capacity, this question could be coming your way.

(Video) "WHAT DOES CUSTOMER SERVICE MEAN TO YOU?" Interview Questions and TOP-SCORING Answer!

Why Do Interviewers Want to Know About Your Customer Service Philosophy?

“Interviewers want to understand the value you place on customer service and how you define it,” Knutter says. “This way, they can get an idea of the ways you would interact with and treat customers.” After all, if you’re being hired to represent the company, hiring managers will want to know you’ll be painting the organization in a good light—and that interactions with you will encourage customers and clients to invest or buy more.

Every company has a different philosophy around and approach to customer service, however. For example, if you’ve ever been to a Trader Joe’s, you likely experienced cashiers raving about their personal enjoyment of the products you chose as well as starting conversations well beyond the, “Did you find everything you needed today?” refrain that’s common in other grocery stores. Whereas if you’ve been to an Aldi, your memory of the cashiers is probably more focused on how fast they could grab, scan, and transfer your groceries into the cart next to them, addressing issues only if you ask about them. Both these versions of customer service have their place and their audience (personally, I’m Team Aldi). So interviewers will also be “looking for an alignment between your vision of customer service and the organization’s expectations,” Girson says.

3 Tips for Nailing Your Answer to “What Does Customer Service Mean to You?”

Here are a few tips to follow as you prepare to answer this interview question.

1. Research the Company

Since your interviewer wants to see how your attitude toward customer service matches the company’s, you’ll have to find out what the company’s philosophy is. You can “check for a customer service policy or mission statement on the company’s website and see how the company interacts with its customers on social media,” Knutter says. While you’re looking at these things and doing your broader research on a company, Girson suggests you ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does the company’s website make any promises about its customer service?
  • What do the company mission, vision, and/or values say about how not only customers and clients, but also employees, are regarded?
  • Does the company offer any guarantees such as a lifetime warranty on its products, a 100% satisfaction guarantee, or 30-day “no questions asked” return policy?

You might also consider reading reviews of the company’s products to see if anyone mentions its customer service or, as Girson suggests, setting up an informational interview with someone who currently works for the company to find out more about their approach to customer service.

2. Craft Your Personal Customer Service Philosophy

With your research in mind, take some time to think about how you approach customer service in a way that aligns with the company’s philosophy. But don’t just regurgitate what the company says they believe, Knutter says. It’s important to be authentic and talk about your thoughts and feelings on customer service in your own words.

“Speak your truth, be sincere, be you, and you will have the best chance of connecting to the culture and company that makes you a great fit,” Girson says. If you just say what you think the company wants to hear, you might end up in a job you don’t like or where you can’t provide the type of customer service you’d like to (or you might not get the job at all if the interviewer picks up on a lack of authenticity).

So what goes into a personal customer service definition? “Typically, excellent customer service, at a minimum, means listening carefully to customers and providing them with what they need,” Knutter says. “It may also include finding ways to go above and beyond for customers.” But you need to personalize your answer a bit more than that.

(Video) CUSTOMER SERVICE Interview Questions & Answers! (How to PASS a CUSTOMER SERVICE Job Interview!)

For example, Girson suggests including your mindset and attitudes around customer service. Mindset encapsulates your beliefs, feelings, and goals, Girson says. So you might say something along the lines of, “I like to think of providing customer service not as an interruption to my day, but as my reason for being there.” Then, attitude is about how your mindset translates into your behavior. So you might say something like, “My goal is to greet each person with a smile and strive to make their day better.”

3. Give an Example of Great Customer Service

“Examples bring credibility to your interview answers, helping the interviewer envision you in action,” Knutter says. When interviewing, you should have stories prepared for a number of questions and types of questions, and “What does customer service mean to you?” is no exception. As Girson puts it, “Stories make you memorable.”

You should always talk about an example of how you’ve provided excellent customer service in the past. “Include enough details to show you are thinking from the customer point of view, and paint a picture of the situation.” Girson says. However, Knutter says, “Your answer should be brief and to the point, so make sure you don’t share too many details.” One way to ensure that your story is coherent and well-structured is to follow the STAR method and hit on each of the following points succinctly:

  • Situation: any background the listener will need to understand the story
  • Task: a statement about your role in the story
  • Action: anything you did in response to the situation and task (hint: thinking about the situation from the customer’s point of view is an action)
  • Result: the outcomes of the actions you took

In addition to sharing a time you’ve provided excellent customer service, you can also talk about excellent customer service you’ve received. With these stories, you should also share how it felt to be treated well, Girson says. “If you are talking about being the recipient of customer service that left an impression on you, be sure to wrap your response with how you will strive to deliver this type of service to others.” Knutter adds that, if you have one, you can “share an example of great customer service you received as a customer of the company at which you’re interviewing for a job.”

(Video) WHAT DOES CUSTOMER SERVICE MEAN TO YOU? Interview Question & Brilliant ANSWER!

Example Answers for “What Does Customer Service Mean to You?”

If you’re applying for a customer service representative role for a tech company, you might say something like this:

“Customers are the reason that any business exists and products are usually created to solve a problem. So, to me, customer service is all about solving problems for the customer. I like to go into every support call curious. I want to find out everything I can about the problem before I start troubleshooting solutions. Plus, I’ve found that taking the time to really listen and genuinely caring what the customer has to say makes them feel better about the interaction even if I’m not ultimately able to solve their issue. But most of the time, if I really listen, I’m able to help.

“For example, at my current job with LMNOP Org, there was a period of about two months when most of the calls we were getting were about our software freezing as a user tried to create and export an invoice as a PDF. Our product team was well aware of the problem and working on a fix, but in the meantime we were supposed to walk customers through a workaround where they would export invoices as a different file type and then convert. One day, I got a call transferred to me after the customer had already gone through two of my coworkers and grown frustrated. The first words out of her mouth were, “Don’t tell me to export it as a .docx.” Immediately, I could tell she didn’t feel listened to.

“I asked her to explain the problem to me again if she didn’t mind. It did sound like the common issue at first, but once I had her go through the process again while on the phone I learned that her software was freezing a step before most people’s. Once we’d pinpointed the real issue, I was able to walk her through the right fix within a couple of minutes. The customer was so grateful that when we figured it out, it honestly made my day and even my week better. That feeling of making things easier for someone else really lets me know when I’ve provided great customer service.”

Or, if you were interviewing for a retail role, you might say something like this:

“To me, customer service is providing shoppers with a personalized experience—along with knowledge and insight—that they wouldn’t get if they just ordered products on Amazon or went to a large department store. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but I still remember this bookstore I used to go to as a kid where the staff was so knowledgeable that they could tell you what they or someone they knew thought of any book and could often recommend things based on the last book they remembered you buying. It felt like everyone involved—the customers and the employees—just loved the experience of the store.

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“So I’ve really taken that with me into my retail jobs. For example, at my last job, I was working at an art supply store, and an older woman came in and looked overwhelmed by the stock. I asked her if she was looking for something specific or if I could help her figure out what she needed—it was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic so ‘just browsing’ was down to a minimum. She told me that her daughter suddenly found herself working from home with three young kids who were doing remote learning. Her daughter was across the country, so the woman couldn’t fly out to help, and she wanted to send her grandkids some activities that would keep them entertained without adding to her daughter’s stress.”

“So I asked her to tell me a bit about her grandkids as we walked through the store together and found a few things that were well suited to each child’s age and interest based on what I knew my kids liked as well as what other parents who shopped at the store had reported back. I even helped her order a few things and had them shipped directly to her grandkids—to save her a trip out during COVID. In the months since, she’s been back a few more times to buy supplies for her grandkids’ new hobbies, and she can’t wait to bring them to the store in person when they can finally visit her.”

(Video) Job Interview Questions and Answers (Part 16): What does customer service mean to you?


What is a good answer for what customer service means to you? ›

The short answer is, “making sure the customer is happy.” A longer answer is, “ensuring the customer or client is satisfied with the product or service provided.” Your interviewer wants to know what you consider quality customer service.

How do you provide excellent customer service answer in interview? ›

How to answer the 'Define Excellent Customer Service' interview question
  • Talk about exceeding expectations. Customer service is all about meeting and exceeding the expectations of the customer. ...
  • Give specific examples. ...
  • Discuss total customer experience.

What does customer service mean to you give me an example of how you bring this concept to life in your work? ›

Examples of the Best Answers

Customer service involves being a kind, courteous, and professional face for the company. It also involves listening carefully to customer wants and concerns. Beyond listening, customer service is doing everything in one's power to efficiently and accurately serve each customer.

What does customer service mean to you please describe your experience with customer service? ›

“Customer service means going above and beyond to keep the customer happy, whether that means answering any questions they have or resolving issues with a positive attitude. Customer satisfaction is the top priority, and hopefully creating loyal, returning customers.”

What is good way to answer why is customer service important? ›

“To me, customer service means ensuring that the client or customer has the best experience possible. I've learned that by listening to the customer's desires, concerns, and perspective, I'm able to figure out the best way to solve any issues that come up.

What is excellent customer service examples? ›

12 examples of good customer service
  • Add a personal touch.
  • Be transparent and educate customers.
  • Respond quickly to all customer feedback.
  • Use creative and unexpected return policies.
  • Find a workaround when items are out of stock.
  • Build a connection with local shoppers.
  • Remember and reward repeat customers.
Jun 4, 2021

What is a good example of customer service interview question? ›

General and Common Customer Service Interview Questions

What does good customer service mean to you? What's the best customer service you've ever received? What do you consider to be the most important skills when providing customer service? How do you ensure you maintain good communication with every customer?

Can you provide an example of excellent customer service? ›

Some other examples of great customer service include: Remembering someone's regular order as a barista. Sending out a survey after making a product change, to see what your customers really think. Staying beyond your shift to help deal with a customer's enquiry.

How do you say you have excellent customer service skills? ›

  1. Took great pride in ensuring positive overall customer experience.
  2. Customer-focused approach to trouble shooting, resolving problems and ensuring repeat business.
  3. Responsible for managing customer expectations in delivering superior levels of service.
Aug 8, 2018

What are 3 things customers want from customer service? ›

They expect to have multiple options when contacting you. They need you to respond quickly. They crave a personalized experience. They want you to solve their problems.

What does good customer service look like to you and how would you show good customer service? ›

Listening, understanding your customer's needs, thanking the customer and promoting a positive, helpful and friendly environment will ensure they leave with a great impression. A happy customer will return often and is likely to spend more. They may also refer other people to your business.

What's the most important part of customer service to you answer? ›

Empathy. No list of good customer service skills is complete without empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand another person's emotions and to understand their point of view.

Why is good customer service important interview questions? ›

A good customer service interview question helps you determine if a candidate has drive, coachability, positivity, empathy, and shares your company values.

What are three reasons why customer service is important? ›

Providing excellent customer service can save—and make—a lot of money for a business.
  • Customer retention is cheaper than customer acquisition. ...
  • Customers will pay more to companies with better customer service. ...
  • Customer service grows customer lifetime value. ...
  • Customer service can lead to more revenue.
Nov 15, 2022

How do you handle an irate customer? ›

Here are some effective ways to deal with angry customers:
  1. Stay calm. ...
  2. Shift your mindset. ...
  3. Acknowledge their distress. ...
  4. Introduce yourself. ...
  5. Learn about the person you are talking to. ...
  6. Listen. ...
  7. Repeat their concerns back to the customer. ...
  8. Sympathize, empathize and apologize.
Feb 3, 2023

What is a positive of good customer service? ›

With top notch customer service, companies can cut down on customer acquisition costs and develop a loyal following. Loyal customers even bring companies more business. They convince other prospects to purchase your brand and that is great free advertising for any business.

How to nail customer service interview? ›

10 Tips For Customer Service Interviews
  1. Ask Good Questions. Remember, interviews should be two-way discussions. ...
  2. Be Decisive and Flexible. ...
  3. Use Their Language. ...
  4. If You Don't Know, Ask for Clarification. ...
  5. Tell Them You Want the Job. ...
  6. Be a Good Communicator. ...
  7. Be Energetic. ...
  8. Communicate You are a Good Culture Fit.

How do you introduce yourself in a customer service interview? ›

Begin by talking about past experiences and proven success: "I have been in the customer service industry for the past five years. My most recent experience has been handling incoming calls in the high tech industry.

What are 5 words that describe good customer service qualities? ›

5 Words that Describe the Best Customer Service
  • Empathy/Understanding. Empathy was mentioned by the greatest percentage of respondents. ...
  • Satisfaction. Satisfaction was the second most popular choice to describe great customer service. ...
  • Listen. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Caring.
Dec 17, 2021

What are the 4 keys to great customer service? ›

There are four key principles of good customer service: It's personalized, competent, convenient, and proactive. These factors have the biggest influence on the customer experience.

What is the most important thing in customer service? ›

Empathy is the secret to stellar customer service. It is the best way to show your customers that you understand why they're calling, care about their problems, and take their concerns very seriously. Building empathy across support teams allows for memorable customer experiences.

What attracts you to customer service? ›

Why work in customer service? Working in customer service can be extremely rewarding. You help people achieve goals and play a direct role in customer success. And, the professional skills you develop in this field can be applied to any career you pursue.

What are the 5 values of great customer service? ›

When you demonstrate the values of accountability, optimism, authenticity, respect, trust, and communication, you can earn the loyalty of your customers.

What is 5 star customer service mean to you? ›

We could define quality customer service as: “The act of taking care of the customer's (internal and external) needs, by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, as well as after the customer's requirements are met.” Hence, providing 5-star customer service ...

What do you love about customer service answer? ›

What do you enjoy about customer service? It's important for customer service reps to be empathetic and people-oriented. Good answers might include “I like talking to people and finding out about their lives” or “I love the feeling of helping somebody solve a problem they're having.”

What does being in service mean to you? ›

: going on or continuing while one is fully employed.

What are the three elements of customer service? ›

Essentially, the 3 important qualities of customer service center around three “p”s: professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. Although customer service varies from customer to customer, as long as you're following these guidelines, you're on the right track.

How can I describe my customer service skills? ›

Examples: Took great pride in ensuring positive overall customer experience. Customer-focused approach to trouble shooting, resolving problems and ensuring repeat business. Responsible for managing customer expectations in delivering superior levels of service.

What are the 5 C's in customer service? ›

We'll dig into some specific challenges behind providing an excellent customer experience, and some advice on how to improve those practices. I call these the 5 “Cs” – Communication, Consistency, Collaboration, Company-Wide Adoption, and Efficiency (I realize this last one is cheating).

What are the 5 A's in customer service? ›

The 5 A's: Apologize, Acknowledge, Appreciate, Act, Audit. Apologize to the customer: If the customer is calling and they are upset, the first thing you should do is apologize.

What makes excellent customer service? ›

The ability to truly listen to customers is crucial to providing great service for a number of reasons. Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customers' experiences, but it's also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive at large.

How do you handle an angry customer? ›

Here are some effective ways to deal with angry customers:
  1. Stay calm. ...
  2. Shift your mindset. ...
  3. Acknowledge their distress. ...
  4. Introduce yourself. ...
  5. Learn about the person you are talking to. ...
  6. Listen. ...
  7. Repeat their concerns back to the customer. ...
  8. Sympathize, empathize and apologize.
Feb 3, 2023

Why should we hire you for this position? ›

The first thing you should do when answering “why should we hire you?” is to highlight any skills and professional experience that are relevant to the position you're applying for. To make your answer all the more valid, make sure to always back up everything you say with examples, experiences, and achievements.

What's the most important part of customer service? ›

Empathy is the secret to stellar customer service. It is the best way to show your customers that you understand why they're calling, care about their problems, and take their concerns very seriously. Building empathy across support teams allows for memorable customer experiences.

What are the first 3 steps to excellent customer service? ›

Respect each others' time; respond and resolve internal inquiries in a timely manner. Listen and try to understand the concerns and demands of one another. Have clear communication channels for communicating product and business process information.

What are two of the most important elements to customer service? ›

Key Elements of Good Customer Service. Put customer needs first. Clarify the customer's goals and roadblocks. Prioritize quality over quantity.


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