Applying for your first job in retail, you can hardly answer the typical customer service interview questions. It makes no sense to ask you about a time when you went above and beyond for the customer, or when you had to deal with an upset client. Hiring managers know that you simply do not have such an experience yet. Having said that, there are no newbies to customer service. Everyone of us shops somewhere, eats somewhere, and, if we have any money left, we go to cinema, or sports center, or any other place to satisfy our desire for entertainment. In all these places we gain customer service experience–from the other side of the table. Hiring managers wonder how we perceive it, and if we can tell a good service from a bad one.

Hence they will ask you to describe your latest experience with (good, bad) customer service, and to do it either briefly or in detail. Your goal is to convince them that you know what good customer service means, understand the importance of it (they made you feel good at some place, and hence you will return another time and spend more money there), and want to deliver such in your new job. Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting question. My list includes both shorter and longer answers, and I hope you will find at least one of them fitting for your interview, job application, or essay. Enjoy!

 

7 sample answers to “Describe your most recent customer service experience” interview question

  1. Yesterday I dined in a restaurant with my boyfriend. It was out first visit to the place. What caught my eye immediately was that as soon as we sat down, someone approached us and brought us the menu. We didn’t have to wait for more than ten second. The waitress had a nice and welcoming smile, and was courteous and friendly. She came back less than three minutes later, and took our orders. You could really feel that she cared, and it made us feel welcome in the place. The food wasn’t the best–I would call it average to give it some justice. But the customer service was so good that I would seriously consider returning to the place, and give them another chance to cook better. This experience (and similar experiences) make me realize the huge importance of great customer service, and I hope to deliver such in my job.
  2. The last one is a bad one. I left my car in a car repair shop. The mechanic said he’d call me, and the car would be ready by Wednesday. But he called neither on Tuesday nor Wednesday, and when I tried to call them they did not reply my call. As you can imagine, this made me really nervous. It is a good mechanic, they know how to repair anything, and they do it for a good price, but they lack customer service skills. I can imagine that they are probably busy and do not want to waste time with calling. At the same time though, a short one minute call would not put a dent to their daily schedule and it would change so much for me. Even if they said the car would not be ready by Wednesday. At least I would know what was going on… Sure enough I hope to deliver a better service to my customers in my job.
  3. Speaking honestly, the last one I got here, in your place–though I am not the customer in a typical sense of the word. Yet as soon as I entered and said I was here for an interview, people treated me really nicely. They could probably sense that I was nervous–because I care about the result of this meeting. Hence they talked to me, offered me a chair and glass of water, wished me good luck. They went out of their way to make me feel good here, and to help me loosen up a bit. This means a lot to me, and I can sense customer service isn’t just an empty phrase here. It motivates me even more to succeed in this interview and get a job with you.

 

  1. I had a problem with my router, and internet wasn’t working. Called the company, and they had me waiting on the line for twenty minutes, before finally one of the operators answered the call. Yet as soon as they understood my problem, they said it is one for a technician, and I had to wait for fifteen minutes on the line again. Finally I got to talk to the technician and he fixed my problem within minutes. Was this a good, or bad customer service? In my opinion, the company should hire more operators and technicians, so customers do not have to wait for so long on the line. Everyone is busy nowadays, and we cannot just waste 40 minutes hanging on the phone, waiting for someone to finally respond.
  2. Just this morning, in a small cafeteria where I stopped for breakfast on my way here. From the first moment you could fell the barista hated their job. They played with their smartphone, and if I did not address them, they would not notice me in the shop at all. Then it took them a really long time to make a coffee, and even in a taste of it you could feel their bitterness. It was a bad customer service experience, and no doubt I won’t be stopping in the same place next time. I wished all people had jobs that they enjoy doing, though I also know it isn’t as easy as that in life.
  3. Hairdresser two days ago is perhaps my latest experience. I had an idea of a style I wanted, of the haircut and color I desired. And I spent a considerable amount of time planning this. Yet when I shared my idea with the hairdresser, she said that the haircut isn’t really fitting for my hair type, and would not go well with my eyes and forehead. She calmly explained me why and suggested a different haircut, more fitting for my face and hair. I agreed and you can see the result is really good! I honestly feel she went above and beyond for me. If she didn’t care, she would just do what I initially asked her to do. No doubt I will recommend this hairdresser to other people, and will myself visit her again.
  4. Went to the dentist just yesterday. I had an appointment on a certain time, and I came ten minutes earlier. Immediately I realized there were quite many people in the waiting room. Eventually it took ninety minutes until I finally got in. Neither the dentist nor their assistant said a single word of apology. Sure, I understand it isn’t always possible to predict how long each treatment will take. What’s more, a really painful case may arrive and get priority. I do not mind waiting, but I honestly think a word of apology, or some explanation, is necessary in this case. Everyone has some obligations, and while I could afford wasting two extra hours at a dentist, some people may not have such a luxury. But it is what it is, and I cherish even such customer service experiences, since they teach me how to do things better, in my own work, when dealing with my own customers.

 

Your attitude matters for the hiring managers, not the particular situation you narrate

Some people think their customer service experience is too basic, or uninteresting, to narrate in the interviews. Mark my words: they are asking about the latest experience, and you should narrate such. The key is to simply show that you have some eye for detail, and understand all the nuances of a good (or bad) customers service: how long it takes to get their attention, their non-verbal communication, whether they provide what they promise, how they treat you when you arrive, stay, and leave, etc. You should find enough examples on the list of sample answers above.

Describe briefly, or describe in detail

In some cases (especially on job applications), they ask you for a “brief” description of your latest customer service experience. But what does brief really mean? For some people 20 words is already long, and some may consider 200 words still brief… Hence I would not bother with that much. As long as their is space on the application, and you have lines where you can write, feel free to elaborate on the experience, using the entire space allocated for this particular answer.

On the flip side, typically in job interviews, they may ask you to describe your experience with customer service in detail. In this case you can really describe all the nuances of the experience: overall vibe of the place, if employees took notice of you, waiting times, non-verbal communication, any problems or minuses you noticed, and so on. Hiring managers may elaborate on such a description with extra questions, and it can lead to an interesting discussion, at the end of which they may offer you the job...

Ready to answer this one? I hope so! Do not forget to check also sample answers to other tricky interview questions:

Matthew Chulaw
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