Customer is always right, even when they are wrong. We live in competitive times. If people aren’t satisfied with the service they get–in a grocery store, pharmacy, retail outlet, restaurant, hotel, casino, hospital, or any other place, they will simply do their shopping (or enjoy entertainment, or do business) somewhere else. It has never been easier to change their supplier.

What’s more, few bad reviews on Google or on a website like Trip Advisor can really sink a reputation of almost any business. Research shows that 91% of people regularly or occasionally check online reviews when making their buying decisions.

Summarized and underlined, if a company wants to survive (let alone thrive), it has to deliver an excellent customer service to almost every client. That’s the reason why you may deal with one of the following questions in your job interview:

  • Describe your definition of an outstanding customer service.
  • Tell me about a last time you went above and beyond for a customer.
  • What does excellent customer service mean to you?

In this article I will analyze the question, and offer several sample answer which you can use to impress the hiring managers. Enjoy!


Read online reviews to find definition of an outstanding service

Before you interview for a job in any company, you should check what their customers are saying. Google their name or head to Trip Advisor if you apply for a job in a hospitality sector. FaceBook reviews are easier to manipulate and you should avoid them, unless you cannot find reviews anywhere else.

Now, you should look for positive points customers mention repeatedly. For example in a restaurant customers can praise excellent quality of food, quick delivery, cozy atmosphere, friendly waiters, and so on. You should notice especially the points that rely to your future position.

This should help you understand what an outstanding service means for your future employer, and you can refer to it in your interview answer.

businessman with thumb's up, an an illustration of a satisfied customer

What to do when negative reviews prevail

When negative reviews prevail (it may be the reason why the place is looking for a new waiter, dealer, sales rep, etc), you should try to identify the things people complain about, and base your definition of an excellent service accordingly.

For example, if several hotel/hostel guests complained that their rooms were not particularly clean, you can stress the cleanliness of both private and common areas as one of the pillars of an outstanding customer service in a hotel.


Keep your definition of an outstanding customer service as relevant as possible

Unless you apply for a job in some big corporation, you should not reply with a general definition of an excellent customer service. Certainly customers expect something different in a fast food stand, five star hotel, and in an automotive company.

Call center worker, hostess, and business development manager will likely each give a unique definition of great customer service–because they all work with different type of customers, each type having their own set of expectations.

Think about your future place of work for a few minutes. What motivates the customers to shop there (or to do business with the company)? What do they expect, and how can you positively surprise them from your position?  You should refer to such things in your answer.


Stress the importance of a a great customer service if you cannot define it

Emphasizing the importance of an excellent service will never hurt you in an interview. Even when you are not sure how to define such a service (perhaps it goes about a specific field of business or you have no relevant experience to tell), you can always emphasize that you will try to deliver an excellent service–once you understand (perhaps after the training period) what exactly such a service means in this case.

You can also opt for an indirect definition of an excellent service. Maybe at the moment you cannot define it, but for you, any service that results in returning customers and positive reviews can be labeled as excellent.


Sample answers to “Describe in detail your definition of outstanding customer service” question

* Please consider the following answers as samples. You can certainly use them as an inspiration while writing your own definition of an outstanding service. However, repeating them word to word in your next interview isn’t the best idea :).

Customer have to feel welcome from the first moment to the last, during the entire stay in the restaurant. It means greeting them at the table, serving them quickly, giving them recommendations and advice, stopping at the table regularly to ask whether everything’s right, and thanking them for their visit once they pay the bill. Staying courteous and friendly goes without saying. That’s how I would describe an outstanding customer service, al least from a position of a waiter.

More than anything else, I would define it as meeting their expectations, or even exceeding them. In a place like this it means handling the check-in quickly, escorting them to their rooms, helping with the luggage, ensuring that everything is perfectly clean, and answering any request they may have during their stay with us. Simply trying to exceed their expectations. I believe that I can help to maintain such a service while working here as a hotel manager.

We talk about B2B segment and big contracts. In such a case, in my opinion, an outstanding service means primarily an individual approach to every customer. We should  analyze their needs precisely, and come up with a tailored offer each time. What’s more, we should try to build relationships of trust with our customers, and they should feel that they can rely on us in both good and bad times. I can assure you that I understand a pivotal role such a service plays in your success story. I hope to deliver it each time.

To be honest, at the moment I cannot tell what exactly such a service means in this business. I have no previous experience with this segment of economy. But I know how one can recognize when an outstanding service has been delivered. When customers return to do business with us over and over again, when they recommend our company to their connections, and perhaps even post good reviews online, we can say with certainty that they got an excellent service. Once I learn what exactly it means in this industry, I will always try to deliver such a service.

In a place like this (fast food stand) I guess that customers expect to be served quickly and with smile. They expect to get the same quality of food each time. If we manage to deliver such a service, people will come back time and again.

* Special Tip: Question about outstanding customer service won’t be the only difficult question you will face while interviewing for any decent job. You will face questions about prioritization, dealing with pressure, conflicts on the workplace, and other tricky scenarios. If you want to make sure that you stand out with your answers and outclass your competitors, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to 31 tricky scenario based questions (+ more) will help you streamline your interview preparation, outclass your competitors, and eventually get the job. Thank you for checking it out!


Final thoughts

Level of customer service can make or break almost every business. In 21st century people rely excessively on online reviews when making their buying decisions. Such shopping behavior can sometimes backfire (think manipulated or purchased reviews), but we have to accept it as a fact.

Employers from all segments of economy understand the situation well. Therefor you can expect to get at least one or two questions about excellent customer service in your interview.

Do your research, stress the importance of an outstanding service, and try to come up with an answer which makes sense for their type of business. You can use our sample answers as an inspiration. Once done, check also answers to other difficult interview questions:

Thank you for reading, I wish you good luck!


Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)