Customers have become increasingly demanding in the 21st century. The reason is simple: they always have a choice. If they do not like the staff, or a quality of service they get in a grocery store, pharmacy, hotel, restaurant, car repair shop, or in any other establishment, they can easily go and spend there money in another place. Employers realize that as long as they want to stay profitable in a long run, they have to hire employees who are ready to meet and even exceed the expectations of their customers, each and every day at work. Can it be you?

Let’s have a look at 7 sample answers to this interesting question. You will find in my selection also a couple of answers for people without any previous working experience, and also a couple of unconventional answers. Get through them all, and pick one that reflects the message you try to convey in the interviews. Once done, do not forget to read my notes below the answers, where I explain how to get this one right, each and every time.


7 sample answers to “Tell me about a time when you have exceeded customer’s expectations” interview question

  1. I recall many such situations from my last job with a fashion retailer. Since I have a good eye for design and for matching colors and styles, I always tried to give advice to the customers. But it wasn’t only about saying that a blouse or skirt suits them. I actually did more. When I saw they were trying on something, let’s say a blouse or a dress, I quickly went and picked some matching accessories from the shelves. They didn’t always buy them, but in many cases they were extremely pleased with my recommendation, and actually spent more money in the store as they had originally planned. Needless to say, my manager was also happy.
  2. I remember such a situation from my last job in a hotel. We had a French speaking guest, and they had their passport stolen. Not many people speak French in this area, but I do. As you can imagine, they were in an extreme distress. But I tried to calm them down, offered them a free cup of coffee, a chair to sit on, and told I’d help them. I found a number on French consulate, and called the taxi for the guest, giving the driver the exact address where they should drop them. I also called the consulate and arranged for someone to pick them up. They got a new travel document, and could go back home. They thanked me a hundred times afterwards, and said that I exceeded their expectations. And I can tell you that it made me feel great, and it definitely motivated me to continue trying my best for every guest.
  3. This is my first job application, so I do not really have such an experience. However, I understand that customers expect a lot from us, and that in order to make sure they will come back to the restaurant, or even recommend the place to their peers, we have to either meet or exceed their expectations. What exactly does it mean from a position of a waiter I cannot tell, but you can be sure that I will try my best to be attentive to their needs and to their non-verbal communication, and make sure they leave the place satisfied.
  4. The only place where I’ve worked so far was a fast food restaurant. To be honest, in such a place our goal isn’t to exceed the expectations of the customers–it is to meet them, each and every time, with exactly the same service and the same taste of food. That’s why they return to the place time and again–they know exactly what to expect, what they will get for their money. And I believe I succeeded here, because we had many returning customers. Having said that, if you have a different philosophy in place here, and try to actually exceed the expectations of the customers, I am ready to try my best to do it.
  5. I’ve been working as a freelance editor up to this point. And it is a tough battle out there–many people compete for each gig, some of them offering unrealistically low prices, or unrealistic deadlines. That’s why I tried to build a list of returning customers, and in order to do so, I had to exceed their expectations. Since I have an experience working for a publishing house, instead of just editing their text, I always offered s long commentary on their work–what I’d improve, strengths and weaknesses of the text, etc. This was outside of the contract, but almost every customer loved it, and many returned to me when they needed help with some manuscript again. I definitely learned my lesson, and know what a difference it can make for your business if you exceed the expectations of the customer.
  6. I’ve never worked anywhere before, but I can perhaps explain my attitude talking about my studies. Aiming to be the best student, I have always tried to exceed the expectations of my teachers. They told us to finish some homework until Friday, and sure enough I had it done by Wednesday. When they looked for someone to volunteer at a school event, I always raised my hand and signed up. I simply tried to play an active role in the life of my class and the entire school, and looking at my GPA, it certainly paid off. I want to have the same attitude to work, trying my best for both my colleagues and my customers, because I know that law of action and reaction cannot be broken, and I will also benefit from my efforts.
  7. I’ve never done that, and I also do not consider it right. Because people easily get used to getting a free gift, some extra, being treated as if they paid twice as much as they really did. In my opinion, it isn’t good for the business in the long run. I am a firm believer in trying to meet the expectations of the customer, but not to exceed them. They should get what they came for, each and every time, but that’s it. Because if we pamper them and give them a discount, next time they will expect the same thing, so in order to exceed their expectations again you’d have to offer them even a bigger discount, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle in my opinion, but I’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue as well.


Exceeding expectations should make you feel great

We have to spend eight hours at work (or more), regardless of whether we try our best, or just hang around doing nothing more than necessary. So why wouldn’t you try your best to meet or even exceed the expectations of the customers? Such a situation makes everyone feel good. Customer is happy, shows positive non-verbal communication, and, in a very natural and human way, it also makes you feel better.

What is more, they are likely to come back again, or at least recommend the place to their friends, which is something that makes your manager, or the owner of the place, happy. You can refer to such situations in your answer. Ensure the hiring managers that you enjoy exceeding customers’ expectations, simply because it makes everyone happy and improves the overall atmosphere in the workplace.

* Special Tip: What if I told you that you can practice your answers to ALL tricky behavioral interview questions, getting an immediate feedback from a life-like AI interview coach? And that you can start doing it for free, and it is a lot of fun too? 🙂 Check out this page on our partner website, Real Mock Interviews, pick a question and start practicing for free, either with your mobile phone or your computer. Enjoy!

First job application? Tell them what you would do, or at least want to do

Everyone has to start somewhere. If this is your first job application, you do not have to lie and make up some fictive situation when you supposedly exceeded someone’s expectations… You can either narrate a situation from school or from your personal life–surprising positively your teachers, schoolmates, friends, or you can simply say what you would do to please the customers, or express your understanding of an outstanding customer service.

As long as they feel that you genuinely care, and want to try your best for their customers (though you may not know exactly how to do it), they will be satisfied with your answer.


Unconventional answers can help you stand out

At the end of the day, most retail interviews are competitive affairs. You will compete with other people for the job–it can be two, five, or even twenty–depending on the offer and economic situation in the country. When people struggle with jobs, it is not unheard of to compete with twenty other people for a job in a restaurant, or in a grocery store, one which pays a minimum wage…

In such situations, the key is to stand out with your answers. It doesn’t mean that you should give them some unconventional answer each and every time. But two or three times in an interviews you should try to say something different, something that will make them think, and remember you. Check sample answer no. 7 from my list. It is definitely a brave one, but as long as you explain your reasoning, it has to make sense for four out of five hiring managers. Do not hesitate to try it, especially if you compete with many other people for the job…


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

Matthew Chulaw
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