How To Answer “What Does Customer Service Mean To You?”

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 14, 2021
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Whether you have spent time in the customer service industry or are looking to start a career down the customer service path, you’ll likely be asked, “What does customer service mean to you?”

Basically, customer service simply means the ability to satisfy a customer or a client by offering a good product or providing excellent services. Your employer might want you to discuss your answer before you are officially hired. But how do you answer this question properly and in a way that shows your commitment to the job at hand?

This common job interview question stumps a lot of people during interviews. Many individuals are looking for the perfect answer or searching for the tidbits they think their potential employer might want to hear.

However, if you’re passionate about customer service and genuinely have a passion for this kind of work, the answer doesn’t need to be difficult. Be honest. Think about the positive customer service experiences you have experienced.

Below we’ll discuss how to prepare yourself for interviews for customer-facing roles as well as understanding what truly makes good customer service so that you can better answer this question.

Giving this question some extra thought and attention before you enter an interview can help prepare you to more eloquently answer this question in a way that will make you stand out from the other candidates.

How to Prepare for Customer Service Interviews

The best way to prepare for upcoming customer service interviews is to research the common questions for these roles. Below, we discuss some of the most common interview questions customer service candidates are expected to answer:

  • Qualifications. The hiring manager will inevitably ask questions to make sure you’re adequately qualified for the job at hand.

    Being able to articulate your qualifications concisely and relevantly will help the hiring manager understand why you’re a strong candidate and whether you’d be a good fit in the role advertised.

  • Customer service. This seems like an obvious one, especially since this is where the ever-important “What does customer service mean to you” question lives, but it’s important to give these questions a decent amount of thought before you sit down to interview.

    Interviewers can also ask related questions such as, “Why do you want to work in customer service?” or “What do you believe good customer service is?” Regardless of how this question is asked, you’ll want to have a clear and honest answer prepared.

  • Company. This is a typical question for more interviews. The employer will want to know you’ve done your research on the company. You’ll want to take some time to look over the company website, mission, values, products, and executive team.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time

    You don’t have to memorize everything, but you should have a general idea of what the company is about before you sit down for your interview.

  • Work schedule. Be sure you have read the job posting from top to bottom and understand what work hours are expected. Customer service jobs may require some flexibility, so being prepared for that question is important.

    Employers may also probe to understand if you have availability on weekends or holidays and how flexible you truly are with your hours.

  • Behavioral fit. Most interviews will encompass some kind of questioning around behavior and work ethic. This means you should be prepared to answer real examples of how you may have handled difficult situations in previous places of employment.

    The employer is likely looking to make sure you’ll fit in well with their culture, that you can handle the responsibilities you’ll be expected to manage, and that you’ll fit in well with the department and team.

Some additional ways to prepare for a customer service interview will be to look back at the initial job posting and make sure you understand and can speak to the different requirements and responsibilities of the job.

Consider looking back at your resume and identifying specific projects or jobs where you feel you may have a situation that proves you are able to meet certain requirements.

What Is Good Customer Service?

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “the customer is always right,” then you have a good idea of what good customer service encompasses. Good customer service is making sure the client is happy and taken care of.

Customer service ensures the client has everything they need to be satisfied with a particular product or service. This may encompass feedback about the sale, delivery, installation, ease of use, responsiveness, and consistency, among other things.

The Elements of Good Customer Service

To effectively answer the question of what customer service means to you, you’ll need to understand the elements of good customer service. There are a few different things that make up stellar customer service.

You may have experienced this yourself in the market when you were dealing with a service or product that you might have needed help with. Chances are you left an interaction feeling either positive or negative about a specific company or business. This is the reason customer service is so important.

Here are some of the core elements of good customer service:

  • Attitude. Since most customer service interactions are handled through live conversation, with the exception of online chat service, attitude can make or break an interaction. Making sure you greet people properly, either with the correct facial expression or tone of voice, can make a huge difference to the person’s response to you.

    Being friendly, patient, and kind is very important in a customer service role. Attitude means being engaging and not getting frustrated even if the customers are frustrating or you are frustrated by their situation. It also means staying positive and upbeat, even if you aren’t feeling that way every single day.

  • Empathy. Empathy is one of the most important traits you can bring to the table in a customer service job. Oftentimes, customers will come to customer service to complain about a problem or ask for assistance for something they may be confused about or unable to access.

    Showing empathy, or the fact that you genuinely care about their problem, will make the customer feel well-assisted and cared for. It’s important to show that you care, and having genuine empathy for the customer’s issue is the best and easiest way to do this.

  • Product knowledge. Being knowledgeable in the product or service you’re selling or serving helps give you credibility to the customer. When you are able to quickly and efficiently answer questions the customer has, they’ll learn to trust you and likely be more satisfied with their customer service experience.

  • Efficiency. Being efficient as a customer service representative is incredibly important. Many people asking for help might also be in a rush and not want to wait for an answer. Ensuring you are efficient at your job helps people feel quickly taken care of and satisfied when they walk away.

  • Problem-solving. Problem-solving is another big skill that’s important for customer service individuals. Most of the job as a customer service representative is to find a fix to people’s issues.

    This means you may have to juggle priorities and figure out answers to questions you may have never answered before. It means thinking on your feet and finding a solution when others can’t.

  • Clear communication. Communication is key in customer service. Being able to articulate your responses and answers clearly is incredibly important to maintain efficiency and keep customers happy.

    There’s nothing worse than a customer misconstruing your response and getting frustrated or, worse, angry. Being a clear and effective communicator is an essential skill for customer service employees to have.

Tips for Answering Customer Service Questions

Because customer service can vary so widely, especially by industry, the responses to this question may vary significantly. Here are some tips on answering these customer service questions based on your industry:

  • Technology or software. Customer service in the tech or software industry is typically around troubleshooting or simple step-by-step guidance to complete a task. When asked customer service questions during an interview in this industry, you’ll want to consider a problem-solving approach.

    Articulate how important it is to listen to the customer and engage with them off the bat to understand how best to troubleshoot.

  • Healthcare. This incredibly broad market can incorporate a variety of different types of organizations. However, the main idea behind the healthcare industry is to protect and promote the health of clients. Priorities to be sure your surface for this type of role will encompass empathy, patience, and a drive to want to help others.

  • Public service. Nonprofit and government employees are frequently interacting with the general public, but they carry the stigma of bureaucracy. Here, most employers are looking for you to tell them that you’re a good listener and can be efficient in this role while still maintaining a friendly outward demeanor.

  • Retail and hospitality. This industry is for the customer service pros as it’s the most public-facing industries out there. Customer service is the job, so answering this question should revolve around how dedicated and passionate you are about customer service and making guests feel welcomed and appreciated.

  • Finance. Finance has a significant customer service component, especially in investing, bank tellers, and more. Finance can be a tricky one because working with money, especially other people’s money, can be a touchy subject for some. For this role, focusing on product knowledge, problem-solving, and efficiency is essential.

Why Do Employers Ask This Question?

You may be asking yourself why employers feel they must ask this question in an interview. The purpose isn’t to trip you up or even to search for the perfect answer. They typically ask this question to see if your definition of customer service aligns with their own beliefs and expectations for the organization.

Customer service is the face of any organization’s brand. To that end, they must hire individuals who can appropriately embody that when they interact with a customer, no matter the purpose.

By providing positive experiences to customers, brands can earn customer loyalty and satisfaction. This leads to more sales, better exposure, and a positive brand reputation for years to come.

How to Answer the Question, “What Does Customer Service Mean To You?”

So, how do you answer this question in an interview? Well, there are two different ways, depending on the amount of experience you have in this field. The first is to share your own experience as a customer. This is appropriate if you have limited experience in this line of work.

We’ve all, at some point, been a customer in a customer service experience and have inevitably had both good and bad experiences. When you answer this question, this type of way, be sure to prepare beforehand and identify both good and bad examples of customer service you’ve experienced.

Providing specific examples and details will help your potential employer know that you understand what good customer service looks like and what bad customer service looks like.

The other option here is to use your experience knowledge if you have it. This is a great way to highlight the skills you’ve gathered over your time as a customer service professional while appropriately answering the question.

Be sure that you tailor your response based on the industry. Customer service in healthcare won’t be the same as customer service in tech, although the general idea still remains the same. Be specific and make your answer shine.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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