Interview Question: "What Does Great Customer Service Mean to You?"

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 18, 2022

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for a retail, sales, or customer service role, employers typically want to know how you engage with customers and meet their needs. During interviews, one common question to expect is: "What does great customer service mean to you?" Knowing how to answer this question can show your respect for customers and help increase your chances of getting hired. In this article, we explain why employers ask you to define great customer service, explore how to prepare your answer, and provide sample responses to guide you in crafting your reply.

Why do employers ask, "What does great customer service mean to you?"

Employers ask, "What does great customer service mean to you?" to determine whether your definition aligns with the company's expectations. In customer-facing roles, you typically need good customer service skills to earn referrals, repeat business, and consumer loyalty. A customer-facing role is a position that requires you to interact with customers directly. Other ways employers may ask you to explain great customer service include:

  • What does great customer service look like to you?

  • Define excellent customer service.

  • What is great customer service?

Employers look for candidates who can provide excellent customer service and help create a customer-focused culture, so it's important you answer this question effectively.

Related: 15 Customer Service Interview Questions and Answers

How to prepare your answer to "What does great customer service mean to you?"

Follow these steps to prepare your response when asked to define great customer service:

1. Reflect on the company's values

Research the employer to learn about the customer service policy and mission statement. You can start by reviewing the company's website. Doing this can help you understand the company's values and how upper management expects employees to interact with customers. For example, many companies have a policy that includes interacting with protected groups with respect. A protected group refers to customers who qualify for special protection by the law. You can mention this information when describing great customer service.

2. Recall your customer service experience

While you can define great customer service, using an example as a customer may be more convincing to interviewers. Recall situations where you received exceptional customer service and what made those interactions memorable. For example, suppose you had an issue with a company's technology product and reached out to a customer service representative. If the representative was polite, patient, and respectful, you could include this information in your definition of great customer service.

Similarly, you can describe a situation where you delivered excellent customer service to show your customer service skills and experience. For example, you can outline a time when you exceeded performance expectations in helping a customer or recommended better products after analyzing the customer's needs.

Related: Tips on How to Provide Good Customer Service (With Benefits)

3. Show your customer service skills

Finally, describe how you can provide great customer service using your skill set. You want to show that you understand what customer service means and can help the company achieve it. For example, you can align your customer service skills with the experience you mention.

Related: 7 Customer Service Behavioural Interview Questions

Skills to consider highlighting when discussing great customer service

Here are essential skills you can describe when explaining great customer service in an interview:

Active listening

Active listening is the ability to focus completely on a speaker. The purpose of listening actively is to understand the speaker's message and respond thoughtfully. Active listening is important when explaining great customer service because it shows you focus on receiving customer complaints and requests.

Related: How To Deal With a Difficult Customer

Communication

Communication is the ability to give and receive information in a way that others understand. When interacting with customers, you need these skills to convey your ideas or messages clearly. Effective communication is also important for responding to requests. Improve your communication skills by asking customers and colleagues for feedback.

Related: What Is Interpersonal Communication and How Can You Use It in the Workplace

Dependability

Being dependable means providing accurate and timely solutions consistently. This skill is important to customers because it shows they can trust you and the organization. You can be more dependable by always reviewing your response to customer requests and aiming to complete tasks before the deadline.

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand a customer's emotions. When dealing with customers, this skill is important to understand how they feel and desire to provide the required service. You can show more empathy by approaching customer complaints or requests from their viewpoint. Asking questions to learn more about the customer's situation can also help you be more empathetic.

Knowledge of products or services

Understanding products and services can be useful in solving problems for customers. For example, suppose a customer asks for more information about a specific company product. Knowing about the product or who to ask for more information can help you respond to the customer's request accurately. Understanding a company's products and services can also show customers that you're well-informed.

Patience

Being patient means accepting or tolerating delays or issues while controlling your emotions. In a customer-facing role, showing patience is important for remaining personable and interacting with customers. You can be more patient by evaluating the situation and developing a positive mindset toward customer interactions.

Related: Tips on How To Deal With an Angry Customer

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills are qualities that help you determine what caused an issue and find effective solutions. It involves actively listening to customers, thinking critically about options, and making good decisions. Having excellent problem-solving skills is important because it shows you can help customers navigate through issues they may face.

Read more: Customer Service Skills: Definition and Examples

Sample answers for, "What is great customer service?"

Review these examples of how to respond when describing great customer service:

Sample response for receiving quality customer service

This example is suitable if you're entering the workforce for the first time. It allows you to express how an interaction with a provider shaped your understanding of great customer service.

"Great customer service means meeting customer expectations and helping them with their requests and complaints. For example, I recently relocated to town with my family and wanted to rent a vehicle before buying one. When I arrived at the front desk of a popular rental company, the customer service representative informed me that there were no vehicles left to rent.

I explained that I intended to buy a car in a few weeks, but it was important I had one to transport my family around town before then. The representative quickly called another location to ask whether they had a car I could drive. She was polite and friendly. Eventually, her empathetic and supportive nature helped me get a rental car within a few hours. That impactful experience I had with her made me a loyal customer and encouraged me to make referrals for the company. I feel this experience influenced how I interact with customers."

Sample response for exceeding a customer's expectations

This example outlines your experience providing exceptional customer service:

"In my opinion, great customer service means supporting customers in getting what they need while applying excellent customer service skills. In my previous role as a bank clerk, I often received calls from customers who lost their purses, wallets, and identification cards. One day, a customer came in to say that she suspected she lost her purse in the banking hall. She seemed distraught and uneasy. Instead of referring her immediately to the fraud protection department, I showed empathy and was patient with her.

I listened actively to her story and encouraged her to recall where she last saw the purse. Then, I tried to calm her down and walked her to the safe where the bank kept lost personal items. She eventually found her purse there and was so impressed with the experience that she referred new customers. If hired as a bank clerk here, I aim to provide exceptional customer service to bank customers and uphold the customer-oriented reputation that this bank has."

Sample response for showing support and empathy

This example emphasizes how you use your customer service skills to achieve great customer service.

"To me, great customer service means trying to understand a customer's perspective, helping them find a solution to any issues they face, and controlling my emotions. In my last retail position, I noticed a man looking overwhelmed and asked whether he needed help with his new golf stand bag and golf clubs. As he didn't have a car, he was happy I offered to help him get it home. I recommended he purchase the item, keep his receipt, and go home while we transported it through our partner logistics company.

He eventually got his purchase that same day and left a five-star rating on our company website. If hired as a retail manager, I plan to support customers, offer great customer service, and follow the company's customer service policy."

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