Written by Ian Landsman on Nov 15, 2016 in

5 Interview Tips for a Customer Service Job

The customer service industry is experiencing rapid growth; growth predicted to continue faster than average between 2014 and 2024. But you knew that, because we already told you. You also know that today’s service professional is much more than an order-taker or the resident venting post. In this Customer First world, service professionals must act as creative problem solvers, agents of WOW, and confidently walk the fine line of doing right by the organization and the customer.

If it sounds like a lot to juggle, it’s because it is. While the role of the customer service agent isn’t an easy one, it is an exciting one; filled to the brim with growth potential and the opportunity to creatively delight customers every day.

With the field growing and competition getting stronger, what can you do to get in on the action and land a coveted customer service job in 2016?

Below are 5 tips to help you rock the initial interview.

1. Know How You Got Here (& Make It a Story)

Working in customer service isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, you have an opportunity to put delight into someone’s day and to come up with creative solutions to complicated problems, but you are also the person customers go to for answers right now, to express frustrations, and the one at the other end of the phone when they are already in a bad mood. To survive and to thrive in this position, you must LOVE what you do. You must be motivated by helping others and be passionate about offering great service. You must use technology (and your charming personality) to find solutions to both everyday problems and the ones you could have never seen coming.

If that’s not enough, to land the job, you must also be able to show your interviewer you are capable of all the above.

During your interview, you’ll be asked, “what attracted you to customer service?” or “what interests you about this position?”. This is your chance. Let that passion fly and show your excitement. Don’t “um” and hem and haw. Have a great (rehearsed) story in your back pocket ready for the interview.

This story should touch on your love for immersing yourself in a fast-moving field, your obsession with solving problems and puzzles, and why you think you will make a difference within their organization. Maybe there are great examples of customer service that inspire you – companies that do it well and that you hope to emulate. A potential employer can train someone to do any job, but they can’t train you to be passionate, to be excited and to LOVE what you do. You must come into the interview exuding that.

2. Show Your Emotional Intelligence

Customer service reps are often left to deal with unhappy, frustrated and/or inpatient people. To get the job, show that you can be trusted to be a calming force and that you can deescalate a situation when needed. Highlight character traits such as being persuasive, calm, polite, positive and show that you have excellent communication skills.

During your interview, make it a point to recount experiences where you received negative feedback and how you turned it around. Share an experience where you stepped in to deescalate a situation to help all parties find a workable solution. Tell a story about when you went above and beyond for a customer to make the company look like a hero, or when you felt you were unfairly targeted and how you handled it. These are the moments and the touch points the interviewer is looking for to feel confident handing their brand and their reputation over to you.

If you’re new to the customer service field and don’t have direct experience, pull from life situations. For example, maybe you saved Thanksgiving dinner last year when Aunt Betty and Uncle Joe got into a fight over the proper way to make stuffing and you allowed both parties to see the other side and have a great dinner. Or maybe you acted as the social media person for an organization where you volunteer and you’ve often had to keep the dialogue friendly or respond to comments. Or you’re the oldest of eight children and “peacemaker” is your middle name. Customer service is part of our everyday life in many ways. We can pull from these moments.

3. Know Why You Are a Great Fit

You’re applying for a position where you KNOW you’ll be a great addition. There’s just something about the place, the position or both that leaves you feeling inspired. Don’t leave it to the interviewer to figure out that you’re a natural – show them.

Share information that demonstrates:

  • You know the ins and outs of chatting with customers
  • You are calm, patient and have the right temperament for customer service
  • You are already an evangelist of the product/service you’ll be advocating
  • You will integrate well into the company culture
  • You’re friendly, likable and the type of person people want on their team

The truth is that we hire people we want to be around. We are looking for someone who would make a seamless transition into the organization. If this is you, exude it!

4. Show Off Your Knowledge of The Product/ Service

Part of proving you’re a perfect fit is displaying your knowledge of the company’s product or service. This helps show that not only are you passionate about customer service, you are also passionate about what they do and being a part of their team. Knowing that someone recognizes what a great opportunity this is – whether they love your product, your mission or your culture -- and that they are EXCITED to jump into it can give an interviewer reason to elevate you over a line of “pretty great” candidates.

Give yourself an edge by taking the time to research the company:

  • Study the website to identify key service offerings or product benefits
  • Find their social media channels and see what type of content they post
  • Look up 1-3 competitors and spot what makes the company unique
  • Look for blogs that reference the product/service or do a Google News search and see what comes up
  • Read through their blog. Subscribe to their newsletter. Check out their press section
  • Look up employees to get a sense of company culture and values

Being able to effortlessly drop company-specific comments into your interview will impress the interviewer by showing them that you respect the company enough to do your homework.

5. Remember, You’re Interviewing Them, Too!

When you’re interviewing for a new position, you want to make a great first impression. You want to show that you’re excited about the opportunity and that you’re well-equipped to handle the job. However, it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one being interviewed – you’re interviewing your potential employer, as well!

During your interview, make sure to ask questions that will help you evaluate whether this is a company you wish to work for. Should you come on board, you’re making a life commitment. It’s important to vet out whether this is the right opportunity for you, one where you’ll be happy long-term.

You’ll want to ask questions like:

  • What are some of the positive parts of working here?
  • What struggles do new employees often face?
  • How did this position come to be available?
  • What is your customer service philosophy?
  • What is the culture like?
  • How are employees rewarded or recognized?

These questions have the power to provoke powerful responses from the interviewer, should they answer them honestly. They will also help to give you a good indication of whether the organization is a fit for you and whether you would like spending 40-50 hours a week with your new coworkers.

Now Go Get That Job!

With the customer service field seeing increased growth, there are many new opportunities available for qualified prospects – but first you must get through the interview! Make a great first impression by doing your homework, highlighting your most relevant personality traits, studying up on the company you’re interviewing with, and having a great story that shows off your approach to customer service. You’ll not only help yourself feel more confident, you’ll make your interview feel more confident hiring you.

Good luck out there!

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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