Asking the right questions in interviews is critical to appropriately assess potential talent when you hire customer service staff. The right questions will help you evaluate whether someone has the skills required to succeed in your position and is a good fit for your team and company culture. Some things you should assess during interviews for call centre or customer service positions include:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Customer service experience and skills
  • Ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • Diplomacy and tact
  • Problem solving skills
  • Whether the candidate is friendly and engaging

general questions to ask when you hire customer service staff

   •   describe your ideal work setting.

Is the person going to be happy at a desk answering phone calls all day, or are they looking for a more mobile, face-to-face customer service position? The answer to this question helps you evaluate whether someone is a good fit for your workplace. 

   •   do you have experience working remotely?

Many call centres and other customer service roles that can be done digitally are now being moved remote thanks to the pandemic. You need to be able to count on your remote staff like you would in-person staff, especially if you're using a remote or hybrid approach to work right now. But even if you're bringing people into the office, those who can manage themselves while problem-solving and serving customers from any location are good resources now and for the future. You never know when you might need to or want to have employees work remotely again.

   •   what do you enjoy most about working in customer service?

If a candidate can't speak sincerely about something they really enjoy about the industry, why do they want this job? What someone most enjoys about the work can also help you decide where they might fit best in your organization.

   •   what skill do you think is most important in customer service?

The skill people think is most important tells something about them. Either they've seen this skill overcome challenges in customer service or it's a skill that has helped them achieve goals in the past. It's a good idea to follow-up on this one and ask why someone believes a certain skill is critical.

   •   how do you approach stressful situations?

Customer service positions get stressful. At some point, your employees have to deal with irate customers or other unpleasant situations. Asking this question communicates this truth while also helping you ascertain whether someone is ready to face those situations. 

   •   have you used x software before? 

Customize this question based on your needs. If your teams use a certain CRM, ask candidates if they're familiar with it or what CRM they have used before. You might not need candidates to know how to use your exact system — you can provide training — but someone who is already familiar with that type of software can pick it up faster. 

questions specific to customer services skills and situations

   •   describe a situation where you went above and beyond to provide a great experience for a customer.

It sounds like a throwaway for anyone with experience in customer service, but this question delves into a variety of topics. First, it shows whether the person understands the importance of customer experience and what makes a good one. It also allows them to set the bar for where they think "great" customer service is. Second, a scenario-based answer lets you hear about the person's skills and knowledge in context.

   •   describe a time when you handled an agitated customer. how did you deescalate the situation?

This question has many of the same benefits as the one above. It also helps you understand whether the candidate has experience dealing with stressful situations. If they're unable to tell you a story about how they deescalated a customer issue on their own, they may not be as skilled or experienced as you need them to be.

   •   what is your preferred method of communication? are you comfortable handling inquiries over the phone / instant message / email? 

Make sure the people you hire are comfortable using the communication methods required of the position. A chat customer service rep needs to be comfortable typing and communicating in text, for example, and that's not always the same person who is comfortable dealing with phone or in-person communications. 

   •   tell me about a time you helped a customer solve a complex problem.

Having the candidate talk about specific events in their work history is a great way to ferret out details about their skills, beliefs about the job and personal values as they pertain to the work. This question puts them on the spot to show off a bit, too, which can help you evaluate them compared to other call centre or customer service candidates.  

   •   do you have any experience with sales or upselling?

Customer service isn't all about providing clients with answers or solving problems. Customer service reps that can sell or upsell help increase your revenue and profit margins. Depending on your business processes, you might not need a yes here. But even if it's a nice-to-have, an affirmative answer to this question can help you pull top talent from the applicant stack.

get more help with interviews now

Randstad has a proven approach to hiring candidates that are right for positions in customer service and other areas. Before you hire customer service staff, learn more about that approach in our guide to great interviews.

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