Alternative Version: What does “great customer service” mean to you?
Most jobs are customer service jobs in their own way. While many of us think of customer service as limited to retail and restaurants, almost every job has some version of a customer. That’s why it is not uncommon to hear some variation of the interview question “What does it mean to give great customer service?”
The other day, I was talking with someone that went to a high level interview with the data department of a school district. The data department compiles reports for each individual school within the district. He was asked the at his job interview what great customer service meant to him, despite the fact that school districts do not sell anything to customers.
Thankfully, his experience working in data meant that he knew who the “customer” was and was able to answer the question with ease (customers, in this case, referred to requests from schools for data reports). But the point is that even a position that doesn’t sell any products or services can still have customers, and that means you always have to be prepared for this type of interview question.
How to Answer
There are many ways to answer a question about what customer service means to you. Examples include:
- Defining it by past experience, sharing examples of what you did in different situations.
- Giving a more detailed definition that integrates your knowledge of the industry.
Initially, my recommended answer was the former. I encouraged people to give specific, detailed examples of situations where they gave excellent customer service as the definition. For example:
“What it means to give great customer service is to go above and beyond customer expectations. For example, when I was working for Target, one of our guests had lost track of their child. I immediately issued a storewide alert, and I walked her around the store while organizing other staff to find her child. When we found him, rather than just drop him off, I bought him a small ice cream cone since I knew he was scared, and I helped the guest find some of her other groceries on her list so that she could spend some time with her child.”
That, to me, is still a great answer. But I was wowed the other day by a simple answer that someone gave. Their answer was:
“Great customer service is whatever the customer sees as great customer service. There is no formal definition, because each customer has different needs and expectations. Instead, I believe that the only true way to give great customer service is for the customer to walk away feeling I gave them great customer service, no matter how that manifests.”
I love this answer, because it is true. There isn’t a true definition of giving great customer service. Giving great customer service simply means that the person walked away feeling like they receive great service. That, to me, was an answer I didn’t expect, and one that really stuck with me.