How to Ask the Right Customer Service Interview Questions

Hello everyone!

In last week’s video I shared the 3 customer service skills your employees must have to create customer loyalty.

In this video, I’m going to share my 5 go-to customer service interview questions to ensure you’re hiring the right people to represent your company. 

To create an exceptional customer experience we know that our employee engagement must be extraordinarily high. To do this successfully, your company must have a rigorous interview process and ask some forward thinking questions to immediately identify if the candidate is truly customer-focused. If they aren’t, don’t consider hiring this person, regardless of their past accomplishments or achievements.

At Baro, my restaurant that has over 100 team members, we take every candidate, regardless of their position or prior experience through a customer-centric interview.

Some people have questioned me on this. They have asked why I recommend that my management team take a dishwasher or a finance person, people who aren’t customer-facing, through a customer service interview? The answer is simple; because you must have an aligned team if you truly want to become a customer-obsessed organization.

I’ve also been told that our interview process, which is the same one that I recommend to the companies I advise, isn’t efficient. Well, I’m not trying to be efficient, I’m trying to be diligent, protect my company from hiring misfits and to ensure that anyone that has an interaction with my company, whether it’s a paying customer, a vendor or the media, has an exceptional customer experience.

To ensure you have an aligned customer-centric team I recommend asking these five questions when hosting customer service interviews. You can find a downloadable template that includes these questions and answers below in the comments section.

#1 – As a consumer, what companies do you admire because of their customer experience? 

The reason I like asking this question is because it gives the candidate an opportunity to demonstrate whether they know what a great end-to-end customer experience looks like. Pay particular attention to the level of detail the candidate goes into when describing their experience because ultimately this is the exact type of organization you’re going to be asking them to help build.

If the candidate replies with a vague answer, ask related follow up questions and probe to give them an opportunity to answer the question in detail.

#2 – What would you do if you were given 5 customer-facing tasks but only had time to do 3 of them before the end of your shift?

I believe an exceptional candidate would say that they would continue with their tasks even if their shift was over. The reason I’m looking for this answer is because it shows that they would take ownership over the customer experience and that they are 100% committed to the brand.

There may be occasions when the team member can’t stay longer than their allotted time. If this was the case, another acceptable answer is that they would find another team member to help serve the customer but, not without providing context and passing along pertinent information to the new team member to ensure the transition for the customer is seamless and that they don’t have to repeat themselves.

#3 – Tell me of a time when you wanted to help a customer, who you believe had a reasonable request, but it went against company policy? What did you do to manage the situation?

While I don’t agree with outdated company policies interfering with justifiable customer requests you do want to hire team members that have the integrity to operate within the rules they are provided – even if they don’t align well with delivering an exceptional customer experience. For this question you want to hear the candidate mention three key things.

  • The first is that they will politely explain the current process to the customer so that they have an understanding of the company’s current process without demeaning the organization’s policy
  • Next, they should explain how they will be prepared to answer any follow up questions diligently if the customer pushes back on the policy.
  • If the candidate includes this last point then I believe you have a great candidate on your hands and that you should consider hiring them. If they mention that they will make note of how many occasions customers have become upset by this particular policy and that they would bring the information to their manager, II would consider hiring them as they are exemplifying managerial traits. Who knows, this might be a tipping point where this outdated policy is reviewed my management and a new operational strategy is created to better the experience for the customer.

#4 – What are some of the most important skills that a customer service employee needs to have to be successful at their job?

I recommend asking this question because you want to hear what resonates with the candidate the most. If the candidate says that speed is most important skill then you may want to ask some follow up questions because speed is only important if you’re trying to build a transactional relationship – which you shouldn’t be doing.

The type of things you want to hear the candidate say are most important are:

  • Empathy
  • Diligence
  • A team player
  • And someone who pays great attention to detail

#5 – This next question was introduced to me by my General Manager, Colin Denton: what celebrity do you believe would be great in a customer-facing role?

Now, this question may seem like a filler question but it’s actually not. The reason I recommend asking this question is to further identify if the candidate knows the type of attributes that makes a great customer service team member.

My General Managers answer to this question is Justin Timberlake. The reason he believes that Justin Timberlake would make a great customer-facing team member is because he’s charismatic, has an outgoing personality, is funny and engaging.

Ask this question during the interview process; I think your candidates will have fun with it.

There you have it, my five recommended customer service interview questions that I use within my businesses and recommend to the clients I advise.

I want to hear from you. What customer service interview questions do you find most effective? Leave a comment below to let me know which ones are working for you today.

Don’t forget to download the template below that outlines my five questions and their answers so you can start using them immediately.

If you learned something by watching this video,

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel to automatically be made aware when I release a new weekly video
  • Click the like button
  • And share the video with your colleagues

I’ll see you next week!

3 Customer Service Skills Your Employees Need to Create Customer Loyalty

Welcome to this week’s video where I teach you how to use customer experience and employee engagement strategies to grow your business and create customer loyalty.

Today’s video is solely focused on your customer service employees – whether you’re in hospitality, operating a call center, retail, real estate, trades or whatever – your customer service employees are the face of your company. We can all agree to that, right?

With this understanding, we must invest in their education to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge to deliver an experience our customers have never seen before. Let’s consider these statistics:

This gives us even more evidence that we must recruit and train our employees with premium education.

Okay. Let’s get into it…The first skill your customer service employees must have is what I call Service Endurance.

SERVICE ENDURANCE

Service endurance is a term I use that describes how employees can deliver amazing customer service to the 100th customer of the day as they did the first.

We should all have empathy for what our frontline team members go through. Speaking to customers all-day can be exhausting, regardless of how great your team member might be, we should find ways to help them break through even when it’s been a long day.

When I was a call center agent in my early 20’s I would take 100 calls a day and even though I was good, there were times when I didn’t want to take another call. Some ways I would combat exhaustion was by:

  • Having a stress ball at my desk that I would squeeze during tough times because it helps to release a bit of stress.
  • I would post a motivational quote to help me keep going even when I didn’t want to take another call, in fact, I still do this. Here’s a picture of a shelf in my office that has a quote of Kobe Bryan on it.
  • Before a stress ball or motivational quotes are posted near your work area, going for a brief walk outside is the best way to disconnect for a moment. Leaders of companies must acknowledge that the extra break won’t be a cost, it will be an investment because you will have peace of mind that your team members are physically and mentally prepared to deliver amazing service to every customer, every time.

FORESIGHT

The second imperative skill your team members must have is foresight. The reason that this is a vital skill set is because you want to ensure that your employees have the foresight to anticipate customers needs and to assist their peers and colleagues who are inundated with too many tasks.

At Baro, one of my restaurants, one of our core values is foresight. We want our team members to have the awareness to act on customer needs by offering suggestions before they are asked – this helps create an experience customers have never seen before. In my business, an example of this could be a waitress recognizing that the family of four who has a toddler with them will need a high chair. Our guests shouldn’t have to ask for this, we should anticipate this to create an effortless experience for our guests.

When it comes to employees, do your team members have the foresight to recognize that Sally, your office manager, who just received three phone calls at once and has a FedEx employee waiting for a package to be signed needs help? Do your team members have the foresight to recognize that Sally is getting slammed and needs help without her having to ask?

Team members with the foresight skill set not only earn higher customer loyalty by delivering a better experience but they create comradery with their peers. If this comradery is created they are more likely to work together to deliver a seamless customer experience which also increases loyalty.

EMPATHY

The third customer service skill set was first introduced to me when I worked at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?’s corporate office. Their core values are Passion, Integrity, Professionalism and Empathy, or PIPE for short.

Do your current team members show genuine empathy for your customers? If your customer happens to mention that there was a death in their family or they have upcoming surgery, will they acknowledge what has been mentioned and show empathy for the situation?

HOW CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EARNED WARBY PARKER FREE PR

Often, your customers, share information with you that require empathy that you can use to build a stronger relationship. Take this Warby Parker story as an example.

A customer of Warby Parker in Atlanta shows up to pick up her glasses and after the employee asked her how her day was going she responded with:

“Not well. I had my car stolen yesterday…I’m here to pick up the glasses that I ordered.”

Side note: these glasses I’m wearing are from Warby Parker – I love them and their company – they are actually the company I’m learning from the most from right now.

The Warby Parker employee could have simply said:

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Here are your glasses…”

but it’s what they did next that’s separates them from their competition and is something I’m preaching within my businesses and clients…they are creating micro customer experiences. A micro customer experience is a subtle, affordable and memorable gesture you do for your customers that resonates with them for years.

The Warby Parker team sent this hand-written card to the customer shortly after:

Hey Tess,

We were so sorry to hear about your car. Since you probably won’t be the designated driver anytime soon, here’s a round on us! Love your friends at Warby Parker. PS. Your Durand frames look amazing!”

Within the envelop was a gift certificate to a local micro brewery so the customer could get that beer she said she needed in passing.

This Warby Parker employee listened, showed empathy and took action on what she had heard to create a memorable experience.

Now, not any employee could do something like this. Only truly empathetic people could do this genuinely. I don’t know the Warby Parker customer personally but I’d bet that this customer is never buying prescription sun glasses from another company again in her life, which is true customer loyalty.

Oh, not to mention, this customer experience earned Warby Parker free PR in Forbes, Business Insider and Mashable. As the saying goes, Customer experience is marketing!

In my next video, I’m going to share what questions to ask during the interview process to identify if your candidates have these customer service skill sets. To be automatically alerted when I release this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel right now!

I want to hear from you. What other skill sets do you look for when hiring customer service employees? Leave a comment below to share what you think is most important customer service skill set.

I’ll see you next week.

My 3 Favourite Customer Service Stories (and What Your Business Can Learn From Them)

Companies, across many different industries and sizes, all have marketing budgets. Most of these businesses allocate a considerable amount of their budget to traditional marketing efforts and, as of recently, have been investing in digital strategies.

But what about investing in customer service stories? Or, as some may refer to it as, storytelling marketing. You may have heard the saying,

“Customer service is the new marketing.”

In many respects, it is. After all, word-of-mouth marketing has the word “marketing” in it. But let’s take a moment to think about why people passionately refer or market your service or product.

Is it because your company has been in business since 1945? No.

Is it because your website has a perfect hue of blue? No.

Is it because you have the lowest price? Maybe. For me, though, playing the “cheapest price in town” card isn’t a sustainable strategy.

The primary reason that people will refer your service or product, and why the media will cover your company, is because you have a story to tell. Memorable customer service stories are much more attractive to readers of publications like Forbes, Inc, Fast Company and The Huffington Post compared to paid media.

These three stories from Warby Parker, Lego and Ritz Carlton are my favourite customer service stories. I encourage you to read the stories and consider the key takeaways, as there are lessons that you can apply within your business, regardless of your industry, budget or company size.

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Lego

The Customer Service Story: Luka’s dad cautioned him against bringing his Christmas present with him while shopping. Sure enough, the toy falls out of his pocket and is lost.

Luka decides to write Lego a letter explaining the situation:

o-LOST-LEGO-REPLY-570

Pretty great story, right?

I have long said that customer experience can be a reliable source of organic revenue and branding through word-of-mouth marketing, customer loyalty and free PR. This Lego story is a perfect example.

The Takeaway For Your Business: Build a company culture that recruits, hires and motivates team members to manage opportunities (like this customer retention opportunity), similar to what Richard has done for Lego.

Too often, companies would simply think,

“Tough luck, kid.”

It’s clear that Lego has built a customer-centric company culture that is committed to making stories like these a reality.

warby

The Customer Service Story: In one of their retail locations, a Warby Parker customer named Tess arrived to pick up her newly-ordered frames. An alert team member, recognizing that Tess wasn’t having a good day, chatted with her and learned that her car had been stolen earlier. The team member also learned about Tess’ favourite local bar during their conversation.

This is what Tess received in the mail shortly after leaving the store.

warby car

Again, similar to the Lego customer service story, this all came together because of an alert employee, but also consider something else…

The Takeaway For Your Business: For nearly a decade, I’ve said that building a world-class customer experience requires you to first design your employee engagement strategy. I don’t know for sure, but I’d imagine that Warby Parker has an operating budget that allows situations like this to happen. Furthermore, their employees most likely don’t have to build a ROI case to be able to have a small budget approved to make these organic customer interactions happen.

Can your company afford to allocate a budget for these types of gestures? Of course you can. After all, consider the ROI of this gesture. This story was picked up by Business Insider, Huffington Post, Consumerist and Reddit, websites that all receive millions and millions of page views.

This is why customer experience can be considered the new marketing and PR.

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RitzCarlton.svg

The Customer Service Story: A waiter at a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton in Dubai overheard a guest admiring the beach with his wife, who was in a wheelchair. Recognizing that the couple wasn’t able to enjoy the beach, he connected with the hotel’s maintenance team, and by the next day a wooden ramp was built so the couple could have dinner together on the beach.

The Takeaway For Your Business: In this particular story, the General Manager wasn’t made aware of the above-and-beyond customer experience until after the ramp was complete. Often, most business owners and professionals will want to approve such gestures. However, at Ritz Carlton, all employees have the green light to do so.

Conclusion

If your greatest concern is that you’re worried what your employees will do… well, then you have a much greater problem: you don’t trust your team.

All of these customer service stories have common themes:

  • All companies have reserved an operating budget to deliver memorable customer service gestures
  • All companies have given their employees autonomy
  • All companies have received free PR because of their efforts. Surely, your business can afford $20 (the amount I estimate that Warby Parker spent) to potentially land a story in Business Insider
  • All companies are admired because of their customer experience
  • All companies are industry leaders
  • All companies are massively successful

I want to hear your favourite customer service stories in the comment section below. What companies have delivered memorable customer service and what have you learned from them?

VIDEO – Customer Service Training 101: How to Build a World-Class Program

After building your customer-centric culture and learning how to properly recruit exceptional customer service employees you must then build your world-class training program.

In this video, I explain how to build a training program that will provide your employees with the education they need to exceed your customer’s expectations.

By watching this 3 minute episode you will learn:

  • How to develop “micro learning” to increase knowledge retention
  • The type of content your training program must have
  • What Learning Management Software (LMS) to use

Be sure to watch until the end of the episode as I ask my “Question of the Episode.” If you like the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are many more videos coming very soon.
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon.

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Video: How to Hire Motivated Customer Service Employees

 

Delivering an amazing customer experience isn’t reserved for only customer service employees, your entire organization must be committed to it.

In this video, I share tactics on how to hire employees who have a customer-centric mentality.

By watching this 3 minute episode you will learn:

  • What an employee muse is
  • How to create a highly targeted recruiting strategy
  • Ways to stop asking predictable questions when hosting interviews

Be sure to watch until the end of the episode as I ask my “Question of the Episode.” If you like the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are many more videos coming very soon.
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon.

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Video: How Any Employee Can Improve their Customer Service Skills

 

While in my early 20’s I got a job as a customer service agent working within a call centre. I didn’t grow up aspiring to be a call centre agent but I recognized that it would be a springboard to other career opportunities (if I applied myself).

In this video I share how I was able to get promoted four times in just under six years. I also share ways that I continuously improved my customer service skills as an employee which has led to a fulfilling career.

By watching this 3 minute episode you will learn:

  • How you and your team can learn from top performers
  • Ways to do more than just the minimum
  • Why management can’t be responsible for developing everyone

Be sure to watch until the end of the episode as I ask my “Question of the Episode.” If you like the video, I would greatly appreciate if you did the following (it will only take you a moment):

  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel. There are many more videos coming very soon.
  • Comment on the video. Let me know your thoughts, comments and questions.
  • “Like” the video by clicking the thumbs up icon.
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How Machine Learning Can Improve Social Customer Service

 


I wasn’t planning on writing this post but Twitter sent me a notification that Hunter Walk and many other tech influencers and VC’s started following someone called @TayandYou.

I was intrigued.

Who was @TayandYou?

As described in her Twitter bio, @TayandYou is a property of Microsoft and their AI family.

Tay

@TayandYou is powered by machine learning which is technology still in it’s infancy – a couple years away, in my opinion, from becoming mainstream. The way machine learning works, among other ways, is that the more it is used the smarter it gets. Essentially, it analyzes keywords, experiences and transcripts after each interaction.

Whenever I experience something new I always ask myself,

“How can this help customer experience?”

I suppose it’s a habit of my trade. So, naturally, I asked myself this question and started tweeting at @TayandYou. Here’s how our conversation went (I might have a date this weekend).

tay2

As you can see, it’s very good. What immediately caught my attention was the response times – it’s instantaneous. We know that response times in social customer service matter a lot so this checked one box.

Instead of asking her if I’m handsome will I one day be asking her when my pizza will arrive or to bring me my laundry?

We have technology like this today that act as early indicators that an ecosystem is developing. Two pieces of technology that is leading the pack, at least from a PR perspective, is Amazon, with Alexa, and Operator which has their artificial intelligence and machine learning working behind the scenes.

Then @TayandYou started showing her inexperience in human interaction (moving too fast?).

tay3
Okay, I will (I chose this picture to see if the coffee mug would throw her off).

tay4

tay5

Interesting. How did she know I was younger than 40 years old? Face recognition? Searching my online profiles? She didn’t recognize my customer service question very well but , either way, this is still good. Again, the response times were immediate.

Finally, one last thought provoking interaction with @TayandYou.

tay6Isn’t this what community managers do today (move conversations off timelines)? She started the sentence with “Yo!” This doesn’t bother me but it would bother my mother. I wonder if @TayandYou recognizes that because I’m of a younger demographic communicating with me this way is a personalized experience.

This is how I would like to receive social customer service. The primary reason is because the service level is very fast and that’s what I want when I’m delivered customer service through social channels. I would never want a robot making me a cocktail at a bar because I want the human interaction in that scenario.

I believe we are in the early days of humanotic robotics, machine learning (something I’m talking about in my keynote in Israel next month) and it’s relationship with customer experience.

Machine learning isn’t new. Zendesk announced it’s machine learning and predictive analytics feature last week. Service also has intelligence to help deliver a better customer experience.

For me, this is very exciting times and I’m anxious for machine learning to get smarter.

I have a question for you.

I’m a millennial and study emerging technology a lot. Do you believe that this type of technology will speak to an older demographic? I asked a colleague (someone who is 50+ years old) her thoughts on @TayandYou and she said,

“It’s weird.”

Do you think it’s inevitable or a too futuristic? Let me know in the comments below and share the post with your colleagues.

Update: I released the post and I guess it caught @TayandYou attention. As mentioned, I think it needs a bit of work (and social skills).

tay7
Her response *slow clap*.

tay8

Update #2:

It’s getting smarter – even got the emoji in there.

tay9

Update #3:

After @TayandYou went viral, Microsoft announced it’s artificial intelligence chat bot.

Update #4:

Microsoft has now deleted the account, here’s why. I’m not changing my stance on artificial intelligence helping serve customers in the future. As I mentioned, we are years away from this becoming the norm. The Ai will get better.

4 Simple Ways to Get Your Customers to Fill Out Your Survey (Without Incentives)

Some companies don’t use customer surveys within their business for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that they don’t believe their customers will respond.

Your customers aren’t responding because you’re not putting enough effort into it. Here are four small tweaks you need to make to immediately increase your customer survey response rates.

  1. More visibility: If you ask for in-store feedback then put the survey box in a high traffic area. Please understand I think all programs should be digital, not via a comment box, but I recognize some companies aren’t there yet. If you ask for feedback through email then change your email subject line. Make it fun and eye catching. Having “Survey: We Value Your Feedback” as your subject line will get you next to nothing.
  2. Advance warning: Leverage your frontline employees to plant the seed with the customer early in the relationship to make them aware that you will be asking for feedback. Let the customer know that you desperately need this feedback to continue delivering an amazing customer experience or to fix what’s broken.
  3. Timing: Make sure you are asking for feedback proactively and at the right time. For companies that operate a face to face business, try and collect as many email address and telephone numbers as possible. Whether you ask for feedback in person, phone or email you should aim to have the survey completed shortly after the customer experience. Doing this will allow you to recognize amazing customer service throughout your company and handle customer complaints immediately.
  4. Mobile: If you’re anything like me, I use my mobile phone for nearly everything including responding to surveys. Ensure that your survey is mobile responsive to make it an easy user experience for your customers.

Tip: For companies that are business to business survey your customers once a quarter or twice a year.

Double tip: In the beginning, don’t give out incentives to customers to fill out your survey. You want feedback from customers who are genuinely trying to help you not ones that are only trying to help themselves.

Triple tip: Use Net Promoter Score for all your customer survey needs.

Question: What one thing could you tweak to your current feedback process to increase response rates?

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