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How to Respond to the Difficult Customer Question

Tell me about your most difficult customer service experience. How did you handle it and what was the outcome. What did you learn from the experience? If the situation occurred again, would you do anything differently?

For anyone in the customer service field, it seems that this question should be a piece of cake to answer. Itís almost impossible to work in the customer service field and not have at least one interaction with a crazy customer. Thousands of candidates, however, struggle with answering this very question from their first to their fiftieth interview.

Donít overthink the answer. Think of simple difficult interactions that you have had. If you were a cashier, did the customer not like the way you bagged their groceries? Did they get loud and call you stupid? Did they want to talk to your manager, but a manager was not available? How did you handle the situation? Did you offer to re-bag the groceries? Did you learn to ask future customers did they want everything in the same bag? Did you call another cashier up front because you needed to take a few extra minutes with this customer? Remember, the interviewer isnít looking for an all-out brawl with a customer. They just want to see how you handled a situation and if the customer left satisfied. This is what customer service is all about.

Do you think itís better to say that you have been lucky and never experienced an irate or less than happy customer? Believe it or not, that is hard for any customer service manager to believe and will definitely raise a red flag. Remember, weíve all been there. It could be the situation was a mild one or perhaps your personality won the customer over in the end. Perhaps you have such a laid back attitude nothing fazes you, remember itís not about you being happy, itís about what the customer perceived as a less than ideal situation to which you had to apply your excellent customer satisfaction skills.

Did you have to call a manager? This is OK as long as you did everything within your power to take care of the situation first. I interviewed a candidate that stated he escalated everything to his manager at the first sign of a customer problem. He figured that is what managers are there for and besides he knew he would have to get the manager anyway. Wrong move! He made no attempt to satisfy the customer. What manager would want someone calling their name every time there is a problem?

How far back do you need to go? There is no time limit on the situation, but make sure itís relevant. For example, if you have held jobs in supermarkets and restaurants, but youíre applying for a job in a supermarket, try to find an example from a supermarket Ė make it relevant.

Overall, the customer service question is not difficult and shouldnít stump most people in the customer service field, it just takes a little bit of reminiscing about your workÖjust tell the story.

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