“What Does Customer Service Mean to You?” (Example Answers Included)

By Mike Simpson

If you’re applying for a customer service representative job, there’s a ridiculously good chance the hiring manager is going to ask you, “What does customer service mean to you?” Yes, it may seem like a weird question. After all, don’t they know what customer service is all about?

The thing is, this question isn’t about what they know; it’s about what you think. Plus, while it may look like they’re simply after a definition, that isn’t actually the case. There’s way more to this question than that, and it’s crucial to understand what’s up if you’re going to get your answer right.

So, if you need to make sure you can explain what great customer service means to you, here’s what you should know.

What Is Customer Service?

Okay, let’s start by talking about what customer service even is, to begin with. In the simplest sense, customer service is the act of providing support, guidance, or assistance to people who are intending to buy or currently using a product or service.

In a customer service position, you may answer questions, provide recommendations, troubleshoot issues, and handle similar responsibilities that are customer-oriented. At times, there may be some selling involved, too, but aggressive sales techniques aren’t part of the typical equation.

In the world of business, the importance of customer service can’t be overstated. Overall, 90 percent of shoppers factor in customer service quality when deciding whether or not to actually make a purchase. Plus, 92 percent of consumers are more likely to make subsequent purchases when they’ve had a positive experience before.

When you’re interviewing for a customer service job, the hiring manager wants to make sure you can represent the company well. You’re one of the faces of the business, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

During your interview, you need to showcase skills that align with the role. Customer service skills can run the gamut, ranging from communication and empathy to problem-solving and analysis, so it’s wise to tap on several areas along the way.

MIKE'S TIP: When you’re interviewing for a customer service job, your customer service skills may be on display even when you don’t realize it. How you answer questions clues the hiring manager in when it comes to your communication and active listening skills. The way you approach unexpected questions highlights your agility while sharing details about the company in your responses showcase your research capabilities. The hiring manager is paying attention, so use that to your advantage, allowing you to demonstrate your capabilities even when you’re not discussing them outright.

Why Does the Hiring Manager Ask This Question?

So, why is the hiring manager asking you, “What does customer service mean to you?” Mainly because they want to see if your perspective aligns with the company’s.

They aren’t looking for a textbook definition. Instead, the hiring manager is after something a bit more personal, letting them get a glimpse into how you think.

Common Mistakes When Answering This Question

As with all interview questions, it’s possible to make mistakes when you answer, “What does customer service mean to you?”

One of the biggest missteps is taking the question too literally. Again, the hiring manager isn’t asking for a dictionary definition; they want your perspective. While you can add some tidbits about how it’s actually defined, that shouldn’t be the core of your answer.

Similarly, focusing too much on the job description isn’t a great move. The hiring manager isn’t asking for a rundown of typical customer service responsibilities. They are after something deeper, ensuring they can get some clues about your mindset.

Finally, not discussing any examples of good customer service isn’t a smart move. While you can technically answer the question without one, you’re missing an opportunity to highlight why you’re amazing.

Whenever possible, segue into an example that showcases great customer service on your part. That way, you can give your response extra oomph.

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Tips for Answering This Question

At this point, you should have a good idea of what customer service is and why having an excellent answer to this question is crucial. So, let’s move onto how you can create a great response.

Here are three exceptional tips that can help you create a winning answer.

1. Talk About Why Customer Service Matters

At the start of your answer, take a moment to explain why you think customer service matters. When you do that, you show that you understand the importance of customer service, and that makes a difference.

In most cases, you can cover this with just a single sentence. By keeping this moment brief, you’ll have plenty of time to dig deeper.

2. Share an Example of Excellent Customer Service (and How It Made a Difference)

Examples speak louder than anything else during an interview. It lets the hiring manager “see” you in action, creating opportunities for them to learn more about how you would perform in the role.

Ideally, you want to choose examples of good customer service that connect with why you think being exceptional in this area is important. One of the best options is to talk about a time when you made a real difference for the customer. A standout moment can be very powerful, especially if it’s unique.

3. Research the Company’s Customer Service Position

If you want more information that helps you align your response with the hiring manager’s needs, look no further than the company’s customer service position.

By reviewing formal policies along with mission and values statements, you can get a ton of insight into the company’s perspective. Once you get that worked out, you can see if the company’s priorities align with your own, as well as what it will take to align your answer with that position.

How to Answer the Interview Question “What Does Customer Service Mean to You?”

Alright, it’s time for what you’ve been waiting for: an overview of how to answer, “What does customer service mean to you?”

As we mentioned above, the response needs to be a little personal. Spend some time reflecting on your customer service experiences, both as an employee and a consumer. Think about what really made a difference and how any actions reflected on the company.

After that, you need to go with the right strategy. By using the Tailoring Method, you can figure out which customer service examples and skills best align with that specific job. It makes your responses as relevant as humanly possible, and that matters.

Once you have some examples in mind, quantify the details. Numbers add a level of precision and give the hiring manager critical context. Plus, they make sure you aren’t just saying you were successful; they help you prove it.

Try to get at least one metric into your response. That way, your answer will pack as much of a punch as possible.

Want to see all of those tips in action? Great! Here are three example answers that you can use as inspiration.

1. Retail


“In my eyes, offering exceptional customer service doesn’t just help a company stand out from the competition; it also boosts customer loyalty by making buyers feel welcome, cared for, and supported.

To me, customer service means giving that little bit extra. While going the extra mile is important, so is going that extra inch. Every action matters, and even small ones can have a substantial impact.

When I was working as a retail clerk at a clothing store, a woman came in who appeared a bit nervous. I greeted her warmly, offering my assistance. She approached and said that she’d recently experienced a significant weight change and wasn’t sure how to shop for her new body type.

I told her that I was happy to help guide her. After asking her about style preferences, I gathered five tops and bottoms for her to try on. We used that as a starting point. As she found pieces she loved, we built on those successes. It was a methodical process but also an emotional journey that spanned over an hour, and I was by her side the entire way.

After she was finishes picking out her new outfits, she was both elated and relieved. Not only was her shopping trip a success, but she had a newly found confidence, which was far more than she expected. It led to a $500 sale, as well as a new sign-up for the store card, and she even referred three friends to our store.

That’s the customer service experience I aim to emulate every day, as I genuinely think that’s a prime example of what customer service means to me.”

2. Restaurant


“Great customer service has the ability to take a challenging situation and turning it into something amazing. That’s the foundation of loyalty, as it shows the company will go the extra mile, all in the name of customer satisfaction.

In my last position at a local diner, we had a day where we were unexpectedly shorthanded. This led to long wait times for customers, both when it came to being seated and after ordering.

I wanted to do what I could to mitigate the frustrations. I began by frequently communicating about the wait times, ensuring customers understood the nature of the situation right away. That was surprisingly effective on its own, as those who decided to dine with us that day weren’t caught off-guard by any delays.

After that, I arranged to speed up drink services. We offered beverages to those who were waiting to be seated, making the up to 45-minute wait more comfortable.

Additionally, we handed out menus to those in the waiting area, allowing them to make decisions about their meal in advance. Together, the drinks and menus change cut down the time the diners spent at the table by 15 minutes, leading to faster turnover while bettering their experience.

All along the way, I focused on keeping a positive attitude. I showcased my appreciation for their patience, a small gesture that has a major impact on mood. I also remained diligent, checking in regularly to make sure they were happy.

I required a lot of effort, but, in the end, customer satisfaction remained high. In many ways, that outcome is what customer service means to me; the ability to work through a challenging time while keeping the customers happy.”

3. Call Center


“Customer service isn’t just about making customers happy; it’s about ensuring they feel heard. When that happens, the company’s reputation reaches new heights, as everyone feels respected and valued.

When I was working in my last call center position, I received a call from a customer who wasn’t just frustrated, by incredibly stressed. The product – which was used by her young son – wasn’t working properly, causing him to become upset.

During our conversation, I worked to learn more about the nature of the situation. Along the way, I discovered that her son had a challenging medical condition, and the product was a primary source of comfort to him during a trying time.

After learning that detail, I reached out to my manager to see what options were available, explaining the nature of the situation. We discovered that the customer’s issue was repairable, but it required a hands-on approach.

My manager was able to coordinate with other teams swiftly, finding a person who could head out to fix the problem right away. In just two hours, everything was working correctly once more.

Actively listening to the caller created an opportunity to go the extra mile. I took that lesson to heart and, in the end, use the experience as a reminder of what customer service can genuinely mean.”

Putting It All Together

Now, you should have a solid idea of how to answer “What does customer service mean to you?” Use those tips to your advantage. That way, when your next interview rolls around, you’ll be ready to shine.

Good luck!

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About The Author

Mike Simpson

Co-Founder and CEO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Mike is a job interview and career expert and the head writer at TheInterviewGuys.com. His advice and insights have been shared and featured by publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, CNBC and more as well as educational institutions such as the University of Michigan, Penn State, Northeastern and others. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.