Interview questions answered: Give an example of a time that you provided great customer service

The retail industry has become incredibly competitive. Customers always have a choice—they can shop online or offline, go to a big mall or a small store, and within each of these segments, they have dozens of options. Of course, price is important, but so is customer service, the way they are treated in the store, and their shopping experience. If they do not enjoy their time in the store (whether offline or online), they will shop elsewhere the next time.

Hiring managers understand the significance of providing excellent customer service. When interviewing for a job in a retail store, you will always be asked at least one or two questions about customer service. Now we’ll look at seven sample answers to one of these questions—possibly the most difficult one, because you must describe a past event in your response. At least, that’s what they’re asking.

They can also use different question wording, such as “Give an example of a time when you went above and beyond to meet the needs of an unhappy customer/patient.” or “How would you demonstrate your ability to provide excellent customer service to our customers?” However, they are always looking for the same attitude, and my sample answers should help you understand this attitude and eventually get the job. Let’s take a look at them.

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5 sample responses to the interview question “Give an example of a time when you provided excellent customer service.”

1. A woman stood, perplexed, near the perfume shelf. I was standing behind the cash register, but there were no customers requiring my attention, so I left my spot and approached the woman. She was concerned about the perfumes’ vegan friendliness, whether they had been tested on animals, and whether they contained any animal products. I carefully examined each bottle she was considering and discovered two vegan options—which wasn’t easy because you had to understand what different ingredients meant. But I had the knowledge and was able to assist her. She was overjoyed, and I felt good about going above and beyond for the customer.

2. My last job was in an electronics store, and I believe I did something that not every manager would commend. The customer chose an expensive washing machine, but based on their appearance and budget, it was clear to me that they were not wealthy. And I was aware that we had a competing product in stock, a washing machine from a lesser-known company, so you didn’t have to pay for the brand, but the washing machine had exactly the same specifications as the one they had chosen. We also did not receive any warranty claims for the less expensive option. And I decided to recommend this product to them, explaining that it was essentially the same thing with a 30% savings. They were extremely grateful for my advice and returned to our store several times. So, in the end, perhaps I made more money for my employer by assisting the customer in spending less the first time…

3. This is my first job application in retail, so I haven’t had the opportunity to provide excellent customer service yet. However, I understand what it means to provide such a service. It means paying attention to every move and gesture of the customer, essentially reading from their lips, and doing our best to assist them in making reasonable purchasing decisions. Above all, they should be made to feel welcome and heard while in the store. And I understand how critical it is to provide such a service in this competitive environment. I will make every effort to do so.

4. I recall working as the first line of technical support in a call center. As you might expect, many of those who called us lacked technical knowledge and couldn’t even describe the problem they were having. I was always patient, and with the help of targeted questions—asking them about different lights and signals on their devices and explaining everything clearly—I was able to help them identify the problem. Then I either addressed it directly or forwarded the customer to level 2 support if it was more difficult. I believe this was excellent customer service, and I received high ratings from customers in our internal system. When they called, many of them were upset and unhappy, but our interaction was so positive that they still gave me a high rating. This, I believe, demonstrates my ability to provide excellent customer service to your clients.

5. I have a lot of experience working in a busy restaurant that is packed from morning to evening. And the facility was frequently understaffed. As you can imagine, it was difficult not to keep the customers waiting for too long in order to meet their expectations. But I always gave it my all, to the extent that the circumstances in the restaurant allowed. I ran from tables to kitchen and back, having a great system in place, always serving guests in the order they arrived, minimizing wait times. Many customers appreciated my efforts and generously tipped me. While I appreciated their recognition, I also knew I needed to change jobs. It was simply too much for me, and the manager refused to hire another waitress to assist me. So here I am, applying for a position at your company.

When applying for your first job, explain how you intend to provide excellent customer service to their clients.

Everyone must begin somewhere. If they invited you for an interview, your lack of experience isn’t a deal breaker. But you can’t talk about a situation in which you provided excellent customer service. As a result, you have two options at this point.

One emphasizes the significance of such a service and explains what it means to you—how you intend to provide it. The second option is to describe a situation in which you received such a service from someone—in a store, a bank, from a flight attendant, etc. In both cases, you demonstrate that you understand what it means to provide excellent service, even if you haven’t done so yet—simply because you lack the experience and opportunity to do so in the past.

Note That: This is not the only difficult scenario-based question you will face during an interview for any decent job. Prioritization, dealing with pressure, dealing with ambiguity, and other tricky scenarios that occur in the workplace and when dealing with customers will be addressed. Check out our Interview Success Package if you want to stand out with your answers and outperform your competitors. Up to ten premium answers to 31 tricky scenario-based questions (plus more) will help you streamline your interview preparation, outperform your competitors, and ultimately land the job.

When describing your experience with excellent service, speak with enthusiasm.
What you say is important, but so is how you say it. They should not get the impression that you provided excellent customer service simply because it was expected of you or because your employer threatened to fire you if you did not.

On the contrary, they should get the impression that you enjoy providing excellent service, that it makes you feel better about your job, and that it adds some meaning to your daily routine in a retail store, call center, or onboard an aircraft. Try to be enthusiastic about your experience. Assure them that providing excellent service to someone has made you feel better about your own work. That’s the attitude they’re looking for in the best job candidates…

Athina Iliadis is a Human Resources Professional with over 25 years’ experience in corporate environments working for companies such as Pearson, LexisNexis, Hershey, and Reckitt. In her current role as a consultant working with clients around the world, she coaches managers and employees on HR issues, supports leaders in their business, produces content about careers, interviews, and job opportunities. She is fluent in English, French and Greek, and she holds a BBA with a major in HR from Université du Québec à Montréal. Find her on LinkedIn and at

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