Customer Service

The 4 cornerstones of great customer service

Written by Peter Jones

Chances are, if you’re interviewing for a position in customer service—whether as a customer service rep or another service role—you’ll be asked to define good customer service or to describe what good customer service means to you. This is one of the most typical questions (right up there with “tell us about your strengths and weaknesses”) for this type of position, so you should definitely be prepared to answer it—and answer it well.

Don’t panic. Here’s a primer for how to tackle your answer prep for this golden question. Make sure your answer contains elements from each of these major sections.


Whatever the product or company you’re representing, it’s best to have knowledge of it inside and out. Thorough intelligence about what it is you’re selling or supporting is an absolute must to deliver quality service to customers, whether you’re dealing with books, food, drinks, technology, ads, widgets, websites, or designer shoes. Mention the pride you take in knowing your product and inventory inside and out–that’s how you help consumers make the satisfying choices that will keep them coming back.


First and foremost, good customer service involves a good attitude. Greeting and farewell-ing customers with a warm smile or a genuinely friendly gesture are crucial for first and final impressions. Be sure to mention friendliness, helpfulness, and willingness to go the extra mile. Highlight how you’re not the type to just go through the motions, and how you’re willing to accept responsibility and blame and fix things whenever you can.


It’s not enough to just be friendly and pleasant; you also have to get things done. Mention how much you value your customers’ and your company’s time. Your promptness, reliability, and efficiency—particularly under fire—are all good to describe. Talk about how you have a deal with specific situations from your past in a timely and graceful way.


Customer service almost always involves a bit of conflict now and again. Sometimes you have to deal with problematic customers, and sometimes you need to solve particularly tricky problems for customers as they come up. Paint yourself as someone who will think outside of the box for a solution, and be prepared to describe how you have done this in the past.

Your ideal answer to this common question will cover all these bases. To sound well-prepared and interesting, make sure to throw in a real-life anecdote or two with good examples of just how you were able to practice these four virtues in the past. Then, tie it all together by speaking about how and why they contribute to your overall impression of what makes good customer service (and what makes you so good at providing it). You’ll impress with how well you prepared, and be one step closer to nabbing the job.

About the author

Peter Jones