What Is Customer Service? Definition and Career Advice

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 28 August 2022

Published 2 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Good customer service helps improve a business's reputation and customer loyalty. Customer service representatives are responsible for solving customers' problems, answering their queries and helping them make purchase decisions. Knowing more about what customer service entails can help you enter this profession and excel in your career. In this article, we aim to provide a comprehensive explanation of what is customer service, and outline some common customer service interview questions with sample answers.

Related: Customer Service Soft Skills: Definition And Examples

What Is Customer Service?

Customer service can be defined as a one-to-one interaction between a customer and a business. This includes customer support at all levels, from the time of purchase to the completion of the life cycle of the service or product. Excellent customer service can improve customer satisfaction and increase sales through promotions and repeat business from loyal customers.

To deliver customer service that is comprehensive and effective, you need a combination of effective automated systems and approachable, knowledgeable customer service representatives. Businesses use several tools to deliver personalised customer service, including web applications, chat-bots, social media and text message support.

Related: Guide: What Does A Customer Service Representative Do?

Types Of Customer Service

These are some common types of customer service mediums that businesses use:

  • On-site

  • Email

  • Telephone

  • Social media

  • Automated chat-bots

  • SMS

  • Web-based applications

What Are The 4 Principles Of Customer Service?

To build effective customer service facilities, you may consider following these 4 principles:

1. Identifying the key metrics and monitoring them periodically

Identify the metrics that help you track the success or performance of your customer service strategy. Monitor these key metrics consistently and review your customer service processes from time to time.

For example, if you are tracking the efficiency of your customer support system, you may want to observe the first contact resolution rate and the average resolution time metrics. The first one tells you how many customers had their issues resolved with the help of the first customer service representative they contacted. The second metric tells you how much time it takes on average from the initiation of a query to its resolution. By monitoring these metrics, you can ensure that the efficiency of your customer support system is satisfactory.

Related: Customer Satisfaction: How To Measure and Tips for Improvement

2. Choosing tools according to your product/service/market

You can use a number of tools to implement your customer service strategy. Perform basic research to understand your target audience and choose the tools that best fit their needs. To be safe, it is recommended that you provide multiple methods through which customers can contact you. This ensures that your customer service strategy is inclusive and that your customers can reach out to you through the means they are most comfortable with.

For instance, retail businesses employ enough ground support staff to help and guide their customers in a physical store. On the other hand, e-commerce businesses mainly use telephone helpline numbers, email and chatbots for customer service.

Related: 15 Necessary Customer Service Skills and How To Develop Them

3. Tracking qualitative data to understand user experience

While your key metrics measure quantitative aspects of your customer support strategy, you also need qualitative feedback from individual customers. This helps you know how customers perceive your brand. For that, you can customer surveys with open-ended questions.

You can also monitor chatter about your brand, products or services on social media. Keep track of mentions and hashtags related to your brand to track the conversations your brand actively comes up in. This enables you to evaluate the effectiveness of your customer service strategy and how it affects your brand's image and reputation.

Related: 40 Interview Questions For A Customer Service Manager

4. Providing a consistent customer support experience

Depending on the size of your company, you may have a few customer service representatives or a large team of them. You are required to ensure that your customer service model provides a consistent experience to all customers, regardless of the problems they face. It is also important to ensure that the service representatives use the company issued scripts wherever possible to maintain the brand's voice.

For example, if you are providing a premium, high-end service, try to keep your interactions with customers formal and straightforward. But, if you provide a product or service that mainly appeals to the new generation, you can afford to get creative in your responses and maintain informal communication with customers.

Related: Summary For A Customer Service Resume (With Samples)

Customer Service Skills

Customer service skills are important for interacting effectively with any customer. If you are looking to enter the field of customer service, these are some basic skills that you are required to consider developing:

  • Communication

  • Empathy

  • Patience

  • Technical knowledge

  • Active listening skills

How To Develop Customer Service Skills?

Soft skills like patience and empathy are inherent to your personality. With a little effort, you can improve them along with hard skills like communication, technical knowledge and active listening skills. Follow these steps to develop some important customer service skills:

1. Improve your written and verbal communication skills

Practise reading and writing in your spare time to improve articulation and clarity in written communication. To enhance your verbal communication skills, you can listen to long-form media, like audiobooks and podcasts. Additionally, ensure that your communication is timely and appropriate.

2. Try to understand the customer's viewpoint

To be empathetic in customer service, you are required to look at situations from the viewpoint of the customer. Before suggesting remedies, consider asking relevant questions to understand customer concerns in detail. Try to gauge the emotions and motivations of your customers and craft responses that are ideal for their mood.

3. Be patient during your interactions with customers

To improve patience, you can start by identifying the situations or triggers that make you act impulsively. Once you have identified them, look out for them during interactions with customers. Evaluate situations thoroughly before making statements or taking action.

4. Increase your knowledge about the products and services you provide

Go through relevant materials like user guides and manuals so that you know all aspects of the products/services you provide. Many issues can be resolved by directing customers to the right information given within the user manuals. In case of common or recurring issues, consider talking to technicians to identify the root causes of the problems and to get expert help with solutions.

5. Listen to your customers attentively

After each customer interaction, you may be required to record information and follow up on tasks that may have come up as part of the interaction. You are required to be a good listener and try not to interrupt customers when they speak. Give them your undivided attention and try to understand their concerns fully, before responding.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

What Are The 3 Most Important Things In Customer Service?

These are some important things you are required to consider when providing customer service:

  • Ensure timely resolution: It is crucial to attend to customers' issues in a timely manner. You are required to value your customer's time and never keep them waiting for your service. You are also required to take any follow-up actions as early as possible.

  • Ensure ease for the customer: It is important to ensure that customer service is a single-step process for the consumer. When a customer seeks your help, you are required to ideally be able to resolve their problem on the same day.

  • Follow up: When you are required to transfer a customer to another department, you are required to still follow up with them to make sure that their issues were resolved.

Common Customer Service Interview Questions

When you are interviewing for a customer service job, your employer wants to know more about your personality and your past work experience. These are some common questions asked during interviews for customer service jobs:

What is customer service?

The answer to this question is required to illustrate your knowledge about the field and the work involved in customer service jobs. Your answer is required to be general and overarching so that it applies to all industries and domains.

Example: "Customer service refers to the communication between a company and its clients or customers. The communication may be in relation to any customer complaints, grievances or queries. Customer service representatives are required to address those issues and find positive solutions for their customers."

Related: How to Prepare for a Job Interview

What does customer service mean to you?

Here, the employer is trying to understand what your job role means to you on a more personal level. Feel free to share your experiences as a customer to highlight an incident or instance where you have availed of customer service successfully.

Example: “I believe that when I invest money in a product or service, the company has a liability to make the user experience smooth throughout the life cycle of the product. Their responsibilities do not end when I walk out of the store following a purchase. Similarly, their responsibilities begin prior to my purchase decision, in the sense that they might be able to provide all the necessary support to help me make that purchase decision.”

What does great customer service look like?

This question can be answered with personal anecdotes. But, if you can give a general example of good customer service, that is also a valid answer.

Example: “Great customer service is when a customer does not require to put in any efforts into the resolution of a problem, after their initial communication. It is required to be the company's responsibility to get customer issues fixed. The customer is required to not follow up repeatedly after their initial contact. Also, the resolution is required to happen within a reasonable timeline.”

Related: How To Write A Customer Service Manager Resume Objective

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