Whether you are bringing aboard new live chat agents or setting up your live chat dream team for the very first time, you want to make sure that you are hiring agents that will have a positive impact on your team and your customers. These live chat interview questions and answers will help you get to know your prospective agents, and decide if they are the best match for your company.
In your opinion, what makes for great customer service?
This first question gives your interviewee a chance to show off their understanding of the customer service industry. It provides key information about how familiar your candidate is with the role, and whether they know the basics of what will be required of them as a live chat agent.
A winning response might sound something like this:
“Great customer service means listening to your customers. It means empathizing with them and their experiences, and working hard to find the best solution to your customers’ problems. It means knowing how to de-escalate a situation with an angry customer, and using problem solving skills to make sure that everyone walks away from the interaction satisfied.”
[eBook] The Guide to Becoming a Top Performing Live Chat Agent
Average handle time is of great significance to customer satisfaction. To further reduce first contact resolution, here we offer 12 essential tips for live chat agents to communicating effectively, addressing customer issues efficiently, and representing your brand professionally. Download Free
Tell me about your previous work experience in customer service.
Yes, you could probably find this information on your candidate’s resume—but it’s most valuable to hear from them in person. This is because it gives your candidate the chance to explain the nuances of their experience, what their role was in their former position, whether they enjoyed it, and any information that they may not have included on paper.
Plus, not everyone will have previous work experience in a traditional call center or with live chat, and asking candidates this question gives them the chance to bring to light what parts of their former experience have prepped them for being a live chat agent.
The beauty of customer service is that it’s a vast field; any interaction where you help fulfill and serve a customer can count as customer service. This means that you can find valuable experience in candidates who come from a number of other areas, including waiting, teaching, cashier work, accounting, healthcare, and more. A lot of good communication principles applied to other settings are transferrable skills in customer service as well.
How this question is answered will depend entirely on the person. You can work out whether an answer is satisfactory or not by reading between the lines to see how well their skills can be applied to the job role. Here’s an example of how one qualified candidate might respond:
“I’ve been working with customer service since 2012. I’d say that my introduction to customer service was during the two years that I spent working as a waiter at the Golden Apple. That’s where I first learned how to listen and talk to customers. I would take their orders, communicate their orders back to them, and then pass that order onto the kitchen staff. If a customer didn’t know what to order, I would use my knowledge of our menu items and the customer’s needs (I would ask them what they were in the mood for) in order to make a satisfactory recommendation. From the restaurant I went on to work as customer support staff at Allen’s Sporting Company, where I eventually became head of the Team Sports department. I helped customers find items and answered questions about different team goods, such as youth sports uniforms, soccer balls, tennis racquets, etc. I was employee of the month 6 times during this experience, thanks to the overwhelmingly positive feedback that I received from customer surveys.”
What skills could you bring to our live chat team?
This question gives your prospective live chat agent a chance to reveal a bit of their skill set, and show their knowledge of why certain skills matter in the industry. It shows what exactly they are committing to bringing to the team, and delivering to your customers.
An example response might look something like this:
“Well, I’m an excellent communicator. I’m a compassionate person. I’m dedicated, hard working, and a perfectionist. When I’m solving a customer’s problem, I do everything I can to help them. I know how it feels to be a customer, and I know the experiences they are looking for. I know that I can give that to them.”
What do you know about our product or service?
Before a job interview, it is good to go in with some knowledge about the business. This question will show you that your interviewee did their homework. It will reveal whether your candidate has the ability and desire to learn about your product and company, and whether they are a serious applicant. A variation of this question is, “Have you tried our product or service, and what did you think of it?”
Here’s an example response:
“So, I know that you guys make quality backpacks and other camping, travel, and outdoor gear. I haven’t bought any products from your company myself, but my sister is a big fan. I am also familiar with several of the brands that you sell, such as Kelty.”
What is your experience with multitasking, and are you capable of handling multiple systems/chats at once??
Since live chat systems allow for agents to be on multiple chats at once, your candidates should be comfortable with multitasking.
Fortunately, most millennials are familiar and comfortable with handling several tasks at a time. And many of them are already used to engaging with multiple contacts at once on social chatting platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, or iMessage. While this may not be the same as your live chat interface, it can still be a valuable experience.
“I’m very comfortable with multitasking, and I believe that I am absolutely capable of that. As a waiter I had to take care of multiple tables at once, while making sure that all tables had an equally satisfying experience. I believe that this skill would translate well to live chat.”
Have you ever served a customer over live chat before, and what are some of the skills you might need in order to succeed as a live chat agent?
Live chat customer service is rapidly becoming a norm. That being said, not every company has adopted it yet. Even if your candidate has prior experience in a call center, they may never have attended to customers over live chat before.
This question will show whether your interviewee is aware of the skills that make an excellent live chat agent—skills which differ in many ways from those needed to fulfill traditional phone or in-store support.
Here’s an example response:
“No, I have never served a customer over live chat before. I am a fast typer though—that’s something that I imagine you need to succeed with live chat in particular.”
What kinds of customer service systems have you used, and how familiar are you with them?
This question will reveal whether an agent is familiar with specific customer service systems, and will show how much additional training that they will need in order to become well-oriented with your live chat solution.
Like the question before it, if a candidate doesn’t have experience with this system then it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. If they do, however, then this candidate may be more easily trained and more quickly oriented.
Let’s go back once more to an example response:
“Yes, I’ve used a CRM (customer relationship management) system to track online orders before. Our company had a policy that all interactions needed to be logged there, and I came to understand the importance of looking at a customer’s history before putting together a response to their query.”
Alternately, you might get an answer like this one:
“I haven’t used any in the past. I am willing and eager to learn, though.”
Unlike in a traditional call center, you cannot hear a customer’s tone over live chat. What are some of the cues that you can look for over live chat to know how a customer is feeling?
A big part of being a live chat agent is being able to sense a customer’s emotions. An agent who can perceive a customer’s emotions can take better care to avoid agitating an already frustrated customer. They also have the ability to recognize when more passive customers aren’t quite satisfied with a solution, and to help them express what they want.
Since live chat is based primarily on written text, your candidate should be more or less familiar with typed cues that reveal a customer’s emotions. Here’s one answer that a prospective agent might give that hints at this ability:
“Well, you can watch out for an ellipsis (…); that to me seems like an indicator that the customer is waiting for you to say something (when standing alone), or that they’re hesitant in some respect (when at the end of a sentence). If a customer responds in all capital letters they are probably very upset. How they use exclamation marks and smiley faces can also be telling of satisfaction levels.”
What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to interacting with customers?
This question is classic pre-hiring requisite, but with a customer service spin. It should reveal not just an interviewee’s strengths and weaknesses in general, but also demonstrate an awareness of how to treat and deal with customers.
Take a look at how our example candidate does that:
“Well, I am a people person. I enjoy approaching and talking to customers, and making sure that they get what they need. I love solving their problems. I’d say that a weakness that I have when interacting with customers is knowing when to give up on trying to solve a problem. I’m working on learning when to call for backup when necessary.”
What is your experience working as part of a team, and what does teamwork mean to you?
Live chat is not a solo game. Without effective teamwork, your prospective agent will have a tough time learning, communicating, and sharing knowledge with their team members and supervisors.
Also, a candidate who is not interesting in helping their teammates will probably not have enough interest in helping others to be a part of your operation. Another way to pose this question is, “Tell me about a time where you worked well in a team.”
One might respond like this:
“When I worked at Allen’s Sporting Company, sometimes the checkout line would get slammed. If I got called to help out at the cash register, I was always there without fail. Also, in my restaurant experience, I would sometimes cover a colleague’s table if they had to leave early. To me teamwork means being there for your coworkers, and providing them support whenever necessary.”
What was your proudest moment helping a customer?
This question should be answered with a specific story of a customer interaction, and should show a candidate’s ability to empathize with and genuinely help their customers. It will reveal whether that person is willing and able to go the extra mile.
This question also sets apart caring individuals and individuals who thrive on challenges – both of which are desirable attributes for a live chat agent.
“My proudest moment helping a customer was one time when a customer arrived at our store extremely upset because nobody had been able to give her the information she was looking for. She was trying to find a specific soccer ball, and a different rep had sold her something completely wrong. I was able to find the product that she was looking for, and gave her a free coupon discount to compensate for her troubles. She wrote me the nicest review I have ever read… it was a really fulfilling moment.”
Think of a situation where you couldn’t get the customer exactly what they wanted. What did you do to ensure their satisfaction?
This question should point to a prospective agent’s ability to negotiate with the customer, and use their resourcefulness to come up with a workable solution. It also tests their understanding of company rules and processes, and their ability to get good solutions within the bounds of these.
“One time a customer had a coupon for 25% off, which they had gotten online. Unfortunately however, the coupon was only available for online purchases—not in-store sales. I took care of the customer by placing an order online for them, and helping them input the code. Although they couldn’t leave the store with their item, they got the discount that they were looking for.”
How well do you work under pressure, or in high stress situations? What do you do when things are getting tense?
Live chat is not always a walk in the park. Some companies are constantly busy with live chat messages; others have peak seasons, where the department gets slammed. Even when there is low website traffic, certain conversations with angry customers can have a high-stress level.
It is important to hire an agent who keeps their cool in times of stress, and who knows how to continue on instead of breaking down. Looking for an answer that provides specific tools and techniques for handling this situations is a must; don’t just accept “I handle these situations fine,” as an answer.
The ideal candidate might say something more like this:
“I’m familiar with working under pressure. In the restaurant business, that was something that we had to deal with every weekend – a large amount of customers, customers who were sometimes upset about the wait time or with the food they had ordered. Typically I just practice the rule that ‘the customer is always right’. I use smiles and apologize as needed to sort of ease the stress. I also practice breathing exercises when I’m alone to release some of my own stress.”
Tell me about an experience where you had to de-escalate a situation with an upset and/or angry customer, and how you handled it.
De-escalation is an important part of customer service, and if handled properly can even be extremely rewarding. The ideal candidate will remain calm and respectful, while working hard to provide the best experience possible for this customer.
Here’s an example:
“One time at Allen’s Sporting Company, a customer couldn’t reach an item. They tried climbing the shelf, which broke, and they fell down. The customer was furious, and I think also really embarrassed. I was the first one on the scene. In the end, I ended up taking care of that customer. I heard them out and apologized as they yelled. Then I got them a sizable discount coupon to compensate. The representative who was supposed to be taking care of that section of the store was absent, so the trouble really was on our end. The customer left satisfied.”
After a calm morning, the queue is suddenly through the roof. You were hoping to go on break at noon, but your teammates need help tackling the surge. What do you do?
This is another question that emphasizes the importance of teamwork in this position.
Here is how your interviewee should respond:
“I would stay longer and help the rest of my team take down the queue. It’s not like I’m going to skip lunch—I can always break a little later.”
What is more important, the speed at which you wrap up a chat, or solving the customer’s issue in a single interaction? Why is that so important?
The most effective customer service teams tend to value first contact resolution before above many other metrics. This is because customers who have to make repeat contact will not only be considerably less satisfied – they will also end up increasing the queue and ultimately taking up more time and resources.
The ideal candidate should understand the importance of solving a customer’s issue the first time. Here’s how they might show this:
“Solving a customer’s issue the first time is more important. If you can’t help a customer well the first time, then you’re basically going to end up giving your team double the work. Also, your customer will probably be upset if they have to ask for help with the same issue twice, and won’t have as much faith in your company or the ability of your representatives.”
Think about a time where you have had a good experience as a customer, talking to a customer service representative. What made that experience so good?
If an interviewee can tell you what they as a customer have enjoyed from customer service, then it is likely that they will strive to bring the same kind of service to the table. A candidate who can imagine being a customer can relate to your customers, and empathize with their struggles.
Here’s a successful example:
“The best experiences that I have had as a customer have been when a representative was very warm and friendly. They had a good sense of humor, and were very helpful. It felt like a friend giving me advice, not an employee giving me assistance. Also, when they are able to show a lot of knowledge of the product, I walk away feeling great—like my purchase was a good decision.”
You have noticed a reoccurring problem or complaint amongst your customers. What do you do?
Customer service isn’t only about fixing a customers’ problems – it’s a platform through which customers can express themselves and even give your company advice. While helping customers is a must, an agent who is willing to go the extra mile and help prevent these problems from happening in the first place takes the cake.
This question reveals whether your interviewee has the determination and communication skills it takes to make sure that problems get forwarded to the proper channels, and that systematic issues get geared towards permanent resolution.
Here’s an example response:
“I would report the complaint to my manager to make sure that it got solved. That’ll mean less trouble for the customers, and less hassle for us in the long run.”
What do you hope to get out of your experience with this company?
Every job experience is an opportunity for learning and growth. This question will reveal a prospective agent’s desire to learn and contribute to the company.
Some candidates might just be looking for a live chat job as a stop-gap, rather than a career. That might work just fine for your business. On the other hand, if you’re looking for employees who’ll want to stay for the long term, asking this question upfront means you can be clear on that expectation. This question will then help you find those keen potential employees who are looking for opportunities to grow and progress in your organization.
An ideal candidate might answer something like this:
“I hope to learn new skills that I can use in customer service and in life. I also hope to contribute my own talents to your team, so that we can mutually grow. I am also interested in the possibility of upward mobility within your corporation, and am eager to see where this position might take me.”
Tell me about a time where you have used feedback of your performance from a supervisor, colleague, or customer in order to make a change for the better.
An agent who cannot receive feedback or constructive criticism cannot grow. You want your prospective agent to show that they take feedback into consideration, and use it to better themselves, rather than letting it fall on deaf ears.
Here’s an example of a successful response:
“One time, a customer criticized a tone that I used with her. At first I thought that she was just saying that because she wanted to criticize someone. But then, after she left I sort of started examining myself. I realized I was kind of having a rough day, and that my tone might not have come off as friendly as I had intended it. I perked up, and spent the rest of the day making sure to not transmit any negative energy onto my customers.”
What have you done at your current company to improve a process, save time, money or resources?
The best live chat candidates will be able to look beyond their interactions with customers, and put their skills into practice in other areas. This question will reveal creativity, problem solving, resourcefulness and initiative amongst your candidates.
Here’s an example:
“At my last company, I noticed that a product that was often stolen was sports jerseys. Team sports was a department that was often targeted because it was so close to the exit. Since our company didn’t have any sort of tag or alarm on these jerseys, I suggested to management that we begin tagging this product, despite it being below the value that we usually tag. Two months later, our losses were down 25%.”
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This question can tell you more about your candidate’s personal goals, and reveal any desire to grow within the company.
If they see themselves pursuing a dream of theirs down the line rather than being the best live chat agent that ever existed, don’t take it as a deal breaker. It’s an opportunity to better know your candidate, and see what drives them.
Check out this example response:
“In 5 years I hope to have earned my MBA. I hope to see myself working my way to the top of a successful company, and volunteering with youth sports organizations in my off time.”
What do you enjoy about customer service?
Prospective agents should know that customer service is ultimately helping real people find solutions to real problems. They should not only have the mind for customer service, but also the heart. Ideal responses include that they enjoy helping people, interacting with people, or that they enjoy solving problems.
Here’s our last example:
“I enjoy customer service because customers are everywhere. They come from all walks of life, and they are everyday people. I love meeting them, and I enjoy the process of trying to help make their lives as easy as possible. I love to help people. I also enjoy the challenge of providing solutions to difficult situations, and helping the customer and the business leave with a win-win.”
You can tweak these questions or use them as is. The important thing is that you are bringing agents aboard who care about people, who want to help your customers, and who have the dedication and problem solving skills that it takes to see an issue through to resolution.