Tell me about a time when a customer expressed displeasure in the quality of work they received. How did you handle this and what was the outcome?
Question forms part of
Other interview questions that are similar
Has a customer ever been unhappy with you?
How do you deal with belligerent customers?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
Customer service is an important part of any organisation. If your customers do not feel valued they will not be back. If your customers do feel valued they will return again and again – and when they do they will bring their friends.
Word of mouth advertising is invaluable to organisations. Multi million pound advertising campaigns pale in comparison to just having a loyal customer base who is delighted with your products.
That is why managing a quality service is one of the core behaviours that is assessed during the civil service application process, and that is why the interviewer might ask you the above question.
To quote our American friends; “you can’t hit a home-run every time”. Similarly an organisation is not going to be able to please the customer every time.
So what you do when the customer is not pleased is important and that is what the interviewer is looking for by asking this question.
The best approach to answering this question
This is a “Tell me about a time” question which means that answering using the B-STAR method will ensure that you hit all of the key attributes to score highly.
Let’s see how the technique works for this question:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts / philosophies around dealing with unhappy customers? Talk about how you feel that an unhappy customer reflects poorly on the organisation and you always look to remedy the situation quickly and professionally.
S – Situation – Briefly surmise what the problem with the customer was. Remember this is an interview so you will only have a limited amount of time to describe the situation. Keep it simple and steer clear of any long winding descriptors.
T – Task – What was your role in the situation? Ideally you will have had direct contact with the customer in order to rectify their problem. Try to choose an example where the customer is not unhappy with you personally and you are not attempting to rectify a mistake that you made.
A – Activity – What did you do to remediate the situation? List the steps that you took in helping the customer and explain why you took those steps.
R – Result – What was the end result? Good answers will talk about how the customer left extremely happy and became a repeat customer. The best answers will also talk about how you took steps to fix the underlying issue of why the customer was displeased in the first place so that this situation never reoccurs with other customers.
How NOT to answer this question
Do not avoid the question. It is easy to fall into the trap of saying that you ‘have never displeased a customer as you always offer exemplary customer service’, but that is not the question that was asked. The question is has a customer ever expressed displeasure in the quality of work they received. It does not say that you needed to have been the cause of the low quality of work only that the customer expressed displeasure. If you answer that no customer in your organisation has ever been unhappy then the interviewer is not going to believe you.
Do not argue with the customer. The customer might be wrong in their assessment and you might be in the right to tell that customer to get stuffed and hit the road, but that is a tough sell to make in an interview setting and without all of the facts you will come across as argumentative. Keep the situation simple; there was an issue, the customer was unhappy, you stepped in and fixed it, the customer was happy again.
Do not badmouth your organisation. When explaining to the interviewer what the issue is and the steps you took to resolve try to refrain from talking bad about the company you were working for. The organisation you are applying for will want loyalty out of their employees and if they see you besmirching your previous employer during an interview it shows them that you might do the same to them down the line. Also as you are leaving (or have left) the organisation it comes across as petty.
Tell me about a time when a customer expressed displeasure in the quality of work they received. How did you handle this and what was the outcome? – Example answer
“I believe that good customer service is key to the long term success of any business, keep customers happy and they will come back. That is why whenever a customer expresses displeasure in our service I immediately jump at the chance to make things right.
There was one occasion back when I was working at [redacted] flooring company. We had recently taken up a contract with a national chain to re-fit the flooring in all of their stores nationwide – so it was a really big customer for us. During one of the project update calls one of the store managers expressed concern regarding one of the floor fitters we had on site. The number of hours he was supposed to be on site did not tally with actual hours he was on site and the manager had concerns this would impact the quality of the work completed.
My primary responsibility for this project was to recruit and direct the sub-contractors in each of the areas that our customer had stores, so the responsibility for sorting this fell directly to me.
I immediately took action and confirmed that the manager was correct that the fitter was in fact shaving hours. I then enlisted the help of one of our most experienced and longest servicing fitters. We both travelled to the store in question to inspect the quality of the floor that was being worked on. While a serviceable job had been made on the floor it was not to the high standard that was expected from our organisation.
The floor fitter was let go and we brought in an experienced outfit to re-do the floor to the correct standards. In order to still make our deadlines we paid extra for this new outfit to work evenings and nights – extra costs were taken out of our end not the customers.
In the end the customer was extremely pleased with how we handled the issue and how quickly we acted to correct the problem. Once we finished the refitting of all the stores the firm actually picked up a bigger contract from the customer’s parent company.“