Have you ever noticed employee use -- and often overuse -- of the phrase "no problem" as a blanket response when being thanked by a customer? To me, when used in a modern customer service setting, those words can be disagreeable.
Is my irritation for this now common idiom overblown? Testing myself and the validity of my discomfort with "no problem," I made myself jump through some critical thinking hoops. I decided to test this problem using critical thinking of my own thought processes. I asked myself the following types of questions for this test to make certain I was on solid ground:
• Is my problem generational?
• Am I showing the dreaded first signs of becoming a "square"?
• Would a quick bit of research confirm I'm not alone in my opinions for "no problem"?
• Could I demonstrate any harm or ill effects for those who routinely say "no problem"?
The Essence Of Service: It Lives Everywhere
The past decade has witnessed some arm twisting by the service gurus of Big Business as they sought to launch a service offensive to open our eyes to what service must be to survive in the new century. Their big-selling mantra rightly preached that, first, customer service occurs at all levels of an organization . . . living most large at the touch points that occur during the life of each transaction. It didn't matter if it was the receptionist kindly greeting the customer or the finishing team creating near-perfection in the shop or someone in accounts receivable accurately posting a payment to the customer's account. It was all service. Every little point was a critical contact point and, therefore, every single act and communication was vital.
The second point of the service campaign is that everyone in the service chain better have a genuine love for pleasing the customer, or they might be responsible for a breakdown and serious loss of revenue and good will. The service function must be at the heart of everything we attempt to do and with anyone we attempt to do it with. The rest was simply window dressing. This was sensible stuff for a change.
My job today is to convince you to take a fresh look at the presence of "no problem" in your business. Let me begin by admitting that I can be very exacting about communication in the workplace just as you would be about seam quality in the shop. Because of this, I can be very picky about words and their multiple interpretations. My complaints with "no problem" may seem subtle, but I believe a fresh listen with new ears is very much worth your time.
Like most other examples of workplace communication, this too can come down to how you say it. If you are an enthusiastic service pro and offer up a big, happy version of "no problem" that more closely translates into "There's not a thing I wouldn't do to make you happy, Mr. Customer, and this particular service act was no problem at all for me; in fact it was nothing but a pleasure to perform," then we have no beef. But that's not what I hear in the real world. Do you? What I hear far more often implies, "We do it for you; we do it for everyone."
If it weren't for the many versions of "thank you" your team receives, you'd be reading something else right now -- so let's first take a moment to acknowledge "thank you" and the many ways it can turn your day around. These two words are good to hear in a service setting although the actual expression predates today's typical service transaction by about 600 years. Believe it or not, in 1400 A.D. "thank you" was everyday medieval slang. You might have heard a young patron at a barbershop say, "Thank you for the extra-long bleeding today," or some overlord complain, "No matter how much I whip and whip and whip that serf, I can't get a thank you out of him." Nearly always, "thank you" indicates gratitude and satisfaction, although there are times when the tone of the "thank you" offers nothing but pure sarcasm and snarkiness -- always know the difference.
Why Does 'No Problem' Leave Me Flat?
My biggest issue has to do with the effect on customer perception and appreciation over time. If an employee is genuinely thanked and the employee then responds by indicating the efforts made on the customer's behalf were "no problem," it is virtually the same as saying all that you have done in successfully fulfilling your role as a valued fabricator of high-quality countertops is inconsequential.