The NO PROBLEM – Problem!

The NO PROBLEM – Problem!

I recently encountered a problem that I didn’t know existed. Are you aware that “NO PROBLEM” is a problem? 

Specifically the term can have a negative impact on the customer experience.

I was in a restaurant last week, having dinner with my family. We were eating at an earlier time, so the restaurant was relatively quiet. The couple beside us was very interested in our son, and we exchanged some nice light conversation.

When it came time for their meal to arrive, the Server put their plates in front of them, and our new friends said, “Thank you”.

In response the Server happily said, “No problem”.

The kind lady that we had been talking to (who was about 60-ish), looked at the Server and gently said, “I’m not sure when ‘no problem’ became part of common language, but I’m really not fond of the term”. The Server look confused. She stammered a little and apologized. “I just find it puzzling” our restaurant neighbour continued, “Maybe it’s a generational thing.” She turned to me and asked what I thought.

I was surprised to be brought into the conversation, but I was interested in the topic, and I felt for the Server who still looked confused. I added that, “No Problem” is an informal “You’re Welcome”. “It’s not intended to be insulting”. I also mentioned that I probably say it all the time without knowing it.

Our new friend explained her feelings. She said “Thank you” is a way of telling a person that we appreciate them. And it puzzles her (and her husband – who nodded) to hear “problem” in a response. She casually asked our group, “Why would I ever be a problem as a customer? Why should I be told that I’m not a problem? I should NEVER be a problem as a customer. Instead, I should be WELCOMED. It is a term of warmth.

The conversation ended on a positive note. As well, I must reveal that when we said “Thank you” for our meal when it arrived, our Server said “You’re Welcome” with a genuine smile. And it did sound great!

After this customer experience, I realized that this term is said quite frequently by people working in the Customer Service industry. And, I’ve started to understand how it has a negative connotation. I can’t say that it has the “irritant” factor for me, but I can sympathize with the people that it does.

Lessons to Improve the Customer Experience:

1. The first step to change is acknowledgement.

Yes, I acknowledge that I have been using a term in business that some might find irritating, and this could alter the way clients feel about their interactions with me, and this could impact their customer experience.

2. Change feels weird.

In responding to a recent client’s email, I paused just as I started to type, “Not a problem”. I then typed, “You’re Welcome”. In truth, it looked strange to me on the screen. So formal. But, I also realized that it probably looked odd to me because I am just not used to it yet. “You’re Welcome” is normal, and it communicates warmth.

3. Proceed with Caution.

Err on the side of caution. It’s quite possible that you have customers/clients that take offence to the “No Problem” term. Be mindful, if you decide to use it. 

4. Use common sense! Don’t eliminate informal terminology if your brand is WACKY and FUN!

I need to be clear that eliminating “No Problem” from every customer experience is not the answer. Why? Because FIRST you need to look at your overall company objectives.

When a company or organization is Strategically Aligned, EVERYONE clearly understands where the company is headed, the behaviours that are critical to company success, and what is needed on a daily basis.

This is why if WACKY, and FUN are part of your brand then “No Problem” is NOT a problem. Dick’s Last Resort is a small U.S. restaurant chain that is known for its “outrageous, surly, and energetic servers who dish out good grub, cold booze, and heaping helpings of sarcasm”. This restaurant may be on the far edge of the spectrum, but it is a reminder that they know who they are, and they know how to communicate it.

Leaders must be in-tune and diligent with the message that they are communicating to their teams, and customers. Only you can decide what phrases and terminology works for you. But it IS important, and should be part of your Branding and Training strategy.

Some Food for Thought:

  • Have you said “No Problem” to clients? If you’ve said it, will you continue?
  • If you’ve had it said to you, have you been insulted?
  • Does it matter how long you have known a client/customer, and what your relationship is with them?
  • Should the phrase, “No Problem” leave corporate vocabulary permanently?

If you liked this blog, check out:

How the Company METHOD is Building a Weird and Awesome Culture.
How to Create a Disengaged Employee in 4 easy steps.
10 Rules for how to be a “good employee“.

Need a little more inspiration? Get Pam’s eBook: How Social Media is Changing Business… and what to do about it. It’s free for email subscribers – and don’t worry, we promise not to spam your inbox!

1 Comment

  1. Shannon
    December 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    The no problem debate always makes me think of Data from Star Trek NG. When I hear no problem I think of it as a less creepy way of saying "my pleasure", when others hear it they, like Data, take it literally and hear the word "problem". I agree with that it offends people and should be used sparingly and carefully at best, unless in Jamaica where it is used frequently and happily. That said, I have often heard people recommend "my pleasure" as an alternative--personally that one often makes me feel uncomfortable. (I even once had a male customer take it very wrong!) I will stick with the traditional “You’re Welcome” as a safe bet!

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