Does “No Problem” Belong on the Stop Words List?

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on June 15, 2017 and received a lot of great comments on both sides of the argument. Click here to read the original post.

I wrote an article several months ago discussing the concept of Stop Words. These are words that we should stop saying in customer service and there are other, more positive words and phrases we should use in their place. I’ve had a number of great conversations about this concept in the aftermath of that article — one in particular that I keep returning to.

One person commented that “no problem should be added to the list of stop words. This one stopped me in my tracks because no problem is kind of my go to phrase for a lot of situations. You know, “Hey Jeremy, I had something come up and need to reschedule our meeting.” I respond with, “That’s no problem.” Or what about, “Thanks again for your help today”? It’s so easy to respond with “It was no problem.”

What’s wrong with no problem? Some would argue nothing. Granted, the words no and problem are both negative on their own. Could the mention of either of these words in any context trigger negative feelings for a customer? Others would argue that saying no problem somehow implies that it could have been a problem — that in some way you’re doing the customer a huge favor by helping them out. You’re going out of your way to do something that’s not necessarily required and you could just as easily have been inconvenienced.

Admittedly, no problem is a fairly common expression in the English language, and most likely 99.9% of the time it’s accepted by customers. But then again nope, can’t, won’t, unfortunately, and policy (my other stop words) are also fairly common in a lot of customer service conversations. What we’re angling for here isn’t the common or ordinary. We’re looking for WOW, extraordinary, awesome, or whatever word you’d like to insert to demonstrate the level of customer service we provide.

Let’s think about a few alternatives to no problem. What about some of these?

  • My pleasure
  • Of course
  • Absolutely
  • You bet
  • Anytime

None of these phrases could be construed as negative and that same can be said about individual words within those phrases as well.

I still don’t think I have strong feelings for or against the phrase. I tend to agree that if you can avoid saying no or problem to customers, that’s a really good thing. So what say you? Are you for or against no problem? It’s your turn to leave a comment and tell me if I should add it to our list of stop words or if I’m completely overthinking this one.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

6 comments

  • “No Problem” is quickly becoming one of my most disliked phrases. Whatever happened to using the proper phrase of “you’re welcome”?

  • A few years ago I replaced “no problem” with “my pleasure.” The results have been very positive! I encourage agents to do the same.

  • Many years ago while still working on the phones, I was told that I should avoid saying “No problem” and instead use “My pleasure”. I put this phrase on a post-it note on my screen and resolved to remember to work it into my regular vocabulary with customers.

    One day it was especially busy in the center, with calls queuing through the roof. My supervisor was prowling behind me, keen to get me onto the next call. I was on a rather sad call with a lady whose husband had passed away, and we needed to close off his account. I did this for her and at the end of the call she thanked me for my help. In response, I felt the urge to say “No problem”. So instead, I glanced at my post it note and in the heat of the moment, blurted out “My pleasure”. Suddenly it hit me how deeply inappropriate this was given the context of the call. Cue a lot of backpedaling, embarrassment, and resolving to be a lot more careful with my words.

    I think that “You’re welcome” is overall preferable to “No problem”. However, context is king and will dictate your language use with customers. I find it helpful to have a discussion with my agents about words and phrases we tend to use, what connotations they could hold to different types of customers (e.g. Millennials vs Baby Boomers), and what circumstances could dictate certain types of language. I find that this type of conversation helps equip agents to better handle situations like the one above, instead of just telling them to swap one phrase with another and assuming that will work out in all situations!

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