Is “No Problem” a Problem in Customer Service?

Barefoot and going through TSA security at the airport, I hold my hands up over my head through the SkyScanner. I walk out and the light is green. I am free to go!

However, my carry on suitcase doesn’t pass the test.

I am pulled aside by a friendly TSA agent who opens my bag and says,

“A toiletry item set it off. I just need to take a look.”

As he’s digging through my bag, he asks me where I’m going.

“To Las Vegas to speak at a customer service convention.” (AKA #CCDemo with ICMI)

He smiles, “Ah, customer service. Now we’re talking.”

He stops digging through my bag and looks up at me. He says,

You know what I can’t stand about customer service? And, perhaps this is a generational thing because I’m older, but I can’t stand hearing, “No problem”! If I ask for help from a customer service agent and their reply is, “No problem”, I think that I am a problem. Is asking for help really a problem these days?

Talk about putting a mirror up in front of my face. I say this ALL the time to customers. Perhaps it IS a generational thing.

I laughed and replied, “You’re right. Customers are not problems and that phrase can absolutely be taken in a negative way.”

We continued to talk as he dug through my bag, finding nothing of concern. He smiles and sends me on my way to my terminal.

He’s definitely not the first to point out the “No Problem” problem.

Jeremy Watkin wrote an article titled, Does “No Problem” Belong on the Stop Words List?, in which he talks about alternatives to “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.

Micah Solomon in a Forbes article, Customer Service Experts Say ‘No Problem’ Is A Big Customer Service Problem–Here’s Why, says:

My opinion is that the literal meaning of “no problem” poses a risk that customers will wonder whether they are causing problems at your establishment, and whether they’ll be causing even bigger problems if they are brash enough to make yet another request after the one you just no-problemed.

Or, check out this Slate article written by Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg, It’s Not a Problem When Cashiers Say No Problem To You:

Whither the lost and genteel days of you’re welcome? you might fume, in your head, or on the internet, or heaven forbid out loud. How dare these youngstren/baristas/waiterettes say “no problem” to me? That suggests that I might have created a problem in asking them to do their job at me. It is no problem at all! I know it is no problem! I wish you would go back to saying “you’re welcome” at me instead, posthaste!

 That said, I know I’ll be working on nixing this habit simply because I do believe that while a generational thing, there are better ways to say “you’re welcome” than “no problem”.
What do you think? Do you say, “No problem” to your customers or is this on your “stop words” list, too?

 

 

Jenny Dempsey is the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on the Customer Service Life. When she's not helping or singing to customers, she is studying to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Be sure to check out DempseyWellness.org and follow her on social media!

6 comments

  • Great post! I have removed “no problem” from my vocabulary. For our teams, we haven’t mandated it but have been encouraging the use of positive alternatives (“my pleasure” or “you’re welcome”, etc.). NP sets wrong tone, it sounds like we’ve done a favor for the customer, totally the wrong way to sound – they did us a favor!

    • Awesome! That’s great to hear, Matt.

    • Thanks for reading my post, Matt. I agree, it does sound like we’ve done the customer a favor, which isn’t good! I really like what you’re doing here with your team. I’d also love to hear if your team comes up with other positive alternatives to use. Keep me posted!

  • Hmmmm…I’m not sure if I completely agree, but it’s certainly thought provoking. Drives me to really think about the words/phrases that are widely used and accepted within the service script as well as my own dealings with my customers and co-workers. Great article Jenny!!

    • Driving you to think is what I was going for! Thanks for checking out this post and for your comments. There are so many different reasons to eliminate various words or phrases – and it has to align with your company brand voice. I’m glad this made you think and would love to hear your thoughts on “no problem” sometime!

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