There’s a two-word phrase that tends to drive all of us at Signature Canada crazy, myself included. The phrase is “No problem".
It has happened to all of us: You’re being waited on at a restaurant, waiting for your room key or enjoying a spa treatment, and as an employee is delivering some kind of service you say, "Thank you" (as you were taught by your mother!) Though, she wouldn't be impressed by what has become an unfortunate response to thank you. After you say thank you for having your water refilled, receiving your room key or spa treatment, there is sadly a good chance the employee will mention, incredibly, "No problem." So, from this reply are you now to think that simply allowing service to be delivered is some sort of problem you've created, for which forgiveness should be granted? Should you feel relief that you've been excused (for being a client / a guest), by this person with a “No problem" absolution?
So, what makes “No problem” such a problem if, in fact, it is one? My opinion is that the literal meaning of “No problem" may imply that customers are causing problems at your establishment and whether they’ll be causing even bigger problems if they are brave enough to make yet another request after the one you just no-problemed. In other words, you can’t ask people to not think about an “elephant in the room” without making them picture such an elephant instantly. The “no” in the expression “no problem” has zero evocative power compared to the word “problem”, which has plenty.
Professionally, there are better and alternative expressions that can convey a more positive message and outcome. In the hospitality industry, negative words or phrases can sometime be interpreted as a pending issue or friction. I suggest replacing “No Problem” with: “I Would Be Happy To...”, “It's My Pleasure”, “I'm Delighted To”, or “Absolutely”. In a very informal environment, “You bet”, or “Any time” would sound better than “No Problem”.
Even when “No problem” is delivered cheerfully and genuinely, it still carries baggage with it: Saying “No problem” in response to a customer request implies that the customer, or what they're asking for, is a problem. Some clients also interpret “No problem” this way: “Hey, I was busy doing something but don't worry, even though you're interrupting me, I'll take care of you.”
Not convinced yet that, no problem is a problem? Well, when employees say no problem to a customer instead of you’re welcome (or any other suggested responses above) it's a serious problem that over time could be the equivalent of a business death wish. Think I'm exaggerating? How much money do you spend getting a customer to do business with you? How much energy and resources do you invest into making sure your property is spotless, products, pricing, displays are just right?
Now that we've established the enormity and consequences of these answers, make sure that no employee of yours ever causes one of your customers to think, even subliminally, that the mere fact that they do business with you could be some kind of problem. The only thing unique about your relationship with a customer is the experience they have with you, how they feel about doing business with you. Everything else is a commodity!
So, when does “No problem” help your business maximize the positive emotions of an excellent customer experience? The answer is NEVER! So, stop saying it, and train your employees to stop saying it. For help on how to implement new skills that stick, take a look at our Service Edge training program customizable to your specific needs.
Julie Charbonneau, Signature Canada Business Development and Training Director
We offer Canadian companies, personalized, sustainable and measurable business and training solutions which contribute to optimize income by developing sales and service skills dedicated to create memorable experiences.