AICEX: capita spesso che quando un cliente ringrazia una persona del customer service dopo un suo intervento risolutivo si senta rispondere “nessun problema”. Ma è proprio quando ti chiedono di non pensare ad un orso bianco che cominci a pensarci. In maniera analoga, di quella interazione con il customer service, al cliente potrebbe rimanere in mente solo un problema.
There’s a two-word phrase that tends to drive customer service experts, trainers, speakers, and thought leaders crazy, myself included. The phrase is “no problem”:
Customer: ‘Thank you.’
Customer service employee: ‘No problem.’
Customer service expert/trainer/thought leader: ‘ARGGH–you’re making my head explode!’
So what makes “no problem” such a problem–if, in fact, it is one? 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.
In other words, you can’t ask people to not think about a pink elephant without making them picture such an elephant immediately. The “no” in the phrase “no problem” has zero evocative power. The “problem” has plenty.
So, when I write a company customer service manual or conduct one of my customer service training programs, I instruct customer-facing employees to learn to use a different response: “You’re welcome.” “My pleasure.” “It’s my pleasure.” Even (if it’s a very informal environment) “You bet,” or “Any time.” (No, I don’t love those last two. But “no problem” is worse.)
But let’s not get carried away here
On the other hand, while I do think “no problem, along with its Aussie-flavored sibling, “no worries,” is a problem, I also realize that it’s become reflexive among young people, almost like adding “like” between every third (or second!) word. So I also caution managers who are opposed to “no problem” to avoid judging a rookie employee harshly for having a pre-existing “no problem” habit. The employee in question probably has a great heart for service and just needs a bit of instruction. It shouldn’t, for example, be a deal-killer for an applicant if they use it in the course of an interview (Talk about ridiculous: I have heard from imperious HR professionals who will disqualify an applicant for this reason. Which is overkill, and cruel.)
What do other customer service professionals think?
I wanted to make sure this wasn’t just my own lonely obsession, so I went ahead and asked some fellow customer service expert types for their own takes on “no problem.”
Bill Quiseng, a hospitality and customer service practitioner, is a confirmed “no problem” hater: “When you say, ‘No problem,’ your customer is thinking, ‘Why? Was there a possibility that it would be a problem?’
Experience designer Mike Wittenstein agrees: “Even when ‘no problem’ is delivered cheerily and authentically, 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 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.’”
Rupesh Patel, CEO of SmartGuests.com: “Here’s my stance. Professionally, there are better and alternative phrases 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.’ However, you may hear me exclaiming “no problem” when speaking in slang terms with friends or family. Because they know my demeanor and behavior, they understand what I’m talking about. We know exactly what Bob Marley means when he says, ‘No, Problem Mon.’ Just know when to say it.”
There was one voice in a surprising place who has grown to accept “no problem.” Diana Oreck, who helms the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, which trains leaders from many industries in the legendary Ritz-Carlton service practices and philosophy, tells me candidly, “My viewpoint today is this: I do not like ‘no problem.’ However, I think we have lost this one. The phrase appears to be so prevalent in day-to-day language, I’ve grown to accept it.” (For more information on how Ms. Oreck’s stance of acceptance fits with an overall strategy at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company of moving toward a peer-serving-peer, unscripted style of speech, check out my article here.)