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Three Ways That “No Problem” Is a Big Problem

Last week, my family decided to try dinner at a local place that had just evolved from a pizza joint to a restaurant. We’ll have to wait and see how it survives — in the Darwinian sense — because its “evolution” was not yet complete. The food was tasty, but oh, the kinks in the service!

The staff was earnest, eager to please, but completely untrained. And I mean completely.

The busboy seemed to have high potential, but he needed instruction and explanation about how things are supposed to be done. He was thoroughly engaged in his work — so responsive, in fact, that I started to twitch. He came to the table frequently to pour water and clear dishes, and every single time we said, “Thank you,” he responded with, “No problem!” It was lovely that he wanted to acknowledge our thanks and make us feel comfortable, but it drove me crazy.

Good Service Anticipates, Engages with, and Resolves Actual Problems

The current prevalence of “No problem” as a customer service acknowledgment or sign-off drives me nuts. Here’s the typical scenario:

The Service Representative “completes” an interaction.

The Customer says, “Thank you.”

The Rep replies, cheerfully, “No problem!”

Problem #1: The point is not whether the Rep has a problem! Or even whether the Rep has successfully dispatched the Customer’s problem. The correct answer to “Thank you” is “You’re welcome.” Or, if you like something a little more personal: “I’m glad I could help.” And if you want to make sure the Customer has no further requests: “Is there anything else I can do to help you with this?”

You get my drift. The fact that the service person feels done, and wants to communicate that it was not a problem to have helped the Customer — well, that leads to…

Problem #2: Of course there’s a problem! And both the Customer and the Rep have it — that is, until the Rep can resolve it, or declares it unresolvable within normal work parameters. The Customer’s problem is actually a source of job security for the Rep.

So a much better response from the Rep could be “I’m glad I could help with your problem,” or “I’m sorry I couldn’t help with your problem” — acknowledging that, as expressed or defined by the Customer, a problem did or does exist. Otherwise, it sounds like the Rep is diminishing the importance of the Customer’s problem, which leads to…

Problem #3: It’s possible that the Rep means only to express humility and play down the level of effort that was necessary to cope with the Customer’s problem, as in: “It was really quite easy and no big deal to help you.”

And yet, to be able to provide satisfactory service really is a Big Deal! Most Customers would like to feel like a Big Deal and be treated like a Big Deal — because they want to matter, and to have their problems matter.

Onward and upward,


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