The Problem with ‘No Problem’

On one of the workshops I was delivering last week we were discussing the use of positive language. One of my pet hates is the response “no problem”. So we got into a discussion on why “No problem” is a problem…

Firstly, our brains are not very good at processing negatives. So, if we tell someone not to worry, tell a child don’t spill your drink, or a customer there’s no problem our brains focus on worry, spill, and problem.

Secondly, people think of you and associate you with the words that you tell them to associate with you. It’s no accident that in advertising you see words like luxury, easy, fresh, safe, exciting, etc.

This means you can plant the image in your customer’s head of what or how you’d like them to think about you and/or your business.

For example, if you offer a service or any kind of help, although you might solve your customers’ problems you certainly don’t what them to associate you with problems, but rather with help, helpful, solutions, easy.

If you offer accommodation depending on what your customers value most you may want to be associated with a good night’s sleep, comfort, relaxing, peaceful, pleasure, value, convenience.

If you’d like your customers to associate you with pleasure, use the word pleasure frequently. For example, when someone says, “thank you”, rather than responding “no problem” respond “my pleasure”.

In other words, people will associate you with the words you tell them to associate with you. So, unless you want your customers to associate your business with problems, stop your team using “no problem”!

Instead, start by identifying 4-5 words you’d like customers to associate with you/your business. Of course, every business will be different, and you want your customers to associate you with something that differentiates you from your competitors. If you have clearly defined values you probably already have some of these words already.

Then weave these words into conversations as often as possible.

So, the example of a helpdesk might use some of the following phrases:

“Yes, I can help you with that”,  “Let’s see how I can help you with that”, “Let’s see what we can do to help you with that”, “If we do x would that help you?”, “I’m glad we could help you”, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Give your team visual cues to remind them of the words to use. Although I’m not a fan of scripts, you can still encourage the use of these phrases in opening lines and closing lines of any customer conversations.

Action

If you only do one thing: Listen to how often your team say “no problem” to customers and find an alternative phrase for them to use which better reflects what you’d rather your customers associate with your business.

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2 thoughts on “The Problem with ‘No Problem’

  1. Dale Blosser

    Caroline, this has become a major issue in the States. I do not think I have heard, “You’re welcome,” for months…maybe years. Whenever I say, “Thank you,” I ALWAYS hear, “No problem,” back. It’s a part of the casualness trend of the English language. I call it “Blue Jean,” language. Maybe we need to offer “Politeness and Social Etiquette” classes in our schools.

  2. Sherry Woodhouse

    Interesting perspective. Our property is in Jamaica and “No problem” is almost like a national slogan. It is our way of trying to let people know we are taking care of them. Hearing your perspective, however, does give cause for thought. Great article.

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