I Didn’t Think it WAS a Problem

In your day-to-day interactions with others, are there certain words or phrases that creep into their vocabulary that feel like fingernails on a chalkboard? Phrases such as:  

  • “Long story short” (The story was likely already too long)
  • “At the end of the day”
  • “Let me play devil’s advocate”
  • “We need to think outside the box”
  • “Let’s unpack this”
  • “It is what it is” 

I’m sure that you can think of additional cringe-worthy examples to add to this list.  

A Pet Peeve 

One phrase grates on my nerves probably more than any other. After thanking a service person for something they did, they reply by saying, “No problem.” Just writing the words “No problem” makes my eye twitch. And I hear it all the time in service situations. I always want to reply, “I didn’t think it was a problem.” And even though I would never say that out loud to the person, I’m always THINKING it, and that’s not good.

I remember dining in a nice restaurant a while back (pre-COVID). The person who seated my wife and me also turned out to be our server. We thanked him for showing us to our table and he replied, “No problem.” We thanked him for bringing us menus and he replied, “No problem.” We thanked him for taking our order and he replied, “No problem.” I lost count of how many times my wife and I weren’t a problem. It actually got to be funny after a while.

To be fair, we all fall into bad habits with certain phrases we use automatically. I know I do. I can’t tell you how many times a cab driver dropping me off at the airport says, “Have a nice flight,” and I automatically respond, “You too,” as though he had said “Have a nice day.” I feel like an idiot afterwards. It’s just an automatic response. We all do it sometimes. But “no problem” has become so prevalent that we need to get it out of our service vocabulary

So, What Can You Do About It? 

In one of your team meetings, in-person or virtual, bring up the topic of “no problem.” Make the point that serving customers isn’t a problem, it’s what we’re supposed to be doing. It’s why our jobs exist. Then, have the team brainstorm possible substitute phrases that can be used instead. Phrases such as:

  • “My pleasure”
  • “You’re welcome”
  • “Glad I could help”

The idea is to raise awareness of the issue and get the team to come up with alternatives. Next, challenge everyone to eliminate “no problem” from their vocabulary and use the substitute phrases. Encourage everyone to call out colleagues who are overheard saying “no problem.” (Out of earshot of customers, of course.) Have fun with it but be vigilant.  

Changing a habit is difficult. But if you work together as a team and focus on eliminating the “no problem” curse, you’ll be surprised by how quickly the problem phrase is replaced by more positive and appropriate phrases. 

Here’s something to think about: In your workplace, is “no problem” a common response to a customer who says, “thank you”? How can you get your team to use a more appropriate response?