“No problem” is a problem for small business

It has happened to all of us: You are being waited on at a restaurant or buying a product at a retail establishment or returning something to a merchant, and as an employee is delivering some kind of service, you say, “Thank you.”

Good for you. Your mother would be so proud because you still say “please” and “thank you.” Life is so much better when we just do what our mothers taught us.

But somewhere along the way all of this kindergarten stuff got hijacked from the marketplace. It’s difficult to pinpoint where things ran off of the rails, but the bad news is after you say “thank you” for having your water refilled or your order completed, the employee says, incredibly, “No problem.”

So, from this response, are you now to think that asking for or simply allowing service to be delivered is some sort of a “problem” you’ve created, from which you should pray forgiveness will be granted? Should you feel relief that you’ve been redeemed by this person with “no problem” absolution? Clearly, the English language, at least the way Americans speak it, has devolved to a level that makes many feel nostalgic for casual. But when did the sublime “it’s my pleasure” turn into the sub par “no problem?”

Well, my friends, let’s get one thing straight: No problem is a problem. And for small businesses, when “no problem” is used in the conversation with a customer where “you’re welcome” should be, it’s a serious problem that, over time, could be the equivalent of a business death wish.

Think I’m overreacting 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 products, pricing, display, etc., etc., are just right? How many sleepless nights do you spend worrying about how to compete with the Big Boxes? Now that we’ve established the enormity of these answers, have you checked to make sure that no employee of yours ever causes one of your customers to think - even subliminally - that the mere fact that they are doing business with you could be a problem?

The only thing that is unique about the contact your business has with a customer is the experience they have with you - how they FEEL about doing business with you. Everything else is a commodity. Everything! So in what universe does “no problem” help your business maximize the positive emotions of a wonderful customer experience? It doesn’t, so stop saying it, and train your employees to stop saying it.

There must be 39 different ways in the English language to express your delight in serving a customer without saying “no problem.” Use them.

Remember: Please, thank you and you’re welcome. Otherwise, you’ve got a problem.

Recently, I talked about “no problem” being a problem on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to listen, and as always, be sure to leave a comment.

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