Does “No Problem” Belong on the Stop Words List?

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I wrote an article several months ago discussing the concept of Stop Words. These are words that we should stop saying in customer service and there are other, more positive words and phrases we should use in their place. I’ve had a number of great conversations about this concept in the aftermath of that article — one in particular that I keep returning to.

One person commented that “no problem should be added to the list of stop words. This one stopped me in my tracks because no problem is kind of my go to phrase for a lot of situations. You know, “Hey Jeremy, I had something come up and need to reschedule our meeting.” I respond with, “That’s no problem.” Or what about, “Thanks again for your help today”? It’s so easy to respond with “It was no problem.”

What’s wrong with no problem? Some would argue nothing. Granted, the words no and problem are both negative on their own. Could the mention of either of these words in any context trigger negative feelings for a customer? Others would argue that saying no problem somehow implies that it could have been a problem — that in some way you’re doing the customer a huge favor by helping them out. You’re going out of your way to do something that’s not necessarily required and you could just as easily have been inconvenienced.

Admittedly, no problem is a fairly common expression in the English language, and most likely 99.9% of the time it’s accepted by customers. But then again nope, can’t, won’t, unfortunately, and policy (my other stop words) are also fairly common in a lot of customer service conversations. What we’re angling for here isn’t the common or ordinary. We’re looking for WOW, extraordinary, awesome, or whatever word you’d like to insert to demonstrate the level of customer service we provide.

Let’s think about a few alternatives to no problem. What about some of these?

  • My pleasure
  • Of course
  • Absolutely
  • You bet
  • Anytime

None of these phrases could be construed as negative and that same can be said about individual words within those phrases as well.

I still don’t think I have strong feelings for or against the phrase. I tend to agree that if you can avoid saying no or problem to customers, that’s a really good thing. So what say you? Are you for or against no problem? It’s your turn to leave a comment and tell me if I should add it to our list of stop words or if I’m completely overthinking this one.

Jeremy Watkin
Head of Quality

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at FCR. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

10 Comments. Leave new

Michael Dinsmore
06/15/2017 7:15 pm

I can see for the other stop words you mentioned absolutely. However No problem feels more like its a context thing. I would address the words based on how No Problem is used. If a client of the company tells me “Thank you for your assistance” or “You’re a lifesaver!” I tend to say as a habit :Absolutely no problem” the tone inflects that I am happy to assist. I do admit fully however it may be one I use too much. Its definitely a consideration.

Jeff Toister
06/16/2017 8:13 am

I once had a conversation who was railing against the phrase, “No problem.” She didn’t like it, thought it wasn’t very service-oriented, and wanted her team to stop using it. The manager had just finished rattling off her gripes with that phrase when an employee of hers walked by and thanked the manager for doing something earlier that day.

The manager instinctively replied, “No problem.”

True story.

Lane Yerman
06/16/2017 11:10 am

I was raised by very old-fashioned parents. So old-fashioned that we watched old, black and white, reel-to-reel movies on a screen, and I was allowed to watch 2 television shows per day, when I was young. When we were taught manners, we learned that “you’re welcome” is the appropriate response to “thank you.”

When someone says, “no problem,” they’re saying that they went our of their way for you, not that is was a pleasure, not that they are happy to do so, but that it didn’t put them out. To say “no problem” when someone else is showing appreciation for a person or a deed is downright rude and should be stricken from all social interactions.

Steve DiGioia
06/18/2017 5:53 am

I can’t stand “no problem”. Add that to “hi guys” (especially when said to a restaurant table of women)

Jeff Toister
06/19/2017 7:16 am

This topic got a lot of comments on the Inside Customer Service LinkedIn group about a year ago. People are apparently passionate about it. Here’s the thread:

Jeremy Watkin
06/19/2017 3:20 pm

Jeff, thank you for including this! You reminded me that this is the reason I had this idea in the first place. I seriously had forgotten.

Marilyn Suttle
06/19/2017 12:59 pm

If it’s obvious that it was a problem, but you did it anyway (in other words, you moved mountains and they realize it) saying it was “no problem” is a humble way of showing you’re there to serve them no matter how difficult it may be. Otherwise, it’s a poor choice of words.

Jeremy Watkin
06/19/2017 3:19 pm

Marilyn, I love your angle on this one! Thank you!

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