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I was cruising the web as I often do, when I came across this article from CBS called, “No Problem”: Yes, it’s a BIG Problem!

Feel free to read the article in lieu of me summarizing it. However, I will anyway. Notice the missing sentence where I tell you it’s “not a problem” to paraphrase. Maybe I’m also annoyed, and telling you about it will help me discuss my feelings.

Bill Flanagan rails against the term “no problem” being used by people in the customer service industry instead of “thank you.” According to him, apparently only people born after 1980 say this. I am REALLY glad no one added “dude” though, because otherwise the article would have been all in caps lock.

He then illustrates some examples, like in a dictionary, where “no problem” would be an appropriate response. Which I thought was very helpful, as I was curious about when it would be okay to use and took the time to read each one.

I get what he’s trying to say. I do. It’s similar to when people say “I’m sorry” instead of “excuse me”–something that annoys someone in my family who shall remain nameless. I also learned yesterday, that I’ve been using the term “envious” wrong my WHOLE life. Whoops. I even used “jealous” incorrectly today. Again, I’m trying.

However…

I get the distinct feeling that the customer service representatives that Mr. Flanagan is dealing with are new. Note that I did not call him Bill, because I don’t know him. Also, he called himself “old,” so I assume he prefers to be addressed as properly as possible. Which doesn’t bother me, because when clients make me call them by their first name it “makes it sound like we have a playful relationship,” to quote Arrested Development.

Why do I think these people are new? Anyone who has been in customer service for a long time (or even if it FEELS like a long time) knows that someone will always have a problem (even the people you work with, whether they tell you or not). Those of us who have immersed ourselves in the culture know that we might do something nice for someone over and over again to be met with disdain and ungratefulness. I once received about 20 emails from one client in a day. I had a co-worker who told me once that people write emails with more anger than they do when they call someone. Because when we have a human being on the other end instead of a machine, we tend to be nicer (I write nice emails even when I’m angry…I hope). I’ve noticed that with Facebook as well.

The “wiser” CSRs know that customers/clients can come unglued at the even slightest provocation. I used to cry everyday in the bathroom at break, because I worked in a business where clients were so mean to me that I had to hold it together until I could leave, even for a few minutes. My boss recently laughed after I apologized for sending an angry client to him, responding with, “You haven’t worked at ______.” THANK GOD. If we have regulars, we know who to baby, and we know when to stand our ground. Or the smart ones do.

Bill Flanagan is correct inasmuch as “it is a problem,” because servicing clients and customers can be inconvenient. It does require effort. Sometimes a little, sometimes every ounce of our being. It can be an emotional relay course that is preparing one for harder times. I would love it if someone told him, “Minimal effort required!” Instead of saying, “no problem,” your employee should have apologized. Instead of saying the term-which-shall-not-be-said, people should say “you’re welcome.” I do agree with you on that. However, you did not need to write this article.

As the employee who you fired (and as all people in his line of work will learn someday by the breaking of backs) will know, telling a customer that something is “no problem” or “no big deal, I can fix that” will sooner or later be met with screaming. Like it or not, we all deal with people. Sorry, accountants, you do. An accountant told me so. What you should do instead of writing an article is tell people directly, “you mean, ‘you’re welcome.'” Don’t be passive aggressive like I’m doing right now. Do as I say, and not as I do (also a terrible phrase, am I right!?).

You are lucky you didn’t call me. Sometimes I get the equivalent of highway hypnosis whereby calling over and over again, I respond to someone who says “thank you” when I’m about to hang up the phone (not always, but sometimes) with “mmm hmm.” Yes, that happens. No, I am not being a rude on purpose. I am trying to get my job done quickly and efficiently. After I hang up, I always realize that I did not say “you’re welcome.”

I’m working on that.

Lastly, citing a human giving another their kidney as an acceptable situation to say “no problem?” Not really. You have to go to the hospital and undergo surgery, which as a definition is a “big deal.” The person who you gave the kidney to may still have a really irritable body that doesn’t accept it. The correct response could be “the pleasure is all mine,” “I love you” (acceptable if a family member or close friend), “it’s something I would want someone to do for ME,” or “enjoy the kidney.” Actually, “enjoy the kidney” might be a little preemptive.

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