A Refreshing Week Without ‘No Problem!’

Cruse boat in AlaskaI have just returned from a cruise along the Alaskan coastline. Although it was described as “freestyle cruising,” meaning that casual attire was acceptable in most settings, there was nothing casual or relaxed about the service. All staff members exhibited the highest possible degree of courtesy, consideration and politeness — in general what I consider excellent customer service.

The international nature of guests and crew brought many languages and accents to the mix; at least 60 countries were represented onboard. I couldn’t help but think about how the way we conduct ourselves — including how we use language — conveys a sense of our regard for one another, no matter what our attire or the setting.

It struck me early on that whenever I or another traveler expressed thanks to a staff member, there was never a “No problem!” reply, which is pervasive in the United States. Rather, I heard “You’re welcome,” or “My pleasure to be of help.” How gracious — and refreshing.

When I hear “No problem!” in response to my thanking an employee in a retail establishment, grocery store or restaurant, I have to bite my tongue from saying, “I didn’t expect it to be a problem, since helping me is your job and what you’re getting paid to do.”

The well-trained staff on the ship not only conducted themselves in a respectful manner; they smiled and made eye contact when greeting or serving guests. Of course, that’s what they are getting paid to do — provide excellent customer service — but they certainly made it appear to be sincere and genuine. I truly felt that my presence was valued and appreciated.

If you’re an employer, how do your staffers measure up? If you’re an employee, are you representing your employer in the most positive manner possible?

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)