A Problem With "No Problem"
"Of course giving change is not a problem – it’s what you’re paid to do."
I’m a strong believer in customer service. It’s been ingrained in me since birth – virtually a part of my DNA. My father built a successful business on service to the extent that total strangers have told me about service experiences with Dad 35 years later (that’s another story). I wrote and taught customer service courses in Fortune 500 companies like Tupperware, Hughes Supply and Universal Studios, Florida. I published a book about customer service called, Service Heroes in Hospitality.
All of this, I feel, qualifies me to make the following request:
Lose the phrase, “No Problem.”
If I buy something from you and you give me change back, as a good old country boy I usually say, “Thank you.” If you respond with, “No problem,” I’m tempted to reach across the counter and provide you with my own version of the forehead slap.
“No problem,” implies that your efforts to provide service have not inconvenienced you in any way. It is not a problem to provide this minimal level of service. To me, that’s painfully and blatantly obvious. Of course giving change is not a problem – it’s what you’re paid to do.
When I was a training manager at Universal Studios, we competed with the service juggernaut, Disney World. Our goal at Universal was to provide exemplary service – service that was worthy of being an example for other service providers, including Disney. Exemplary service might warrant a “no problem,” but we never said it because any implication that there might be a problem providing service in itself made the service less than exemplary.
“No problem,” should be reserved for doing something highly unusual that requires above-and-beyond effort, but yet, you’re still willing to do it because you want to provide exemplary service. Unless you reached into your own jeans pocket and extracted my change, you’ve not done anything extraordinary. Unless you walked across burning coals to bring me my Flaming Sambuca, you’ve not done anything extraordinary. Unless you’ve done something extraordinary, the response doesn’t deserve a “no problem.”
So when you hand me my change or give me my dry cleaning or slide that McWhatever across the counter, and I say, “Thank you,” respond appropriately by saying, “You’re welcome” (which means; “I’m glad you’re here and please come back”) or, “My pleasure” (which means, “I enjoy providing this service so much that I just may break out in uncontrollable laughter at any moment”).
And I’ll keep my forehead slaps to myself.
Kompassion at Kharma Kitchen
In this blog, we’re talking about why people do the things they do. I hope to draw on things I’ve seen, read and maybe even thought that might be fun to consider as we explore motives and behavior. And of course, you can suggest things you've seen, read and thought to contribute to the conversation.
If you’ve read my first novel, 7 Sanctuaries, you’ll probably agree that one of the themes of the book is “compassion”. Katie shows compassion to a woman at a farmer’s market, to a family threatened by a hurricane and to members of the “Freedom Riders”, a group of activists demonstrating for equal rights. Rev. Phillips seeks opportunities to show compassion and to encourage others to be compassionate in his ministry. Others show compassion here and there.
In a TED Talk (TED Talks are absolutely incredibly inspirational and educational and free on the inter-webs – go to TED.com!), Nipun Mehta says “Compassion is contagious.” Showing compassion causes us to want to show more compassion and causes others to be compassionate. As an example, he describes an experiment he has conducted called, “Kharma Kitchen.” Every Sunday night, volunteers take over a restaurant. When the customer finishes his or her dinner, the check is presented as a “$0.00” charge. The customer is told their meal has been paid for by the customer before them, and they can pay whatever they choose for the customer who came after them. Then that customer pays for the one who followed them and the chain continues.
“When you count on people like that to be generous,” Mehta asks, “how long will that chain last?” He explains, “It’s been going for three years.” It’s also expanded to other cities around the country.
From time to time we hear about “Pay it forward” stories on Facebook, on YouTube, from our friends, etc. Perhaps we’ll discuss those in the future. But the pertinent question about compassion is:
“How long does it last?”
Click on the “Comments” link below to let us know what you think.
Have We Lost The Symbolic?
Recently, I dragged the family into the family room (where else would one want to drag one's family?) for a family movie night. As it turns out, we were all at home on this special evening, and I wanted us all to watch the old 1976 movie, "Godspell".
From the off-Broadway plan by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, Godspell is an interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. Back in '72 when it came out, it was fairly controversial in that Jesus and the Disciples were portrayed as a clan of clowns, the setting was New York City, there may or may not have been a resurrection, etc. And the culture - thoroughly vintage 1970s. I admit I wanted to see if my 21st century kids would find it acceptable or repulsive. (The liked it).
But what struck me personally while reviewing Godspell for the nth time (I've seen it a lot - one of my favorites), was its blatant symbolism. Everything was symbolic. Jesus was a clown! The actor who played John the Baptist also played Judas! The troupe lived in a junkyard! Symbol after symbol filled the screen. Godspell overdoses on symbolism. I've known this since first seeing the musical, but this time, the symbols seemed to jump off the screen.
But I began to wonder, when was the last time I saw symbolism in a movie? I remember "The Sixth Sense" used the color red whenever dead people were present (red doorknobs, red coats, etc.). Otherwise, I can't recall symbolism in our modern movies.
Why don't movies contain symbolism anymore? Is symbolism passé or 'not cool'?
Perhaps a lack of symbolism plays to a more straight-forward approach to our world. We don't need to blast cartoon symbols of aliens dancing across the screen a la "Space Invaders" because technology has advanced to the point that we can blast "realistic", moving, breathing, bleeding, exploding aliens instead.
Along the same lines, maybe we have been "over symbolated" (stimulated by symbols). We have icons on our computer screens, stick figures to tell us where to go to the bathroom, emoticons to express emotion on Twitter, even drawings instead of directions (ever constructed a piece of Ikea furniture?).
Maybe it's part of the dumbing down of society. We don't want to think about the reason behind the story because we are so engrossed in the story in all its realism, itself. It takes less brain power to be simply told what to believe than to try to work it out yourself.
Which brings me back to Godspell and Jesus. He could have just told us to love each other (which He did) but He also demonstrated it in elaborate parables. He could have just told us to serve others (which He did), but He also demonstrated it by washing the disciples' feet.
Maybe there is something reinforcing about symbolism. Maybe it triggers something in our minds that helps us understand more clearly. Maybe we need a little more symbolism these days.
What do you think?