By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

It’s probably happened to you, in a restaurant, a retail store or even a movie theater.

You ask for a product, some help, or complete a purchase, and even though you are the customer, you say “Thank you” to the clerk or server. They casually look back at you and respond, “No problem.”

It may not seem like much, but getting good customer service or even fair customer service should not be a problem.  The fact that you are a paying customer does not make you a problem or an interruption in their day. In today’s retail world we go out of our way to avoid the word “problem” and “complaint,” replacing those words with “issues” or “opportunities.” If you’re a Baby Boomer like me, you may even remember when high-end stores had Complaint Departments.

I accepted the phrase “No problem” as a fact of life in customer service these days. But an experience in a faraway land changed my mind and I now believe we can do better. It all happened when my ever-lovin’ bride and I took a trip just South of the border.

I studied two semesters of Spanish in high school, so I knew I could get by in the native tongue (you know, the important words like baño and cerveza). Plus, it’s hard to get in trouble when the only other phrase you know is “Donde esta la biblioteca?”

I also remember from high school Spanish that “gracias” means “thank you.” In my travelers’ book of phrases, it was noted that a proper response to “gracias” is “de nada,” which translates to “It’s nothing.” Another suggested response was that dreaded phrase, now in Spanish, “No problemo.” But the most amazing thing happened when we got to our destination.  Every time we said “Gracias” we were answered with “Mucho gusto!” I did some extensive research (that is, I asked my ever-lovin’ bride) to learn what that means in English. It means “It is my pleasure!”

So, what does that have to do with our everyday retail lives?  Simply, it means we can be different than the store down the street.  Imagine the delight and surprise your customer will feel if every time they thanked you or your team members, the response was “It’s my pleasure.” See the difference:

Customer                                                Response “A”                Response “B”

Thanks for bringing me that pillow     No Problem                  It’s my pleasure

Thanks for delivering early                   No Problem                   It’s my pleasure

Thanks for your follow up call             No Problem                   It’s my pleasure

I’d bet four out of five store owners, GMs and managers prefer Response “B.” The fifth one needs a permanent vacation!  Every day we preach great customer service, and if you ask your sales and service team about their commitment to provide great customer service, they’d be the first to tell you they do it all the time. Now, they have to prove it with the words they use.

Getting your team to change won’t be easy; it takes training, coaching, observation and even some behavior modification. But the change from being a “No problem” team to an “It’s my pleasure” team in words and deeds is worth the effort and will put your store ahead of the pack.

Thanks for reading; it was my pleasure to write for you!

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at ghecht@sertasimmons.com.