Business Etiquette: The Correct Way to Respond to a Verbal 'Thank You'

Two simple words, "no problem," in response to a "thank you," may be chipping away at your customers' goodwill. The service person who replies with this response almost certainly means to acknowledge the "thank you" and is essentially saying "you're welcome." Still, many customers are offended.
10/21/2014 01:12 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2014

Two simple words, "no problem," in response to a "thank you," may be chipping away at your customers' goodwill. The service person who replies with this response almost certainly means to acknowledge the "thank you" and is essentially saying "you're welcome."

Still, many customers are offended. Some wonder why there would be a problem if the appreciated task is simply part of the employee's job? The phrase turns the focus back to the employee, implying the client's need could potentially be a hassle or inconvenience. "No problem", or worse, "no worries," can make customers feel as though their gesture of appreciation was taken as an apology for bothering the service person. Some believe the response says the employee views the service as a chore that is taking them out of their way. In addition, others assess the phrase as a careless use of two negative words.

This saying can be interpreted as a flip response that is too informal for use in a business transaction. Some other too-casual culprits include: "sure," "uh huh," and "don't mention it."

Despite these objections, there are those that refuse to accept the response of "no problem" as an issue. We may even be so accustomed to hearing it that we use the phrase ourselves. Whether you bristle at "no problem" or take the term in stride, it's important to remember that word choices matter, especially in a professional setting. Clients show their loyalty with their feet...every detail counts in business, and your communication style may be offensive to a valued consumer.

It's worth the effort to drop the "no problem" habit. Here are a few alternatives:

  • "You're very welcome." Classic and simple.

  • "It's my pleasure." This goes a step further and lets the customer know that the employee is in a position to cheerfully assist.
  • "I'm happy to help." This conveys the message that the employee enjoys their job and has a goal of administering quality service.
  • "We appreciate your business." This add-on to "you're welcome" acknowledges the customer's gratitude, and in turn, thanks them for choosing to do business with your company.
  • Regardless of the words chosen, three other factors go into a successful exchange of appreciation. If any of these components are missing, the response you deliver will fall flat.

    • Sincerity. A genuine, heartfelt response will let customers know that they are heard and respected.

  • Warmth. Acknowledging a thank you with a smile and eye contact will enhance your words.
  • Tone. A reply should be made in a pleasant voice, not mumbled or monotone. Most customer service training programs teach employees to smile when answering the telephone as it leads to a happier-sounding voice.
  • The bottom line is that words matter. Choose them carefully, especially when acknowledging a "thank you."

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