In most cases, our clients/customers come to us in a relatively calm state and we can react to them in our usual business manner. But what needs to shift if your client is in crisis mode?
As many of you know, I was struck down by a kidney stone (actually 2) this weekend. If you haven’t ever had one – it is the most excruciating pain imaginable. They call it a writhing pain, because when you have one, you are in such pain, you can’t hold still. You literally writhe in agony.
I’ll give you my prognosis at the tail end of the post but for now, let’s look at what needs to shift when a client is in crisis. And yes, that’s how small a kidney stone is. Humbling to say the least.
They need you to acknowledge that they are in crisis. They want to know that you know. This is not the time for "can you hang on second" or "do you want some coffee." When I staggered into the ER hunched over, clammy and in pain, they didn’t wait to take my insurance information. They whisked me back to a room immediately.
They need to be your only priority until the crisis has passed. This isn’t the time to take another call or put them off until the next morning. They need you now. Tammy, my ER nurse, didn’t leave my side until she had the IV started and she’d administered the first dose of morphine.
They need reassurance. They want you to tell them you’re going to be at their side until it’s over. This isn’t the time to sugar coat things or say it’s going to be okay if it isn’t. But they want to know they won’t be going it alone.
They need empathy. If a client is in crisis, they’re most likely angry, scared, worried, sad or in pain. They want you to recognize that emotion in them and help them get it under control. Sheila, the attending nurse practitioner made sure I knew that she was going to be aggressive with the pain meds until I was comfortable. She wanted me out of pain as much as I did. (Well, maybe not quite as much!)
They want to see action. That’s the most reassuring element of all. They want to know you are doing something to get them out of their crisis. The whole ER team hustled me in and out of the CAT scan and got me the meds I needed quickly. When the morphine wasn’t stopping the pain, they rapidly moved up the pain meds food chain until they found one that did.
Dealing with a client who is in crisis mode is usually not pretty. They’re in full panic mode. But, if you can stay with them and get them through the crisis – you’ve earned a loyal client who will come to you in confidence, knowing you’ve seen them at their worst.
How have you dealt with clients in this frame of mind?
As for the stone saga – I’ve still got the two stones. They haven’t passed yet. Right now, they’re causing a tolerable amount of pain, so I am temporarily sprung from the hospital. The bummer about kidney stones is their unpredictability. These could pass without causing me much more pain and I could get by with the prescription meds. Or in a blink, they could send me back to the hospital. But…I know which hospital I’d go back to. Thanks to their understanding of how to deal with a client in crisis!