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How to Manage Your Customer’s Stress

How to Manage Your Customer’s Stress

You’ve probably heard the old joke, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

Answer: “Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change!”

The same can be said for managing other peoples’ emotions. A person’s feelings are under their own control, and our attempts to intervene can only do so much.

But it’s that little space of “so much” that might make a difference in the stress level of your customer.

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If you’re a contractor or home improvement specialist, you know well the stress your client is under as they watch their home being torn apart and wait for their lives to be back to normal.

However, if you’re a business person of any kind who deals with customers, the following tips on how to help manage your customer’s stress are meant for you.

Recognize signs of stress.

It’s helpful to notice when your customer is first starting to feel stressed. Hopefully, you can head off the full-blown stress stampede at the pass and keep things calm right away.

Look for the following signs of stress:

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  • Anger. Is your customer starting to get short with you? Are they interrupting you? Is his voice getting louder? Is her face getting red? Try not to get defensive, just notice that your customer is likely angry because they are beginning to be stressed and utilize one of the interventions below.
  • Anxiety. Do you notice that your customer is starting to fret about things? Are they asking a lot of “what if” questions? They might even tell you directly that they’re nervous. Anxiety can be a good indicator of stress.
  • Calling (or emailing) you constantly. Your customer might be calling you more than usual, asking where his product is, when her kitchen is going to be done, or when you’re going to finish that website for them.
  • Crying. This is a response that might make you very uncomfortable. Try not to worry about it too much, though. Some people really need to cry to get their feelings out, while others are just people who cry easily. It may not have anything to do with you, but it still is a sign of stress that you may want to attend to.
  • Being quieter than usual. Sometimes people have a bit of a contrary response when they are starting to feel stress. They get very quiet. If your customer is usually genial and chatty and they suddenly become quiet, pay attention to this.

Recognize your own discomfort with your customer’s expression of stress.

It’s hard not to feel uncomfortable when our customer is starting to get angry, anxious, or — heaven forbid — begins to cry.

Be aware of your own feelings of discomfort with your customer’s stress so that you don’t do anything that might make the situation worse like:

  • Discount or minimize their feelings. Saying things like, “It’s not that big of a deal. Don’t worry about it,” only discounts the feelings and message your customer is trying to give you. And it will likely end up in them becoming more angry or anxious, rather than feeling reassured.
  • Placate them. Similar to above, saying something like, “Everything is going to be fine,” is really an attempt to make you feel better by distracting them with platitudes!

The reality is that when we allow people to talk about their feelings, it actually helps to not only feel a sense of relief, but also helps them begin to understand their problem more as they are talking it out.

What’s the real trick to helping customers manage their stress? To not only hear what your customers are saying, but to attend to it. Otherwise known as . . .

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Listening

Anyone can hear words, but to actually listen is a skill. Here are a couple of ways you can let your customer know you’re really listening.

Reflect feelings

One of the best ways to show someone that you’re listening to them is to reflect the feeling that you’re experiencing.

Saying something as simple as, “I can see that you’re really upset” or “It sounds like this is making you a bit nervous,” can go a long way in showing your customer that you really understand what is happening with them.

Be an engaged listener

First and foremost, remember that your customer’s problem may seem like a small matter to you, but it’s huge to them, otherwise they wouldn’t bring it up. Try these ideas to indicate that you are actively hearing what they are saying.

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  • Look them in the eyes. You don’t need to have a stare down, but it will help you to appear attentive when you look your customer in the eyes as she is talking and when you’re talking.
  • Don’t do something else while they’re talking. Put everything else down and listen. Don’t hammer a nail, ring up another customer, or multi-task. Continue to look them in the eyes and give them your full attention.
  • Ask questions for your own clarification. Not only will this help you understand their problem better, but it gives your customer the message that you are truly interested in helping them. And it can help them build a framework that puts their problem into a perspective that both of you can work with.
  • Tell them a similar experience you’ve had. Be careful with this one! While telling a story about your own feelings of stress during a similar situation can convince your customer you know where he’s coming from, it’s vital that you don’t hijack the conversation and get carried away with your own story. You’re supposed to help your customer, not the other way around!

A few more helpful ideas

Finally, here are a couple more techniques that can help your customer feel at ease.

  • See if there is a small part of the larger problem you can help with. Is there something you can do that will help them feel like action is being taken on their problem? Can you install the toilet in the refinished bathroom? Deliver an outline of the project they desperately need? Tell them you’ll call your distributor to see when the product they ordered is due? Even small progress can help restore their confidence.
  • Give them as much information as possible. As much as you can, tell your customer what the process is for their project or product. Time frames, outlines, and possible setbacks all give them an idea of what to expect so their stress level doesn’t run too high.
  • Take a deep breath to trigger them to take one. Deep breaths can be very helpful in decreasing the stress response and, like yawning, people will often mimic the behavior of another. So take a deep breath and maybe it will prompt your customer to take one, too. (Just make sure your deep breath doesn’t sound like a sigh of exasperation!)

I hope some of these ideas help you in working with customers who are feeling a lot of stress. Beyond these, though, remember that you can’t fully control someone else’s feelings. Make sure you don’t stress yourself out by trying too hard to influence your customer’s emotions.

More by this author

How to Manage Your Customer’s Stress 7 Things to Say (and Not Say) to a Grieving Person 3 Specific Ways to Reduce Anxiety Warning: Believing These 10 Famous Myths Might Be Making You Dumb 4 New Words to Help You Love Your Life Now

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To see a fuller picture, create a mind map.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

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    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

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          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

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            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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