The world of hearing healthcare has changed in the blink of an eye. In the hearing care industry, personal customer relationships are one of the key drivers of success, and we are suddenly faced with extreme challenges in connecting with and serving clients, both existing and new. The ability to adapt quickly may determine how successful we are in navigating this crisis, but also may prepare us with more versatile ways of doing business in the future.

These are uncertain times that can causing overwhelming emotions. Those with hearing loss rely on you, their partner in hearing healthcare, to keep them connected and engaged with their families, friends, coworkers and health providers at the best of times. Finding ways for clients to stay connected during this era of social distancing is even more important. As the world continues to be increasingly shut down to slow down virus spread, our industry is faced with unprecedented restrictions to serve clients, keeping them safe, connected, informed and engaged.

Our hands aren’t tied. In fact, as Ryan Reynolds said, “Any kind of crisis can be good. It wakes you up”. With the current global crisis, instead of focusing on what we cannot do right now, this an opportunity to reimagine how business works to support clients. As we emerge from this crisis, some of what we implement today could make your business more effective, enjoyable and efficient in times of stability. And, -in the event that we are faced with crisis in the future, the learnings and processes put in place now will prepare us to better handle disruption. 

Adapting to today's situation means having a deep understanding of the unique problems people with hearing loss are facing right now. Having open communication with clients will keep us in tune with what they are feeling, and the challenges they are facing, so that we can adapt the ways in which we help. This understanding ensures that we give them what they need to weather this storm, and that they remember how we’ve helped them it when it’s over.

Most industries today employ a Design Thinking or user-centered design approach to product and service development as a tool to help find and solve problems or barriers creatively. This approach gives structure to the creative process, ensuring products and services, and how we innovate overall, provide maximum benefit to our customers.

The critical first step in this process is putting the client or user at the center of the creative process. To achieve this, we employ empathy which gives us a true understanding of what clients are experiencing right now, how they are feeling, and where the biggest opportunities are to improve the experience for them. 

Once the most important pain points are identified, brainstorm ways those problems could be solved. Ask your most trusted customers if they think those ideas would be helpful and try them out with a small group. If the reaction is positive, consider expanding it to your remaining client base and communicating your plan. Throughout this process, keep in mind that any solutions implemented at scale must balance what makes financial sense and is manageable with available technology and resources, with providing a desirable experience to clients. 

In times like these, solutions don’t need to be perfect. Agility is crucial to help customers quickly in this time of need. For example, curbside pick-up for batteries, or drop off for service can be an easy start. Keep in mind that these changes could potentially be positive service additions for when we reach the new normal for business. The overall client journey can be refined later and adapted when business stabilizes to ensure long-term positive changes. 

One of the best and simplest ways to support clients right now is to make sure that they have the information they need. Communicate with clients about how they are impacted by the current situation as a critical first step. Start with how best to contact your clinic, what services are available (or not), and how you’ll support them through the crisis for treatment or obtaining batteries or service.

Remind clients of the connectivity capabilities of their technology and how to use it. Lifestyles have quickly shifted from connecting in person, to technology based virtual connections with family, friends or coworkers. One way to provide this help is to send a link to Unitron’s website for how-to videos that can help clients understand more about the technology in their hearing instruments and how to it. 

For clients that are still adjusting to using their hearing instruments, remind them of the Ratings feature in the Unitron Remote Plus app that will store real time feedback and record of moments when they had a great or not so great experience with their hearing instruments. 

Once the basics are covered, look outside of the Hearing Healthcare industry for inspiration. Many workers have transitioned from in person meetings to video conferencing, and the same could be applied to clients who may need extra support or social contact. Each person’s situation will be different, but in general our clients have lost social connections that are one of the most important pieces in our lives. A virtual social hour on a video platform like Zoom, hosted by their favorite Hearing Healthcare professional, could give clients a sense of community among their peers.

The better we're able to weather this storm, the better we'll be in a stronger position to help our customers in times of stability. Being forced to adapt to changing situations makes us stronger and more innovative and allows businesses to improve their client journey. And in the process, could help clinics to run more effectively and efficiently in the long run.