5 Ways to Prepare for the Next Pandemic
By Megan Callahan, MS, RD, LD, Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian
After the last year-and-a-half, the last thing anyone wants to think about is another pandemic-related shutdown. But now that things have opened up again, it’s essential to take stock of your practice and identify ways you can adapt your services — so if it does happen again, you’re prepared. Here are some things to consider:
- Virtual Platform – If you haven’t already, adapt your services to virtual. This doesn’t mean you have to stop offering in-person services, but having a virtual operation established will make it easier to pivot quickly if needed. Offer a variety of service formats at varying lengths of time. Not everyone has an hour to sit for a presentation, so offer some 20- to 30-minute sessions to accommodate busier schedules. Evaluate whether your technology platforms are the best options for your varying uses and research other options available.
- Know Your Audience – Keep in mind that not all of your customers will be tech-savvy. They may need some coaching. For example, you may need to walk them through how to set up an online account and access a Zoom link for an appointment.
- Be Adaptable – Accept to your customers’ limitations without judgement. You might have some customers who will not do an online appointment, no matter how much coaching you provide. Be willing to work with those customers. If a phone call makes them more comfortable, mail them educational handouts before the appointment and review them over the phone.
- Understand Customers’ Needs – During a shutdown, people’s health and wellness goals might change. People may just be in survival mode, more focused on the logistics of managing shopping and cooking (in addition to home schooling) than their more long-term goals like managing heart disease or preventing diabetes. Don’t try to force an agenda. Instead, recognize where they need the most help and work on that.
- Listen, Listen, Listen – Sometimes a customer just needs someone to talk to, especially during high-stress times. Be patient and understand that taking 5-10 minutes to talk with someone, even if it has nothing to do with food or nutrition, can have a significant impact on building trust with your customers.
As dietitians, we understand the importance of meeting people where they are. That practice is never more relevant than during a stressful time like a pandemic. Showing customers that you’re willing to listen without judgement and help them through challenging times is a great way to build and establish trust and loyalty.