Why Incremental Augmentation is the Secret to Your Success

by Dec 16, 2021Personal Finance

In our last blog, we discussed the devastating consequences of incremental degradation. Today, let’s discuss its opposite: incremental augmentation, or incremental improvement. 

Nido Qubein, businessman, motivational speaker and president of High Point University, a private liberal arts university in High Point, NC, suggests that you name a CWO, aka Chief WOW Officer, at your practice. The point is to do things veterinary clients are simply not used to. At least not in the practices they may have visited before.

  • Did a stressed-out patient soil his or her carrier? Don’t just spot clean while holding your nose. Do a thorough cleaning, and return the pet and the carrier with a smile.
  • Is parking “impossible” at your practice? How about you offer free valet service?
  • Try something new, and ask your team to do the same. Instead of saying “you’re welcome” or “no problem” or “uh huh,” say “my pleasure.” It may feel awkward at first, but it will soon come naturally as you witness the smiles this simple expression creates. Give it a try. It won’t cost you a penny.
  • Do you notice a client struggling with a pet, kids, paperwork and a bag of food? At the very least, someone could offer to carry the bag of food to the car.
  • Has a client been waiting for a while? Offer bottled water, tea or coffee.
  • If you have a wellness program, add benefits year after year. Not necessarily a free dental prophy, but things that add value to your plan without costing a fortune: free nail trims, free tonometry, free ear swabs…
  • Organize free educational seminars or webinars, open to all of your clients or reserved only to your top clients (people love to feel special).
  • Did you just discharge a 100 pound Rottie after surgery? Why not spontaneously ask a team member to help the client lift the patient into the car?

None of these ideas cost much. But they will wow your clients, because they have probably never been treated that way before. 

Incremental augmentation is simple: when you gradually improve something (a product, a service, your team, yourself), you will notice unstoppable growth and success. Even in this economy, even as your friendly competitors are struggling, even if your products and services are “good enough,” truly believing in incremental augmentation will lead to prosperity. 

Incremental augmentation is a modern twist on 2 old sayings: “by the yard, it’s hard. Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!” and “slow and steady wins the race.” The goal is to improve each area, each service, each product, each team member, every single year. And the beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

One of the most important things you can do to improve customer service is to have a front office team made of efficient, polite, smiling, helpful receptionists. Think about how you feel when you stay at a cheap motel during a quick weekend trip vs. an upscale hotel at a CE conference. Was the hostess chewing gum? Was the check-in process interrupted by phone calls every few minutes? 

Or did she greet you with a smile? Did she call you by name? Did her neatly pressed outfit match her colleagues’? 

Incremental augmentation doesn’t only apply to things and products and services. Brian Tracy, the professional development guru, says that if your own productivity increases only one tenth of 1% each day, it will make you 0.5% more productive each week. In turn, this incremental augmentation will turn into a 2% productivity increase each month and a 26% rise each year. Even if you do half as well, you will still do very well. 

How can you put this to use? It can apply to anything you do: reading, organizing, managing, leading, thinking. 

Beyond your own improvement, how do you know what to improve at your clinic? Ask the end users: your beloved clients. Ask them tough questions, such as “how can we make your experience better?” and “how can we do a better job?” and “what could we do for you that we aren’t doing yet?” 

Through paper, phone or online surveys, one on one conversations, or even by reading online reviews, learn what your clients like and dislike. Then do more of what they like, and less of what they hate. Start with the easy and cheap suggestions. Then consider the other suggestions, whether they are more costly or more difficult to implement. 

Don’t be a victim of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Things can always get better. Observe what others do in different industries. How do you think someone first thought of placing a water cooler or a coffee machine in the waiting room of a vet clinic? Most likely someone who borrowed the idea from another industry. You can do the same thing as you experience your everyday life. Notice the differences between businesses with shady reputations and those who excel at what they do: customer service, delivery, efficiency, keeping promises, exceeding expectations etc. Then shamelessly copy, adapt or borrow. 

Another great source of information is to ask your team members. Organize a meeting solely dedicated to “improving things.” Have they had a horrible experience at a medical practice, a car rental office or on the phone? How can you make sure your clients never receive such poor customer service? 

What can they suggest based on their previous experiences, personal or professional, that would add value to what you do? Ask them to share a good experience at a store, a hotel or on the phone. Then brainstorm together: how can you emulate such encounters at your clinic?

The nice thing is, you don’t have to be a clinic owner to apply these concepts. You could be a new grad, an associate, a nurse (credentialed or not), a kennel helper or a hospital manager and still benefit from similar improvements! Incremental augmentation should be a practice-wide effort, embraced by everybody. It should be part of the culture. 

Again, these enhancements don’t have to cost a fortune. It’s quite the opposite. You know all too well that it is easier and cheaper to impress or wow current clients, than to convince new ones to try your services. 

Prove to your clientele that you are truly committed to improving value, quality, customer service and experiences, and the quality of your relationship. If your clients’ experience is a little bit better at each visit, you can bet they will talk about you with other pet owners. 

Success stems not from meeting clients’ expectations, but from exceeding them. The principle of incremental improvement is your secret weapon to do just that.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit