Are you Upselling, or Upsetting? Part 2: Service-Driven Practice

In Upselling or Upsetting: Part 1, the differences between upselling and up-serving were distinguished. Upselling in dentistry has the full intention of selling the patient more: more extensive services, a more expensive price. The focus of upselling is internal: “What do we need to do to increase our sales? What marketing practices can we use to produce higher revenue?” Hence, upselling becomes a major thread in the cloth of the culture.

The intention and the attention in up-serving focuses exclusively on the patient and patient’s needs and wants. Authentic consideration paid to who the patients are, not how much dentistry services and products they can purchase. When up-serving is utilized, service becomes a driving core value in the culture. Service doesn’t occur as a platitude, cliché, or bromide. It’s what the practice practices.

Fight for survival

But dentistry lives in a for-profit world. The very survival of every practice — every adviser to the practice, every vendor to the practice and every institution that services the practice — depends on the practice being profitable. The pressure is always on to be profitable. Add to this the dentist’s and executive’s personal desires to make money, combined with increased competition and growing expenses — all of the internal and external pressures that are inherent in operating a practice, and you see why the motivations for upselling are obvious.

Most dentists believe that up-serving — rather than upselling — as a mission is in fact a suicide mission.

James A. Alexander demonstrates in his book “Seriously Selling Services: How to Build a Profitable Service Business in Any Industry” that up-serving delivers great financial results. When up-serving lived at the core of a company and people were focused on up-serving, the company experienced greater revenues, more satisfied employees, greater customer retention, less turnover, and higher levels of performance.

But real service is difficult to instill and maintain in any culture. Real service is “about them,” not “about me.” Real service is customer-centric, while profitability is money-centric. Real service is about “connection with people,” while profitability is about “connection with money.” Real service is about each patient as an individual, while profitability is about the number of patients.

What’s your number-one commitment?

When I ask any practice, group or solo, about service, they all tell me it is their absolute number one commitment. But commitments show up in two places: calendar and checkbook. So I ask how many hours — per day, per month, per quarter, per year — do they spend solely focused on improving their service? How much time and money did they spend in CE, consultants, videos, role-playing, and assessing service quality? When they take a look, it’s hardly any time at all.

Compelling your company commit to mastering the art of good service might be a very powerful strategy for success. Although we live in a digital world, which is made up of transactional interactions, mastering service requires mastering relationships. And, in a service business, good relationships are the key to success. Forcing dentistry into a commodity box by numerically quantifying everything you do or touch might not be the best move for a service business.

In business and in life, you get what you measure. What do you measure to assess your service level? How much training and development in up-service are you providing to your staff? In a digital world, where the playing field is level, the thing that will make the biggest difference to success is service.

— Marc