One of the most important aspects of providing a service is transparency in communications. Customers want to know what they can reasonably expect to receive for the service they are purchasing. Accountancy, legal advice, hairdressers, food retailers, airlines, MOT garages, package holiday providers, tradespeople, and driving instructors – all providing a service to the customer of value.
Here, we offer an example of just one of the pitfalls for driving instructors where customers perceive a lack of value in the service being provided. The following scenario is entirely made up but very common to hear of in the industry.
A new pupil (or their parents) contacts a driving instructor to say they already have a driving test booked for 4 months time, can they provide driving lessons. The instructor looks at their diary and says to them in 3 weeks time there will be an opening if they can wait that time. They agree and 3 weeks later the training begins. Unbeknown to the instructor, this customer is expecting to go to test at the time they have booked – regardless of the rate of progress they make, the number of lessons they book or the number of cancellations that occur leading up to the test date. This is a very common trap to fall into where a customer who is not actually ready to be taking a test ends up saying, “I am very disappointed in this service, and I intend to put this on all my social media. I told you at the very start that I had booked my test, and I would have preferred you to not have taken all my money if you had no intentions of delivering on the deal”.
The driving instructor looks back at the diary and notes that on average the customer actually took an hour lesson every 2.5 weeks because they were “too busy”. And notice that the customer cancelled 40% of the lessons that had been scheduled in the diary, the reason given each time was that something had “come up” and they were too busy. The instructor considers the customer’s driving ability is nowhere near ready to be taking a driving test; they have the basics of how to control a car, but they are weak in skills such as rules of the road, spatial awareness, forward planning, multi-lane roundabouts, and use of speed in different scenarios. It would be unwise and unsafe for this pupil to be driving independently. The instructor has been feeding this information back to the pupil on the rare occasions when they took a driving lesson, but the pupil never engaged in those conversations and the subject of the driving test never came up either.
The customer is enraged, they feel like they have been victimised. What are they now supposed to do? As far as they are concerned, they will not get another driving test slot for several months, there are several reasons why they needed to have their licence by August; the situation is devastating, it is a cruel and heartless way to treat them. The pupil feels deeply let down by the instructor, and tells all their friends to avoid the instructor, and for good measure puts up several posts on social media to that effect. Also, just because the actions of this instructor are so unprofessional, the customer puts up a negative review on the instructor’s customer reviews with a low ranking – just to ensure no-one else has to suffer in this way.
The instructor sees and hears about all this negativity, and within 5 days no less than 7 current pupils cancel driving lessons. There is a barrage of social media negative reactions and new enquiries fall through the floor, instantly. There is a step change in increased cancellations from existing customers and earnings for the next 3 months fall in total by 75%.
Where did this instructor go wrong? How did this situation manage to spiral out of control so quickly with such devastation to the instructor’s business?