Do they lie, or are they just trying to protect themselves?
This is always a controversial subject when talking about customers always being right. It’s a customer service mantra that’s drilled into us and marketers will tell you to follow it to sell your goods and services. But is it always the way?
Almost daily, we take phone calls from pupils saying “I probably only need 10 driving lessons and I will be test-ready.” Are they right?
Well maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. In this age of coaching I certainly would advice not to be too judgemental at first. Certainly, in their own eyes, they believe they will only need 10 hours. Maybe they’ve heard it from Mum or Dad who only took 10 hours themselves. Maybe they have an unreal expectation of their skills or the demands of the driving test.
As an instructor, pupils used to tell me “I can drive, I just need to be shown the test routes,” but having got in the car with them it soon became apparent that actually, more often than not, they could not drive. In fact, they didn’t even know how to move the car off, so why tell me they could drive?
In cases like this, I would reply “Well even though you know a lot of this stuff, would you like me to go over it again just in case you’ve missed something?” The answer was always yes, and we would carry on as if they never told me they had experience. I think in both the above examples there are two things going on and both are linked.
The issue is money and/or the fear they are going to be sold more driving lessons than they need. Unfortunately, there is still an element of the Arthur Dailey (who remembers him?) second-hand dodgy car dealer stigma about driving instructors. In many people’s minds we will ‘rip them off’ for more lessons than they need.
If we have a medical problem, we go to the doctors and the doctor tells you to take a tablet twice a day for the rest of your life, and sure enough we pop on down to the local chemist each month to collect our prescription without question. You may have never even met the Dr before, but we trust them (I’m not completely sure we should all the time, after all who pays their wages? But that’s another article).
Why do pupils not have that same trust with driving instructors?
What’s gone wrong?
Historically, driving instructors used to be a very professional bunch, but we have come through a recent boom where many trainers qualified more by chance than skill. Alongside this, driving schools’ marketing has revolved around trying to sell the cheapest lessons. We’ve seen a massive growth in the forums through the rise of the internet and the ability for increased communication, not only between driving instructors, but with pupils too. I read Facebook posts everyday that make me cringe, written by people who are trying to pass themselves off as professional, or ‘industry experts.’ They give poor or even wrong information often containing racist comments, foul language, and let’s not even mention the way some instructors talk about their pupils.
The idea of the customer always being right was founded on promoting great customer services. Every salesperson and business owner alive knows that they are often wrong. The job as a professional and business owner is to steer them in the right direction, or rather YOUR direction.
YOU are the professional and YOU know the professional advice, but we must not alienate our future clients by forcing this ‘professional’ view on them. Rather we subtlety guide them to another way. Like in confrontation, where we diffuse a situation by initially agreeing with someone. Then pointing out other alternatives.
One such example is the classic “my instructor has let me down for my driving test, can you cover this for me?” Yes, many of these have gone ahead and booked the test without the instructor’s knowledge or input, but it’s great news they have a test booked. Is this not an opportunity?
This has certainly been our view recently with so many of these calls. We first look to see if we could cover the test. We book them on a minimum 10-hour course and explain that’s it’s still at the discretion of the professional driving instructor – after all, they wouldn’t want to fail, would they?
It’s not always possible, but again, there is a demand for this and as such I have even been reviewing the pricing structure for this type of work. Every problem presents an opportunity to grow. We start to see things differently if we look at everything with a business head on. I have said this before, but YOU are a business owner first, professional driving instructor second.
Every problem presents an opportunity to grow.
The customer really was right.
I may be a little mad, but I like these little opportunities. Opportunities to grow professionally and personally. Opportunities to grow my business and to help people where others have failed. I remember one of the best reviews from a pupil:
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I passed my test with 1st 4 Driving – with only 5 driving lessons.
I think we had about 10 referrals from that one review. A huge amount of and interaction, too. Yes. You and I know, we were not his only school and he had been let down by another instructor, who ‘apparently’ said he was not ready. But the fact is he passed with only a couple of driving faults. We also know that if he had failed, he would have stayed with us. He wouldn’t have done his test if, he wasn’t safe in the opinion of his professional driving instructor.
This is just one of these opportunities that helped us grow our school and made us think as a business. The pupil reckoned he was test ready, his previous driving instructor thought not. The DVSA driving examiner and the new instructor thought he was too… On this occasion the customer was right. (But somewhere out there, there’s an instructor saying the customer was wrong and he had a lucky test…)
ANYTHING but jazz…
The bottom line is, we need to gain the trust and respect that doctors have. Only then can we begin to build better schools and really produce better drivers for life. As in coaching, we must keep an open mind. Many are too ready to make an instant decision passed off as a professional opinion. Coaching is all about an open mind, not pre-judging. Often great surprises happen.
If you had asked me fifteen years ago whether a pupil could have the radio on during a driving lesson, my professional opinion would have been no, it distracts them. Today, my professional opinion would be that it might distract some of them…who am I to judge which ones? If a pupil was struggling with tasks, I might consider asking them if THEY thought it was distracting? Similarly, there might be situations where I might ask a pupil, “Would the radio help you?”
I suppose I would just have to hope they don’t want jazz LOL! Incidentally, did you know that research some years ago proved that jazz was the music someone would most likely crash when listening to. Yes, someone did research on that!
Dave Foster MA, Dip.DI (or Driving School Dave) is the most qualified driving school owner in the country, after completing his Master’s Degree in Driver Training Education in 2011 at Middlesex University. He also holds a diploma in Driving Instruction and is a Cert Ed. qualified teacher. Dave is the founder and Managing Director of 1st 4 Driving Ltd, and also looks after over 15 driving schools across the country on a consultancy basis.