10 Tips to Reduce Driving Lesson Cancellations

Reduce Driving Lesson Cancellations - meme-from-iphonetextgenerator(1)Time is precious.  And for driving instructors, lost time equals lost income.  Using the top ten tips to Reduce Driving Lesson Cancellations can save you time and money. Yes, it’s great to be able to catch up on other essential business matters when last-minute lesson cancellations arise, but we all have bills to pay. So what can we do to minimise cancellations and loss of income?  Here are 10 top tips:

Reduce Driving Lesson Cancellations – Top Tips!

Tip 1 – Be upfront and honest:

In our experience, this is the number one way to reduce your cancellation rate. Don’t take it for granted that pupils will understand the ins and outs of self-employment, because the vast majority won’t.  For those of you that are franchisees, many learner drivers will incorrectly believe that you are paid a wage by the company named on your roof sign, so when they cancel, they’re actually not affecting you at all – as far as they’re concerned, the ‘company’ just loses out. For most people (and especially teenagers), this will be the first time that they will be held financially accountable for cancelling an appointment of any kind.  Try to think from your pupil’s perspective – they don’t have to pay when cancelling their dentist, doctor or hairdressing appointment!  So why does their driving instructor want paying for a lesson they haven’t provided?!  Don’t expect them to be psychic or to just read the fine print about cancellations on your website or on the back of their appointment card. Whether you work for yourself or on a franchise, take a few minutes to candidly explain how important it is that they give you plenty of notice if they need to cancel.  Don’t put it across in a threatening way – just explain in an honest and friendly tone how it affects you and your business if they cancel at late notice.  At the same time, make your commitment to them – that if you ever need to change their lesson date or time, that you will compensate them too.  This builds trust and shows your integrity – they are much more likely to respect you for it. chargeOutline the conditions for cancellation (see below) and end the conversation by simply asking for their verbal understanding, “so are we OK with that, or do you need me to clarify anything?” Ignore this first tip at your peril –  if you decide not to heed this advice, don’t be shocked when a pupil who’s called a few hours before their lesson to cancel gets a bit shirty when you tell them they’ll have to pay for it!

Tip 2 – Have clear, accessible Terms & Conditions

Having clear terms and conditions is a must if you want to enforce payments for cancellations. Terms and conditions need to be fair and work both ways. If your customer cancels and is held financially accountable, surely it’s only right that you offer some form of compensation if you cancel, too? tcMake your terms and conditions easily available, have them on your website and appointment cards.  Go through cancellation policies at the time of booking and/or on the first lesson. Even so, it can be hard to enforce and if reliable customers have a genuine reason for cancelling, waiving the cancellation on that occasion can make good business sense. You don’t want to lose an otherwise reliable customer all because you charged her for a lesson when she was in hospital with her son.

Tip 3 – Don’t GIVE them the excuse!

I remember meeting an ADI for some skills development training a few years ago.  He was really down-in-the-dumps about his cancellation rate, which in that particular week was over 50%!  I asked him about his terms and conditions, how he explained them to his pupils, and how strictly he enforced them.  His reply went something like this: siteen“Yes Ged, I tell them that they have to give me 48 hours’ notice of any cancellations, otherwise I’ll charge them.  But obviously if they’re ill, I don’t want their germs, so it’s fine to cancel then” When I asked him what the pupils’ reasons for cancelling that week was, can you guess what his reply was?  Yes, you got it – “they’re all ill”.  Hardly surprising, was it? It’s a good idea to waive the lesson fee if your pupil is genuinely poorly, but don’t tell them in advance that this will be the case, or else the same excuse will be used every time they just can’t be bothered with their driving lesson!

Tip 4 – Keep regular lesson slots

Where possible, keeping the same time and day for pupils can help reduce the likelihood of them cancelling. Having the same time allows the customer to plan the rest of their week around this regular commitment.driving When lessons are moved around a lot it’s easy for the pupil to ‘forget’ when their lesson was or double book that lesson time with some other commitment.  Also, bear in mind that if you keep changing their lesson time around from week to week, they’ll expect you to allow them to do the same. Having said that, do bear in mind that learners will benefit from experiencing driving at different times of day, so moving a lesson time to another ‘regular slot’ for a few weeks should work well.

Tip 5 – Be reliable

This is one that I feel is extremely important. I like to treat others the way I want to be treated. So if you want your customers to be reliable, you need to lead by example. It may suit you to ask that customer if they can do their lesson earlier (because someone else has cancelled) or if they can do a different day (because you don’t want to go out for just their lesson that afternoon) but be warned! If you think it’s acceptable to expect them to regularly change their plans for you, they will the same in return!

Tip 6 – Take payment in advance

When Claire worked as an independent ADI, she asked for payment in advance. On the first lesson, she charged for 2 lessons. This never caused a problem and she always made her cancellation policy clear. If she had a cancellation, it was already paid for and they would need to bring payment for 2 lessons next time to be in advance again.  If you’re on a franchise, you may be restricted by the policies of your franchise agreement, but if you’re independent this is a good way to reduce cancellations AND be paid for the cancellations that you do get. Claire noticed a big drop in cancellation rates when she started implementing this method.  Great tip on how to reduce driving lesson cancellations and not lose money or a client.

Tip 7 – Encourage block bookings

save20It’s much easier to charge for cancellations when you have the money up front. Block booking discounts offer an incentive for customers to pay for 10 hours at a time, but is your incentive enough? We noticed a big difference in the amount of pre-payments for blocks of 10 hours when we put our hourly rate up but kept the block booking the same. Instead of a £10 discount, customers get £20 discount (almost the price of a 1 hour lesson!).  Now customers are much more likely to take advantage of the £20 saving.

Tip 8 – Buy slots in advance

In really restricted weeks (such as the week between Christmas and New Year), it may be an idea to book slots well in advance. Not all of us like working these days, I didn’t as a full day of lessons soon became a day with a lesson in the morning and one in the afternoon after the cancellations had come in (family party/ill/hungover, etc). The next year I decided to ‘sell’ these slots on a first-come-first-served basis. I would have slots available for each day I worked and if my learners wanted a lesson between Christmas and New Year, they would pay for it in advance to secure the slot. Do keep the money separate though! If you can’t do the lesson for whatever reason (e.g. adverse weather or illness), they have still paid for a lesson and you don’t want to work the first week in January knowing you’ve already spent the money for those rescheduled lessons!

Tip 9 – Give out appointment cards

I think most ADIs use appointment cards, but there are still some that don’t.  Yes, the pupil forgets to bring it sometimes, or they lose it.  Simple answer for that – give them a new one.  Just one lost lesson at £24 will pay for a bulk purchase of around 1,000 cards, so it really is worth the investment! Use one side of the appointment card to outline your terms and conditions – this way your pupil always has them to hand when they’re thinking of calling to reschedule their lesson.

meme-from-iphonetextgenerator(1)Tip 10 – Reminder texts or emails

SMS reminders or emails can be sent out to your pupils, manually or automatically, to remind them of their lesson time and date.  A message can be sent out a couple of days in advance of their lesson so that they remember when their lesson is booked for. Results for this strategy can vary. When we had these for our driving school customers, some instructors said they reduced cancellations and some said they had more last minute cancellations. We’d be interested to hear what your experience has been if you use reminder texts or emails. down arrowWhat other strategies do you use to minimise cancellations and loss of income? Was has worked well and what hasn’t worked so well? We’d love to hear your stories so that others can benefit from them too. Finally, if you liked this article, about how to Reduce Driving Lesson Cancellations please share it on Facebook and Twitter – simply hit one of the social media buttons below.  Thanks!

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