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Marmalade

Thank You Caller

When taking a phone call lesson enquiry, what are the key things I need to ask and say?

Joe, PDI

Answer: I know it sounds silly, but the first thing to ask is who the lessons are for and where that person lives! It’s not unusual to get half way through a conversation before discovering they found you on google and you share a school name with another instructor 300 miles away! Also, if it’s the parent phoning, rather than the pupil, then this obviously determines how you structure the rest of the conversation. Keep in mind all the usual rapport building ‘rules’ – be friendly, welcoming and interested right from the start. Make a good first impression. Helpful things to ask or know include  –

● making sure they have a provisional licence and are 17 (or will be by the time they come to drive)
● If they are wanting manual or automatic lessons
● If they have driven before
● What their availability is and how that fits with your diary

Sometimes it’s nice to know where they got your details from so you can either thank or reward the source of the recommendation, or to evaluate how well your advertising and marketing is going. Lastly, if they book, take ALL the details you need! You will be surprised at the number of instructors who open their diaries and see ‘11:00am – James – first lesson’ and have no idea who it is with, or where to pick them up from!

Kerb Appeal

I have a pupil who is finding it hard to pull up on the left without scraping the kerb. Any tips?

Adam, ADI

Answer: This is not particularly unusual, not just in inexperienced pupils. Even pupils with experience can suddenly redevelop the problem, and if you look at the wheels of most full licence holder cars, I think you’ll find evidence of an endemic problem here! But our pupils are often particularly bad, and it’s all part of the learning process of course. Often this is linked to speed. Encourage the pupil to reduce the power out of the car with more brake than they think they need, and to do this BEFORE they make any turning of the steering wheel towards the kerb. This allows them time to adjust their road position in a more controlled way. I find using words such as “glide the car”, or “encourage the car” work better than “steer the car” – as quite often the word ‘steer’ means they focus attention on steering rather than general control, and results in a harsher movement towards the kerb, meaning the approaching angle frequently results in a kerb touch. Try pulling up on the right instead. Often, pupils find this much easier and it will allow them to practise that skill of gliding rather than steering. When they are more comfortable with manoeuvring close to the kerb and low speed vehicle control, you can move to pulling up on the left and they will be more confident of assessing kerb and distance too.

The Meter’s Running

Is there a good case for charging more for evening, weekend or Bank Holiday working hours?

Steve, ADI

Answer: That’s a very interesting question Steve, and I guess it all depends on your motives – if it’s to discourage people because you’d quite like to not work at those times, then the advantage is it may put them off! However, if it’s to earn more money, then the disadvantage is it might put them off! How about raising your general lesson prices just enough to give you a greater income so you can afford to work the hours you want, and no more? Do the figures, as it could be that for as little as £1 extra per hour you will earn enough to have a little more time off, and such a small increase will have no negative effects on business. If, however, you enjoy lessons at the weekends, evenings and bank holidays as it fits with your other commitments, or you prefer the slightly different traffic conditions, then embrace it and make it your unique selling point!

Who Am I?

I’ve just had my worst lesson yet! I felt woefully underprepared and I couldn’t get my words or instructions out in time. Any tips on how to recover and prevent that happening again?

Kevin, PDI

Answer: Those first few weeks are such a learning curve. Try not to beat yourself up too much but use it as an opportunity to reflect and develop some of those important instructor skills. Think about where it first went wrong. It sounds from your description that perhaps your knowledge and understanding of what the pupil needed was lacking and then your ability to control the lesson and set your instruction at an appropriate level was a challenge. It’s really hard work constantly feeling like you are firefighting, and you are left totally exhausted, knowing that the pupil didn’t learn effectively and that neither of you enjoyed the process. So… Set yourself some personal ground rules for your next lesson. Use the seventeen Part 3 competencies to provide some structure to your planning. Before the car moves, confirm the pupil’s goals for the drive, and their current knowledge, understanding and ability, as well as how you are both going to work together as a team.
Have a clear idea of the route and area you will drive for the lesson so you can opt in and out of situations based on how well things are going. Take regular breaks in the lesson to discuss how it’s going and reset goals as the lesson progresses. Keep control and keep it safe, and make sure you stay in your comfort zone. But, most of all, keep it fun for everyone and enjoy it!