Seeing, Hearing, Speaking
Communication is the name of the game, both as a teacher and a business owner
Being able to communicate effectively with your students in order to impart your valuable knowledge to them is undoubtedly the most important role of being a driving instructor. As I’m not an ADI myself, I’m not qualified to pass judgement on the details of your curriculum, but I would like to comment on other communication-based aspects of your wider business.
Upgrades or Upsets
Over the last 48 hours, the MyDriveTime team have completed some major infrastructure work. Whilst largely successful, it didn’t go entirely to plan, but our customers have been amazing. As well as being lovely people, I attribute this to the effort we put in to communicating clearly, honestly and quickly with them. People don’t mind when things go wrong – they understand – they just don’t want to be left in the dark and not knowing.
One of the most fundamental pillars of any successful business is ensuring your customers know where they stand with you, so their expectations can be managed. It means a closer relationship is established, and they can feel confident that they won’t be let down. In business, as in real life, it’s often difficult to regain trust and credibility if your service and actions aren’t ‘sold as advertised’, but mistakes can happen, and unforeseen problems occur. However, if you let the customer know immediately, they are more likely to take a position of understanding. My simple advice to you is to ‘keep it real’, because we’re all human. Operating as a business means you have to make an effort, but it doesn’t mean you have to change your fundamental being!
Talk is Cheap
Here are some aspects of communication that you might give thought to:
Your image – It’s so important to set off on the right foot, and that begins with your marketing. By all means describe the service you provide, but make sure you present the picture of who you are too. Rather than the hugely overused ‘lady in red tearing an L-plate’ stock image for your website, you should absolutely be displaying an image of yourself and your car, so visitors can immediately begin to get a sense of who you are, and remember to smile!
Heads-up and admission – My wife struggles with Meniere’s disease and depression. Sometimes she will have to clear her diary, often at very short notice, but this has never been an issue with her customers because she is open and honest with parents and students from the very first lesson. It can be hard admitting your vulnerabilities to a young stranger, but most will understand if you’re up front and prepare them for that eventuality, managing their expectations. It also takes the pressure off you if you need to make that call. Don’t wait until it happens, get out ahead of it!
Being frank and honest – Making up excuses often backfires, causing more damage that would’ve been caused in the first place. Nobody is infallible, and honesty from the start will often win you respect and ease your path when things go wrong.
Meeting the Parents – Many instructors don’t routinely meet the parents of new students. It’s not always possible before or after lessons, so consider whether your relationship with your customers would be strengthened by insisting on a 20-minute chat at home before you start. You can set out how the learning to drive process will work, managing their expectations from the off and helping students and parents buy into your service, making the process more effective and respected.
Your Terms & Conditions – For me, it’s an essential part of your communication strategy. Setting out how you work in a written document, and having your customers sign it will make it much easier to operate, especially if something goes wrong. Search for ‘ADIs’ terms and conditions’ online and get some inspiration for your own document.
Social media & instant messenger – It’s important, especially in this day and age, that your communication with students includes the digital platforms they use. Most don’t like picking up the phone, and the vast majority don’t care for ‘slow old’ email. They prefer text messages and online instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and SnapChat. They can often be installed on your mobile device and linked to your Contacts list so you can connect with your students using their phone number. Get a student to show you how!
Personal hygiene – Ensure your personal hygiene is always in check. It’s not an easy subject to broach, but it’s worth considering whether some air freshener or breath mints would help put your students at ease, especially if you love coffee or a cheeky cigarette between lessons!
Your Voicemail greeting – Finally, pretend you’re a student’s parent. Turn your phone off, then use another phone to call your number and listen to your voicemail greeting. Ask yourself if it truly reflects a professional, friendly approach.It sounds basic, but you might be surprised if I told you that 80% of voicemail greetings are the standard carrier greeting, and 10% are either incomprehensible or totally inappropriate. I was greeted with one just this week who simply said “Leave a message” in an aggressive tone…! I doubt I’m alone in concluding that this isn’t the best way to project your best self, your business or to sell your services.
Catch the monkey
Clear, simple and effective communication is essential in all areas of your business and tells potential customers a lot about the way you will communicate in lessons. So why not brush up on all your communication skills today.