TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION TO PART 2: TIPS FOR MANAGING TUTORING COMPANIES
The next four points are going to conclude the information I'm dispensing on clients and how to interact with them. While these points are not as long as the previous article, they are still relevant. In fact, the information provided in part 2 of this series on managing tutoring companies is closely related to lessons I learned and can't be found anywhere else other than through trial and error.
While you are more than welcome to "reinvent the wheel," for those of you who would like to learn from others mistakes, the following provides priceless knowledge for dealing with clients and managing a successful tutoring company.
These recommendations aren't intended to upset anyone. When I characterize parents or tutors I'm revealing psychological nuances learned from my own experiences. Please try to disconnect your emotional quotient in favor of your intellectual quotient. Human beings are by nature inherently self-serving. It's your duty to manage your tutoring company in such as way as to overcome these challenges should you wish to be successful.
Let's get started. Shall we?
NEVER GIVE A TUTOR'S CONTACT INFORMATION TO A PARENT UNTIL THEY COMMIT
Don't fall prey to this tactic.
Unfortunately, you will come across clients who will ask you for your tutor's information prior to committing to your services. This is how the conversation usually goes down:
Wow. Your tutors sound great! I'm impressed, but my child can be very difficult at times. I won't get into the nitty-gritty right now. I guess what I'm asking is: can I get the tutor's information before I move forward with you? I want to review their credentials and make sure they'll be a good fit. You understand, right?
How would you respond to this client?
The way you respond will depend upon your business model and management style. I say this because every business owner will manage their tutoring company differently.
If you characterize yourself as a people-person, and you make a point to communicate with your tutors regularly; you've built up a strong connection with your tutors, you might get away with providing the tutor's information to the client.
On the other hand, if you haven't developed a strong relationship with the tutor you intent to use for this client, and you don't know for sure what they would do if asked to work directly with the client, you don't want to provide the tutor's information before the client has committed to your service. A commitment means they've purchased your services.
You might ask, "Why would I assign a tutor I don't have a good relationship with?"
I agree with that statement in principal, but allow me to elaborate. If you intend to manage a tutoring company that consists of 10 or more clients, there will come times when you will be forced to hire a tutor that you didn't already have working for you.
Eventually, the tutors you employ on a constant basis will be booked, take a break, go on vacation, be the wrong sex (clients do discriminate), or are otherwise unavailable. This means you will have to expand your tutoring force and hire new blood.
This is a good sign for you because it means you're growing, but growing has its pains.
You may also be managing a tutoring company that is multi-regional or has a high churn on tutors and clients based on your business model. Whatever the reason, you want to handle this client's question carefully.
It's no secret how I think you should respond. Don't give them the information!
My reasoning behind this recommendation is simple. You spend a great deal of time and money managing your tutoring company. You spend money on advertising and marketing, meeting with clients, hiring tutors, financial book keeping, manning phones, solving technical issues, and so much more.
What I am getting at is you need to be paid for your work. Furthermore, you need to value your time, and you need your clients to value your time. It's your responsibility to convey to your potential clients that your time is money. If they can't respect that fact you don't want to do business with them.
Here is how the remainder of the conversation may go:
I completely understand the need to have a good fit between [insert child name] and the tutor. That's why I insist on getting as much information about [insert child name] as possible so I can recommend a good program moving forward. I will of course work with the tutor to ensure they understand [insert child name] unique requirements. Based on the information you provide, your availability and location, I will choose one of our tutors that is capable of helping [insert child name].
The next step is to schedule a free consultation where I come in and meet [insert child name] and get a better understanding of where they are in their learning and what challenges they're facing. After that, I'll be in a better position to make a recommendation on the tutor. At that time, I will of course provide you their background information, credentials, and other contact information.
What would be the best time for you and your spouse to meet? How does Monday or Tuesday evening sound? Perhaps at 7:00 pm or 9:00 pm?
This type of response works well if you provide consultations. If you forgot how a consultation should go down, please go back to Part 1: Get Good At Sales and review the sales process.
To summarize, the consultation introduces the client to your services, your tutors, and your unique offerings, and if successful, ends with a monetary commitment by the client.
After a successful consultation you will have a commitment from the client thus giving them the tutor's information will no longer be an issue. If the client doesn't commit, you leave and the client understands they're not pursuing your tutoring services and therefore doesn't need the tutor's information.
Things get difficult if you don't do consultations.
If you don't provide consultations you're asking for a monetary commitment without developing a sufficient amount of rapport. Most clients won't commit under these circumstances. Thus, you really can't blame a client if they request the tutor's information before they hand over their money.
Build rapport by doing the following:
Use your initial phone conversation to the fullest. Be prepared to chat about their child, take notes, and repeat their concerns. At times, insert your credentials to build up your credibility. Do your best to portray a reputable business and expert knowledge in teaching and learning. Since I'm also a certified teacher, my phone conversations usually went over well. I didn't do consultations so I used the phone conversation to connect with the client on the deepest level possible
I provided a free 1 hour session. To get past the uneasiness of commitment I offered the client a free 1 hour tutoring session. This allowed me to make the following value proposition: if the session doesn't work out, no harm no foil, but I can tell you that 90% of our first sessions end very well. This typically sets the client at ease. You are taking a chance on them, so it is much easier for them to take a FREE chance on you
If absolutely necessary, send a short bio of one of your tutors you think would be a good match for their child. Impress upon them the tutor's time is quickly being scheduled. Don't give them last names or contact information
If none of these rapport building examples are successful in calming their fears, and they still insist on the tutor's information, you're not in a good place. Remember, this last part is if you don't do consultations.
Here's how you might handle a client's request for the tutor's information after you've exhausted the above points:
I completely understand your need to find the best tutor. I want to provide you with the best tutor for [insert child name]. I've become quite good at matching tutors to students because of the process I follow. That's why I've asked as many questions as I have to get a better understanding of [insert child name] needs.
And you're right, sometimes the chemistry between tutors and students can't be predicted. That's why I offer the free 1 hour session to ensure a good match.
The thing is, the tutor must commit their time to [insert child name] and it's very important that commitment isn't broken or they might find themselves without a student while they turned another student away.
I'm sure you can understand the need to ensure the tutor's time is well spent and students aren't left without support?
Let's take the next step and commit to [x hours] of tutoring and book that free session. Okay?
Before you ask, "Does that work?" You bet!
Well maybe not always. If it doesn't work, all you can do is try and tease out their hang-ups. If the client isn't interesting in talking to you about their hang-ups, and they insist on getting the tutor's information, don't give it to them.
I'm serious now!
Don't give it to them! You're going to be tempted to take a chance and give the tutor's information to them. After all, you don't want to squander the lead, right?
I can tell your with near certainty, if they insist on the tutor's information, including their contact information, they will try to hire the tutor themselves and cut you out of the process.
Don't do it. Even if you have 100% trust in your tutor, giving the client their contact information belittles your contribution to the scenario. Furthermore, the client is more than likely going to waste the tutor's time. What's the client going to gleam from a phone call with the tutor? No purpose is served other than undermining your business and possibly your relationship with the tutor.
Given the concessions you were willing to make, if the client is so paranoid or mistrusting, you don't want to take them on as a client. They're just going to drive you crazy and waste your time. No commitment means no tutor. Thanks for calling and good-bye.
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS VERY IMPORTANT (EVEN IF THEY ARE WRONG)
This is one of those things I learned the hard way. My logical brain more often than not see's the world as black and white, right or wrong. It's difficult for me to have sympathy for others who are clearly in the wrong. Thus, while managing my tutoring company, if I was faced with a client who appeared to be callous, racist, or otherwise egregious, I'd stick to my moral ground.
Don't do that!
As a manager for a tutoring company your number one priority is customer satisfaction. You don't get paid if you don't have clients. Yes, you need to protect and respect your tutors, without question, but you don't have a business with tutors alone.
Let me expand and qualify this a little more. I don't want to trigger anyone.
Here are some ways where clients might be wrong:
I don't want a male tutor (just because...)
I don't want to pay for x sessions because my child failed their test
Why should I pay for a cancelled session? (did not call to cancel ahead of time)
I want my money back (no sessions but tutor hired and cancelled last minute)
I want a different tutor (no reason given, but ethnicity probably played a role)
First off, I want to make the claim that many of these issues would be greatly diminished if you provide a high quality of service and meet with the clients in the beginning with regular check-ups. Nonetheless, you still might face one or more of these issues from time to time.
Here is how you handle it.
Make them happy!
That's it. It's that simple. Make them happy or suffer the consequences.
What are the consequences you ask?
They tell all their friends how terrible your company is
They go to social media and slander your company
They fill out hateful reviews on Google Places, Yelp, and any other platform your business is using
They attempt charge backs (you are likely to lose these disputes by the way)
They cancel your service right away (the tutor loses hours which reflects badly on your company)
You need to deal with harassing phone call and e-mails
You experience added stress and worry to the point where you question why you're doing it
If giving them a refund, or assigning a new tutor will make them happy, do it. If you feel they might be an ongoing problem, give them their money back; or an amount that is fair for both of you, and wish them the best of luck. Just make sure they're not foaming at the mouth, eager to destroy you.
No matter how rude or obnoxious they are to you, their intentions are coming from a pure place. They're trying to help their child. You only succeed in making a monster out of yourself if you take the moral high ground.
You need to factor these types of monetary losses into your business. If your tutoring company is unable to absorb these losses, you need to charge more, or make modifications to your business model.
Customer satisfaction is your number one priority. Do whatever it takes to make the client happy. Never let an upset client leave your services without feeling vindicated and appeased.
ALWAYS DO FREE CONSULTATIONS
As Dale Carnegie stated in his book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, "People do business with those they know, like and trust."
There's been a lot of information in the media about the rise of tutoring as a global industry. This has brought a lot of awareness to tutoring and sparked an increase in the number of start-up tutoring companies.
Furthermore, consider the number of young people entering teaching and the lack of employment positions for them, we are left with a worldwide surplus of teachers.
What are teachers to do when they can't find work? Oftentimes, these teachers become tutors. Some tutors who are business minded start their own tutoring company. My own experience followed this scenario.
The point is there's lots of competition in the tutoring industry.
Competition means clients have options and if we remember what Dale Carnegie said, it's going to be up to you to be more trusting and likable than your competitors.
How do you project trust and likability?
The free consultation of course!
I'm not telling you this is the only way to build trust and likeability, but it certainly is the most powerful way to do it. Here are some other ways to build trust:
display client testimonials loudly and proudly
partner up with well known organizations (safe schools association, parents associations, etc.) and display your relationship with them on your website
provide FREE first sessions
provide a customer satisfaction guarantee that's real and not full of legal double-speak
give clients a toll-free number to contact you
return e-mails as fast as humanly possible and make sure the quality of the reply is there. This means answering all their questions to the fullest!
show some of your tutors bio's, and pictures on your website
have an active blog that provides parents with useful information. Always be positive and never sound negative. Never talk badly about other tutoring companies because it makes you look petty and immature
have an active social media presence and encourage tutors and clients to post positive affirmations
have a monthly newsletter that dispenses important and useful information. Choose this medium to highlight the successes your students have had. This makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside about you and your tutoring company
do FREE consultations (you didn't think I was going to leave this one out did you?)
I chose to highlight the need for free consultations because it will have the biggest impact on the success of your business. Even if you neglected the majority of my other points, a free consultation will raise your tutoring company to the top of the competition.
Follow all of these methods for building trust and you'll be swimming in success. I guarantee it! If you implement all of these recommendations and you aren't successful, I want to know. I will personally step in and provide my services free of charge to help identify what happened and get you back on track.
NO CONSULTATION? DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME!
If you are speaking with a client that refuses to arrange a free consultation, no matter the reasons, don't waste your time. Thank them for calling and hang up. Don't give them any more of your time.
Your natural inclination is to keep trying. You may have had a great conversation with them. If they don't want to commit to your services, and they don't want to arrange a consultation, you aren't likely to convert them into a paying customer.
There are a number of reasons why a client won't commit to a free consultation, they include:
they're just researching the tutoring options (which is fine but you don't want to commit significant resources to them)
they've decided to go elsewhere and they're looking for evidence to support their decision
they're considering back-up options if their current tutoring company lets them down
you're a victim of corporate espionage and the client actually represents one of your competitors looking to steal your good ideas or find holes in your sales process
The free consultation is the BEST way to vet the client for their desire to legitimately seek your tutoring services.
This is a very important point. Don't underestimate the time and energy that goes into advertising for tutoring positions, interviewing tutors, training tutors to correctly implement your processes, pairing tutors with students, and organizing the logistics between the student and tutor. This accounts for a great deal of time and energy!
When a client convinces you to do all of these preliminary events, and they back out of your services, you've taken a serious monetary hit to your bottom line. Only give your time to clients who demonstrate a willingness to commit to your services. If they balk at a free consultation, they aren't serious enough for you to pursue their request.
If you choose not to heed my warning, or you don't offer free consultations, prepare for inefficiency, and higher tutor churn.
When you contact tutors for a possible assignment but don't make good on that assignment, the tutor will take you less seriously. Tutors want to be contacted for positions that are available. Otherwise, they don't want to be bothered. Furthermore, tutors want to be assured if they commit to a student, they are going to be working for a set number of hours per week over a period of time.
You're going to lose the tutor if you contact them for jobs and don't make good on those jobs. You'll also lose the tutor if you assign them a student that doesn't keep to an assigned schedule or cancels their sessions on a regular basis (and they don't get paid for the cancelled session).
Consultations strengthens the relationship between the client and your tutoring company so these types of occurrences are few and far between.
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How useful do you think these tips are?