Drive Scout Blog
Should Your Driving School Use Online Scheduling?
By: Steve Jones | Posted in: Operations, Scheduling
February 18, 2020
The Advantages Of Online Scheduling
What percentage of your calls on a daily basis deal with scheduling at your driving school? 50, 60, 70%? How would you like to reduce these scheduling phone calls by 80%?
It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? Thanks to online scheduling for driving school owners, you can now turn this dream into a reality!
With just a few simple clicks of a button on your phone, you can have dinner delivered to your home or you can schedule a haircut for next week.
It’s with this level of convenience in mind that today’s customers hold companies accountable too.
Upon activation of our software at Drive Scout, customers receive our online scheduling tool for free. So whether or not a customer uses our online scheduling tool with our software does not impact our revenue.
Hence, the purpose of this article is not to sell you on online scheduling, but to properly inform you about the power of online scheduling and the convenience it brings to help a driving school increase profit and efficiency.
I’ve worked with hundreds of driving school owners. And at least 90% of the time, after listening to their needs and feedback, I recommend and always end up referring back to the power of online scheduling.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you’ll have a newfound, in-depth knowledge about how online scheduling works and will be able to make a more informed decision as to whether this transformative tool makes sense for your business.
We’ll discuss three main areas in today’s guide:
Without further adieu, let’s jump right into the power of online scheduling for driving schools!
Why online scheduling?
Here are 9 ways online scheduling can help in your day-to-day operations:
- More appointments
- Fewer no-shows
- Fewer errors
- Time savings
- A vastly improved customer experience
- Increased cash flow
- Centralized scheduling
- Enhanced flexibility
- Greater control
1. More appointments
More is good. And while quantity is not a substitute for quality, the more customers you can serve, the more money you can make!
If you’re operating without online scheduling, you’ve essentially put up a roadblock between you and your customer. Remember, they’re as busy as you are.
They have projects and meetings and personal obligations that make it difficult to find the time to remember to call you, much less actually do it.
If a customer does remember to call you and finds the time to do it, this miracle has to occur during your business hours.
The customer might be able to leave a message and hope someone returns their call (and that they’re not busy when the call comes in) or they can send an email and wait for a response.
To your customer, it’s the twenty-first century equivalent of putting a message in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean. Not exactly the foundation of an award-winning customer experience strategy!
And to make matters worse, it’s harder than ever to get customers to answer calls because of the prevalence of robocalls and spammy companies. ☹
2. Fewer no-shows
We’ve all been there before: Waiting for a student to show up, frantically calling them to try and figure out where they are. And then there’s the inevitable sense of frustration when they ghost you completely. Ouch.
Having one or more students fail to show up for their appointment (or arrive at the wrong time/place) is a sure-fire way to mess up the rest of your day’s schedule.
When this happens, your office and instructors are left idle, your schedule is thrown into disarray, and you lose money.
One of the most priceless benefits of online scheduling for driving schools is the ability to send automated appointment confirmations and reminders.
For every appointment scheduled, your customer will receive a confirmation via email with all of the details of the appointment.
In addition, customers receive reminder messages via email or a text message before the appointment to help further mitigate no-shows or late arrivals.
Sending reminders has proved to reduce no-shows by up to 50% (especially text reminders).
Let’s do a quick experiment. Look back at your appointment history for the past six months.
Add up the costs of all the no-shows, late arrivals and payroll dollars used to have your office staff manually call, text or email for appointment reminders.
How much did it cost you?
Online scheduling has the ability to add that money back into your business.
Have you ever had an irate parent call in about an instructor not showing up? Sadly, I have and it’s not fun. But wait, is that what really happened?
Come to find out, the instructor was actually scheduled for the following day and what the parent “heard” on the phone was different than what I had actually scheduled in my calendar. YIKES.
And if a paper style appointment calendar is being used for scheduling, even more mistakes are likely to occur.
The process of scheduling over the phone is not only time consuming, but it also leaves room for human errors and miscommunication.
What happens if you end up accidentally booking two customers (or two instructors or two vehicles) for the same time slot?
Such issues don’t just put a strain on your operations, they diminish the overall customer experience. Here’s the good news, though: Human errors are largely preventable if you have the right software and operational systems in place.
By encouraging customers to book online, you greatly reduce the opportunity for error.
Leveraging automated appointment reminders (via text and email) and automated confirmation messages help everyone involved stay on the same page and reduce errors.
4. Time savings
Managing appointments without the help of online scheduling for your driving school takes a significant amount of time.
Your staff must manually enter customer contact information, appointment details, and other related data – in short, it’s time consuming, repetitive, and inefficient.
Answering and returning calls to schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments (not to mention sending manual confirmation emails or texts), also take precious time out of your day.
The time that could be invested back into growing your business (not managing it!).
So how much time does using online scheduling actually save? Driving Schools that have implemented online scheduling report an average savings of 8-12 hours a week.
Added up, that’s over 40 hours a month (aka an entire work week)!
Not only does online scheduling reduce the need for additional administrative hours, but the time saved can now be spent on tasks that utilize your staff’s specialized skills or on revenue-generating activities.
5. A vastly improved customer experience
It’s the golden age of the internet, so 99% of your customer base is used to conducting business online. What’s more, they expect it!
In fact, over 80% of these customers want the option to schedule their appointments online.
It’s crucial to remember that customers appreciate the ability to reserve appointments outside the usual 9 to 5.
Research shows that 35% of customers prefer scheduling appointments during non-business hours while 40% of online bookings actually happen after hours.
Oftentimes, customers aren’t going to wait until the next day to call you. Instead, they are simply going to move on and look for a driving school that will accommodate their needs more quickly.
And if so, what they might find is another driving school website with a “register” or “book now” button on it which instantly tells the customer that the company:
- Believes their time is valuable
- Cares about making it easy for customers to do business with you
Don’t believe me?
Think about it this way: If your customers have to put off making an appointment until the next day or play phone-tag in order to secure an appointment with you, they might become someone else’s customers.
6. Increased cash flow
Before ever securing a booking or buying a product, most customers start their search online. In fact, a whopping 81% of consumers research products and services before they buy!
With this in mind, it’s crucial to showcase your available services on the web. Online scheduling offers multiple functions that allow driving schools to improve cash flow using automated workflows. For example, you can:
- Allow customers to pay in advance when they book an appointment
- Have customers pay for additional services (after their initial purchase) and reduce phone calls related to payments
- Permit customers to pay outstanding balances, late fees, etc., all online
- Reduce scheduling calls by 80%+, which in turn reduces missed calls for customers looking to purchase your service
7. Centralized scheduling
Gone are the days of driving back to your driving school to check available appointment times or review student information.
And the best part about it is that online scheduling has the benefits of being accessible from anywhere! You’ll be able to access all of the information for your driving school from your computer, phone or tablet!
8. Enhanced flexibility
Your customer has their own busy schedule to maintain, and your employees are doing their best to stay productive.
When a customer has to cancel or reschedule their appointment, how quickly is your staff able to adjust?
With online scheduling, your customers can access their own appointment information anytime. Customers simply have to login, modify their appointment, and save.
No need for these busy parents and students to call and wait on hold while your office staff looks for the next available appointment to fit their schedule.
And if the appointment is changed within 24 hours of the appointment start time, your office staff is notified via email and instructors are notified via email and text.
Yes, it’s really that simple!
9. Greater control
For driving schools, it’s critical to control what data your office staff, instructors and students/parents have access to. With online scheduling, you’ll have various ways of allowing and restricting access to certain areas for different user types.
You’ll feel more secure knowing your company and customer data are safe, and your employees will be able to focus on their work without worrying about accidentally modifying or deleting important records.
And you’ll always have access to the most up-to-date version of your company’s appointment calendar so that you can review upcoming appointments for a specific location or staff member.
So are you finally ready to leave behind the stress of losing your scheduling book and start using online scheduling for your driving school?
Now let’s turn our attention to debunking the common myths related to online scheduling.
10 Common myths about online scheduling
Here are the most common myths about online scheduling (some just might surprise you!):
- Customers will “take over” my schedule and book appointments anytime they want.
- I’m worried my vehicle costs will go up by having more distance between lessons.
- Customers will no longer call me and I’ll lose sales.
- If I keep doing the same thing for scheduling it will eventually get easier.
- I’m too busy and do not have enough time to learn anything new.
- I’m not used to using technology and I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out online scheduling.
- I’ll lose my personalized approach to talking with every parent before scheduling.
- I won’t know if someone cancels last minute to notify my staff.
- Online scheduling software is too expensive and is only for bigger driving schools.
- My instructors won’t like using online scheduling software and prefer paper with pens?
As you see, some of these myths have mistakenly curved opinions about the power and potential of online scheduling. But no more! Here they are below in more detail.
Myth 1: Customers will “take over” my schedule and book appointments anytime they want. False
Fact: You have full control of your schedule. You choose when you’d like to schedule instructors and which appointments are visible online for customers vs only visible to your employees.
Myth 2: I’m worried my vehicle costs will go up by having more distance between lessons. False
Fact: You can create zones within your software settings to make it impossible for instructors to drive too far between lessons.
We’ve actually seen these costs go down for customers since the zoning system reduces the errors often created by office staff scheduling.
This is done by getting a list of zip codes you service or creating service areas based on a mileage radius to ensure ONLY students who live in your service areas can schedule online.
And if they live outside of your service areas, they’ll have the option to be picked up at your pre-determined pick-up locations.
Myth 3: Customers will no longer call me and I’ll lose sales. False
Fact: Good customer service is all about giving your customers the power to choose how and when they get in touch with you.
For every customer that wants to call you, there’s at least one customer who feels calling you is a waste of their time and energy.
Myth 4: If I keep doing the same thing for scheduling it will eventually get easier. False
Fact: The definition of insanity according to Albert Einstein is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Get out of your comfort zone and embrace change!
Regardless of which online scheduling software you choose, you’ll have to commit to investing time into learning something new.
Myth 5: I’m too busy and do not have enough time to learn anything new. False
Fact: Abraham Lincoln said if he had 8 hours to chop down a tree, he would spend 6 hours sharpening his axe. You have a few hours to learn something new and just need to make it a priority.
Myth 6: I’m not used to using technology and I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out online scheduling. False
Fact: Don’t worry, training is quick. We’ve seen folks 75+ years old learn online scheduling software who now LOVE it!
Myth 7: I’ll lose my personalized approach to talking with every parent before scheduling. False
Fact: You’ll be able to adjust your settings to have parents call in to schedule their 1st appointment and then customers schedule online going forward. Or you can keep the default settings and students can schedule all of their lessons online if you change your mind.
Myth 8: I won’t know if someone cancels last minute to notify my staff. False
Fact: Online scheduling software has a cancelation policy feature that you can customize to match whatever your current policy is for cancelations.
For example, you might have a 24-hour cancellation policy and a $50 fee. This fee is communicated to the customer prior to them canceling so there are no surprises.
Also, if a customer does cancel within your cancellation policy timeframe, the instructors are sent an email and text and you will be notified via email as well.
Myth 9: Online scheduling software is too expensive and is only for bigger driving schools. False
Fact: Over 60% of our customers have 1-5 employees and online scheduling software is often priced based on the volume of business you’re doing. Hence, it’s definitely affordable for any driving school. 🙂
Also, the average driving school sees a 5-6 times return on investment from reduced payroll costs while also generating extra cash flow.
Bottom line, these online scheduling companies would not exist if they did not help their customers drive profits.
Myth 10: My instructors won’t like using online scheduling software and prefer paper/pen?
Fact: Online scheduling works amazing on computers, tablets or mobile devices and your instructors will love having access to their schedule 24/7 and receiving a daily email of their schedule (for the next day).
They especially will appreciate the notifications sent via email and text when someone books or cancels within 24 hours of an appointment.
Also, an optional feature they’ll love having access to is the customer’s feedback from all their prior lessons (or feedback from another instructor’s appointment with the same student).
From this feedback, instructors can gain insight to help improve their future appointments, rather than being left in the dark about the quality of the service they provide.
And for those few instructors who prefer paper, you (or the instructor) can easily print their schedules each day.
Hopefully, debunking these common myths has shown you that when it comes to online scheduling, your biggest worries will virtually disappear!
Now to settle your final aching queries, here is a helpful list of common FAQs.
- Should I use online scheduling for all services?
- Is there a setting to prevent students from booking all of their lessons in the same week?
- I need to keep my staff/me busy and not sure what I’d do with the extra time?
- Why do you recommend online scheduling 90% of the time and not 100%?
- What happens if the online scheduling software crashes and loses all of my customer data?
- Can instructors change their schedules or make edits to students?
- How do I notify students on our waiting list for last-minute openings?
- How far out can students book online?
- Can a student book a session online right before it starts?
1. Should I use online scheduling for all services?
Most driving schools have their customers schedule their driving lessons online and then call to schedule their driving test.
And it really depends on your State’s requirements for taking the driving test as to whether or not online scheduling is allowed for this service.
2. Is there a setting to prevent students from booking all of their lessons in the same week?
Absolutely! You have the ability to set a minimum amount of time between appointments. For example, if this setting is adjusted to 10 days, the earliest a student could book their next lesson is 10 days out.
3. I need to keep my staff/me busy and not sure what I’d do with the extra time?
That’s a great problem to have, right? 🙂 Often, we’ve seen schools reduce their administrative staff or office employees move to part-time. Conversely, I’ve seen schools grow their business and not have to add additional staff.
If you want to keep your existing staff, I recommend having them focus on revenue-generating activities with their extra time (like follow up on sales calls, marketing, etc.…)
4. Why do you recommend online scheduling 90% of the time and not 100%?
During demos, I spend time understanding the needs and priorities of driving school owners. And less than 10% of the time, I’ll occasionally uncover a unique operational requirement from their internal stakeholders where I do not recommend online scheduling.
5. What happens if the online scheduling software crashes and loses all of my customer data?
Most online scheduling companies have amazing data recovery plans and back up your customer information twice a day.
6. Can instructors change their schedules or make edits to students?
No. Instructors have access to only their schedule and it’s “read-only” which means they can only view the information and not make changes.
7. How do I notify students on our waiting list for last-minute openings?
An optional feature on most online scheduling software is a “waiting list” feature which will email students in order to back-fill openings that were canceled last minute.
8. How far out can students book online?
That’s up to you! For example, if you only want students to see your schedule for the next 30 days that’s definitely possible and your office staff will have access to the entire schedule.
9. Can a student book a session online right before it starts?
Most online scheduling software has a setting for this, and I recommend having this setting set to 24 hours so students can not book online within 24 hours of the start time. But your office staff can still book over the phone anytime!
Finally, keep the momentum going!
You’ve put in the time to understand more about online scheduling and you’re ready to see some software in action!
It’s not a matter of if you need online scheduling it’s a matter of when. Within a few years, 80+% or more of driving schools will be offering online scheduling and those who do not will get left behind.
Stop operating and managing your business like it’s the year 2000! It’s time to embrace a smarter, modern approach to efficiently running your driving school.
Schedule your free demo today (see below) or give us a call at 800-595-8817- ext. 1.
Let’s get your questions answered, so you can get on the road to better, faster, more efficient scheduling. 🙂
P.S. – I’ve seen driving schools operate with 10+ vehicles with one owner/operator running the office leveraging online scheduling software.
This doesn’t happen overnight, but you’ll be surprised what can happen when you commit to change and eventually 70% or more of your payments and scheduling are done online.