What’s the difference between an online booking agent and a driving school franchise?

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What’s the difference between an online booking agent and a driving school franchise?

Unfortunately for the consumer, it’s very difficult to work out who the booking agents are as most of them appear as driving schools. They appear as driving schools to increase your confidence to buy with them. If the headline at the top of their website was, “We are a booking agent, we find you an instructor then take a cut of their profits”, you may not be so inclined to use them.

What is a booking agent?

A booking agent is a middle man; they find you a driving instructor then take a cut of your payment for doing so. They then pay the instructor the remaining balance.

Examples of booking agents

We don’t want to name the companies out there that are booking agents as it could be seen as defamation on their end, but we will give you some examples so you can see the difference. Hotels are the best examples.

Booking.com vs Hilton Hotel

If Booking.com and Hilton Hotel were offering the same room for the same price, which would you choose?

If you go with Hilton Hotel directly, there is no guarantee you’ll get a better service but there is a high chance you will. If you are unhappy with your room because it wasn’t as described or your breakfast was poor, you will be in a considerably better position contacting Hilton directly than going to Booking.com.

On top of that, Hilton have created a loyalty programme – the more you use Hilton, the more you save and the more free benefits you can obtain. These include free room upgrades, early check-ins, late checkouts etc.

With Hilton guaranteeing you that they won’t be beaten on price by booking agents, it’s a no brainer to cut the middle man out.

As per this article, booking agents have made the industry more competitive.

Questions to ask to find out if a company is a booking agent

Be straight and to the point with them:

“Are you a booking agency?”
“Who will be my instructor?”
“Can I book my lesson for a specific date/time now that fits with your instructors?”
“How long has the instructor been with your company? Why can’t your provide my instructors name now?”

If they don’t book you in straight away, that’s a sign they may not have an instructor, meaning they have to send out emails and text messages to a database of instructors seeing if they can accommodate your lessons. If they ask for a deposit before hand and then say they will contact you shortly, again that is another sign they don’t have an instructor working with them closely enough to book you in immediately.

The emails/texts they send out often look like the one in the screenshot.

There are even Facebook groups set up where smaller agents will post and members of the group apply. Below is an example, excluding names:

“Got a pupil wanting an intensive course 7-16 January in GU5. Anyone interested?”

Booking Agent SMS Screenshot

Someone has parted with over £200 and this is what is happening to their hard-earned money. Would you be happy if this was you? Apart from posting in a Facebook group, what are they actually doing for your money?

How can you tell if an online company is a booking agent?

A good way of identifying a booking agent from a driving school is to see if their driving instructors are listed. Our driving instructors are listed here.

Check out their social media presence – are there any posts of their pupils passing with the company roof sign or branding?

What is a driving school franchise?

So after all of the talk about booking agents, what is a driving school franchise?

Think of a franchise such as McDonald’s restaurants or Wagamama to start with. driveJohnson’s is the franchisor and the driving instructor is the franchisee.

For McDonald’s to control the quality of their brand, the need a manager/owner of each branch that cares. The owner of the branch has invested into the brand and treats the branch as their baby. It’s a similar philosophy to driveJohnson’s Franchise. Each driving instructor is their own boss and have agreed to work with driveJohnson’s principles, ideologies, latest technology implementations, teaching techniques and more.

In order for our franchise to work, driveJohnson’s must provide the instructors with quality pupils and the instructor must look after them. It’s a scratch each other’s back relationship. If one partner doesn’t look after the other, then the franchisee or franchisor can walk away with just 4 weeks notice. Most franchises ask for a minimum 12 month contract which makes it very favourable to the franchisor. We believe it should be equal and fair, hence the notice for both parties is just 4 weeks of notice.

You know when you go to a Wagamama restaurant or McDonald’s there is a certain standard/quality control. The same applies with driveJohnson’s. In our time, we have had some not so good instructors join us and sometimes within their 2-week trial, we have asked them to leave.

Why is our franchise is one of the best in the UK?

We are probably the largest driving school in the UK that is still run by a fellow driving instructor, Anthony Johnson. He is a grade A 51/51 ORDIT registered trainer. This means he has achieved the highest possible grade on his recent standards check test. With the owner made from the same cloth as his fellow instructors, he understands the business from the pupil’s point of view as well as the instructor’s. There is fairness and understanding throughout the company.

The company started with just himself and his car and has now grown to over 400 instructors across the UK. Instead of selling up and taking a back seat, he is in the office daily helping the business run smoothly and implementing new strategies to serve the pupils/customer well. This, in turn, helps us stay above our competitors and offers more than a booking agent.

Are there any driving schools out there that employ instructors?

Surely employing the instructors is the best option? There aren’t any national driving schools who employ their driving instructors. To our knowledge, there aren’t even any small to medium sized driving schools who employ their instructors.

Working with the same instructors week in, week out

Obviously, we vet every driving instructor who approaches to join us. We don’t hire sales staff on commission to recruit instructors either. In fact, the owner, Anthony Johnson, personally speaks to every driving instructor wanting to join us. If the instructor likes what Anthony has to say and vice versa, then we offer the instructor a 2-week trial. If the instructor completes the trial and both parties are happy, the instructor is welcomed to join our franchise.

Our bookings team is co-ordinated by Ashleigh Appleton, the office manager, who has been with the company for over 5 years now. As you can imagine, the office staff know our instructors well and the majority of the instructors know the office team well.

In a nutshell, we have 2 teams that work together – the instructor and the office team, assisting with bookings, managing the instructor diaries, assisting pupils with requirements and helping instructors in an emergency and day to day problems that every business experiences.

Why are booking agents rarely the cheapest for driving lessons?

You will notice that driving lesson booking agents try to appear as a driving school. If they were consistently the cheapest for every area, then they would have no issues styling their website as a booking agent like Booking.com.

Hotel rooms can be sold almost as units where as a driving lesson is someone’s time. Any given instructor can only work 8-10 hours per day, whereas a hotel often has hundreds of rooms that need filling. If you pay a booking agent £250 for 10 hours, the agent will realistically take £30 out of that. No instructor on the planet would work for less than £21-22 an hour. What do you get for an instructor willing to take your driving lessons at the lowest possible market price? If you have read this far down, we are sure you can work that one out.

So far there has been no market leader for driving lesson booking agents for a sustainable amount of time. They often come and go, some lasting a few months and some lasting 2-4 years and then disappearing. It seems like a great idea at the beginning, but over time working with the lowest paid instructors (as the agent wants to take a fee) it usually becomes more hassle than it’s worth.

On top of them often not being the cheapest, there is high chance you are going to get an instructor who doesn’t have many pupils of their own and is willing to work at the lower end of the pricing scale.

You could just pay the same/similar price with driveJohnson’s and receive an instructor who is genuinely with us, been with the company for a long time, is good at their job and are trustworthy. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t last very long with driveJohnson’s.

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