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Offering slots to new students- how long to keep vacancy open?


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#1 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 09:56

Hi everyone, hope you’re keeping as well as can be. 
 

I frequently find myself in the situation where someone contacts me to enquire about my availability for lessons, and I offer them a slot, or maybe two possible slots if I have any vacancies. Then I don’t hear back from them and assume they weren’t interested or changed their mind, so I offer that slot to the next person. Then the first person contacts me again a week or two later saying they would like the slot I offered them, so then I have to explain that it has gone to someone else, and I feel bad for not waiting. The thing is, I can’t afford to keep vacancies open indefinitely (I’m sure most of you feel the same), and often people don’t bother to reply and I never hear back from them again when I offer them a slot, so I just have to offer that slot to the next person who is interested. If someone takes a long time to reply when I offer a slot, I have no way of knowing if they are ever going to reply. 
 

How long do you normally keep a vacancy open? When you offer a time to a new enquirer, do you give them a “deadline“ to let you know, (I.e. “let me know by such and such date”) whether they would like the slot? I’m beginning to think I should say to all new enquirers that I will only keep open the slot that I’ve offered them for X amount of time before offering it to the next person. This happens too frequently where people either don’t reply and let me know they don’t want the slot, or they take so long to get back to me that I’ve already offered it to someone else.


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#2 vron

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 10:01

I would  give a deadline. It is straightforward that way and both of you know where you stand. 

 

You can add the rider that after that deadline they can come back to you but you may or may not have space to take them and it may not be that timeslot.


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#3 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 10:02

I would  give a deadline. It is straightforward that way and both of you know where you stand. 

What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to say that you’ll wait?


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#4 BadStrad

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 10:05

I'd probably give them a couple of days (eg they get in touch on Tuesday, you say you'll hold the slot until 17:00 Thursday). Then if anyone enquires during that time I'd be honest and tell them that slot X may be be available but I won't know for sure until (insert time of deadline).
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#5 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 10:11

I'd probably give them a couple of days (eg they get in touch on Tuesday, you say you'll hold the slot until 17:00 Thursday). Then if anyone enquires during that time I'd be honest and tell them that slot X may be be available but I won't know for sure until (insert time of deadline).

Thanks, that sounds perfectly reasonable, I think I’ll do that. I was always afraid of appearing too pushy (like salespeople who say that an offer is available for a limited time only, and they only say that to pressure you into buying), but it’s just too much hassle not to have deadlines when offering slots to people. 


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#6 BadStrad

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 11:01

I'd probably give them a couple of days (eg they get in touch on Tuesday, you say you'll hold the slot until 17:00 Thursday). Then if anyone enquires during that time I'd be honest and tell them that slot X may be be available but I won't know for sure until (insert time of deadline).

Thanks, that sounds perfectly reasonable, I think I’ll do that. I was always afraid of appearing too pushy (like salespeople who say that an offer is available for a limited time only, and they only say that to pressure you into buying), but it’s just too much hassle not to have deadlines when offering slots to people.
It also tells potential pupils that you are not to be messed about. As numerous posts on the board demonstrate, the more flexible you are, the more you give, the more some people see that as a licence to take the mickey in terms of late payments, cancellations etc.
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#7 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 11:02

 

 

I'd probably give them a couple of days (eg they get in touch on Tuesday, you say you'll hold the slot until 17:00 Thursday). Then if anyone enquires during that time I'd be honest and tell them that slot X may be be available but I won't know for sure until (insert time of deadline).

Thanks, that sounds perfectly reasonable, I think I’ll do that. I was always afraid of appearing too pushy (like salespeople who say that an offer is available for a limited time only, and they only say that to pressure you into buying), but it’s just too much hassle not to have deadlines when offering slots to people.
It also tells potential pupils that you are not to be messed about. As numerous posts on the board demonstrate, the more flexible, the more you give, the more some people see that as a licence to take the mickey in terms of late payments, cancellations etc.

 

Sadly you are right, I’ve learned from bitter experience.


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#8 HelenVJ

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 11:17

Usually prospective new students sign up for an initial series immediately, but if they want to think about it, I say I can keep their space open for a maximum of 7 days. I think that's common sense, and business like - not at all pushy. 


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#9 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 11:36

Usually prospective new students sign up for an initial series immediately, but if they want to think about it, I say I can keep their space open for a maximum of 7 days. I think that's common sense, and business like - not at all pushy. 

Actually I was referring more to when someone contacts me for the first time by email, asking what times I have available. Of course it’s common sense if you’ve already had a reply and got into a discussion with them, (Or given a trial),  and they’ve said that they’ll think about it, it would make no business sense to do otherwise. My question was more about when you don’t get a reply after the initial contact. When I respond to a first email, often I get no reply at all, or a reply a couple of weeks later. In situations such as those it is hard to know if they are interested or not. 


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#10 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 12:04

Maybe I shouldn’t be “offering” slots to people who have sent an initial email enquiring about my availability, but instead just state what times I have available and make it clear that I need confirmation before reserving one of those slots. Any thoughts?

 

One example of the kind of thing that sometimes happens: one time a mother contacted me by email asking what times I had free for home visits for her young son. I told her I had one possible weekly slot that would be free from a particular date (which was about three weeks away). I clearly stated in my email that I needed her to let me know as soon as possible whether she would like that time. I didn’t hear back from her, and ended up making other arrangements for that time. Then, literally the day before that date that I had originally offered her (so three weeks later), she emailed me and said she did want the slot, and practically demanded that I come round the next day. I don’t do home visits anymore, so the logistics of organising slots is nowhere near as much of a nightmare, but it still helps to know if somebody wants a slot or not. 
 

Other examples include where I’ve replied to an email from someone who seems very keen to start and has even stated what days and times they’re available, and I’ve offered them a time which fits with the times they’ve said they’re free. Then I never hear back from them again. I spend the next week or so wondering if I should offer that time to someone else, before giving up waiting. 


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#11 jenny

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 14:20

I never offer a slot after the initial contact, but always suggest a consultation lesson.    


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#12 Piano Meg

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 15:19

Maybe I shouldn’t be “offering” slots to people who have sent an initial email enquiring about my availability, but instead just state what times I have available and make it clear that I need confirmation before reserving one of those slots. Any thoughts?

 

I think that's sensible. You can tell them what you have currently, but that it's first come, first served. Apart from anything else, I imagine that some prospective pupils will email a number of different teachers. Others may be toying with the idea of music lessons, but decide, when it comes down to making firm plans, that they don't actually want to go ahead. I would have thought the number of people who actually commit to lessons is well below the level of initial enquiries.


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#13 Boogaloo

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 16:03

I offer a consultation lesson. In this we discuss possible availability, then I make it very clear that it's first come, first served. I let them know if, at that time, there is anyone else interested or what my waiting list is. If someone says they are interested but need to double check things then I will, depending on age, potential, etc, give first refusal for up to a week. I always make it clear how long they have to make a decision - either the first come, first served, or the first refusal.


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#14 RPassacaglia

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 17:01

 

Maybe I shouldn’t be “offering” slots to people who have sent an initial email enquiring about my availability, but instead just state what times I have available and make it clear that I need confirmation before reserving one of those slots. Any thoughts?

 

I think that's sensible. You can tell them what you have currently, but that it's first come, first served. Apart from anything else, I imagine that some prospective pupils will email a number of different teachers. Others may be toying with the idea of music lessons, but decide, when it comes down to making firm plans, that they don't actually want to go ahead. I would have thought the number of people who actually commit to lessons is well below the level of initial enquiries.

 

Thanks, some helpful thoughts there. I think I just need to rethink how I word my emails. Some people take it as an offer of a slot and assume I don’t have other people interested in the same times, other people never reply. It’s true, there are likely to be some people who contact several teachers and then don’t reply to all of the ones who respond. It’s also true that a lot of enquires don’t actually turn into regular students, but a very large number do, so it always throws me a bit when someone doesn’t reply to let me know whether or not they want the time I’ve offered. I definitely need to make it clearer that it’s first come first served, because a lot of people don’t realise that there can be a lot of interest in the same time slots.

 

I have to admit, it is so unusual for someone not to reply when I offer a slot, (or at least it used to be unusual ), that it totally throws me, because then I don’t know what to do about the time I’ve offered. There was a time when the vast majority of enquirers would reply to me, and if they didn’t feel the time I had offered them was suitable, they would say so and ask me to let them know if a more suitable time became available. They wouldn’t just not reply. It seems that lately, more and more are just not replying, which has resulted in this dilemma becoming more frequent, and I haven’t changed the way I respond or offer times. Perhaps people just no longer have manners. Anyway, it means I’m going to have to change the way I respond, so I’m not always left hanging on when I offer a time. 


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#15 elemimele

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Posted 28 June 2020 - 19:51

I'll give a customer's eye view:

 

I'd say anything in the region of 3-7 days' grace to check last-minute details like whether child-care is available (for own lessons) or whether other parent is having last-minute worries (for kid's lessons) would be very much appreciated. But we know that lessons are vital income to you, so I would recognise you want to fill your slots as soon as possible, and I wouldn't expect more. If I asked your availability at the outset, it would probably be with the intention of checking that your working hours aren't completely incompatible with my availability. If you know that your availability is very touch-and-go, I'd rather be told before coming to a get-to-know session or trial lesson, especially if it's a lesson for my kid. It'd be frustrating to find that you're the perfect teacher, but that you only had one slot available and it's already gone...

 

If you don't tell me there's a deadline, then I would assume that there is no obligation between us either way. Don't worry about being like the double-glazing people; they bring pressure to a whole new level, you'd have to try really hard to be as aggressive as the worst of them.


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