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They'll drive you nuts
Member Name: jodiestokes
Date: 08/02/12, updated on 22/03/12 (548 review reads)
Advantages: Good cars
Disadvantages: Everything that doesn't involve a good car
==Ready, steady, let's do this==
Rewind, approximately one year (give or take a few months). I am early thirties and looking to drive at last. The delay is due to an ongoing lack of funds, but through the generosity of a close family member I am finally able to take the plunge. I do some tactical internet research to way up my options, I'm looking for competitive rates essentially and when I stumble upon BSM I think I've found a winner. At £20 per lesson (when you book a block of ten or more) it was by far the best offer I had found. I booked ten for starters, with a veiw to booking a further five or more depending on how things went.
==A site for sore eyes==
The BSM website is incredibly professionally laid out and easy to navigate. You are immediately greeted with a victorious background, people jumping up and down in celebration; presumably they have just passed their test thanks to BSM. They're quick to fire in a testimonial with yet another happy chappy clasping at their pass certificate and singing the almighty praises of driving school itself. It looks attractive, and you find yourself instantly engaged. The site is keen to exploit the company's reign as the oldest driving school in the business, over a hundred years to be exact; this cements the impression of a finely tuned business that you would be forgiven for thinking, 'must' be exceptional in order for them to have stood the test of time. In all, it's a very presentable website.
==A stable begining==
Signing up was an effortless affair. When I rang the helpline/head office, the woman that I spoke to was very polite and quickly got the ball rolling. I received my 'lesson plan' (they call it a lesson plan which I think is a little misleading as it nothing more than a schedule) within seven days that stated all the times and dates for the full block of ten lessons. This was actually very helpful as they gave me the opportunity to swap any ahead of the schedule. I found one that needed a change and they and promptly altered the date.
My first couple of lessons were both positive and information enriched. Although my instructor was late for both corresponding lessons, what he lacked in time keeping he more than made up for in professionalism. I had conquered the basics and was now on the roads learning my 'lefts'.
Lesson three we spent the duration of the lesson turning 'right', which began the arrival of some small level of frustration on my part. I didn't really get the point in dedicating an entire hour to a simple 'right turn', three times and I had mastered it, but I figured that he had been teaching me well up until this point so perhaps I was just being a little bit 'eager beaver'.
==Eager beaver vs Reluctant teacher==
Lesson four and guess what? My instructor was late and we spent another lesson learning to......yep you've guessed it, turn right. So another week on, you can imagine that I was less than impressed with a lesson plan that my instructor had mapped out as, dedicated to turning both right and left only this time alternately. May be I was jumping the gun, I still wasn't sure, but it was at this point that I began to wonder if my lessons were being a fraction 'drawn out'. During the course of this lesson I noted that my instructor seemed hell bent on talking about anything and everything that didn't have to do with learning to drive which set the stage for the majority of lessons to come, and so I found myself unaware of basic 'musts' like repeatedly checking mirrors etc. In addition to that, I also found that the radio gradually increased in volume as each week passed. I often found my instructor interacting more with the radio, than actually tutoring with me any level of ethusiasm. A good example of this was circling a roundabout for the sixth time before he finally noticed that I was in first gear "you'd get failed for that, you have to be in second when you pull away" (something that I should have been made aware of from the outset).
With the following lesson in tow my frustration had increased with a switch in the instructors car, a frustration that wasn't helped by a full 15 minutes of him moaning about how difficult this new car was to handle (the car was an upgrade from BSM), add to that an entire lesson devoted to familiarising me with it, no fresh learning transpired. Although the car was very good (something undoubtedly positive about BSM), the clutch was hyper sensitive and so it stalled very easily.
Around lesson six and seven, I once again found myself having to push for something more challenging. My instructor finally decieded to move us into unfamiliar territory (up until now we had circled one very small area over and over), each time, the radio had increased in volume. I did well to drive the distance that I had and all may have stayed well, had it not been for 'quiz time' on my instructors favourite radio station. I found him so engaged by the radio quiz that he constantly shouted out the answers or asked me if I knew any, at one point he managed to lapse my concentration to such a degree that we nearly went straight into the back of an oncoming queue of traffic, he didn't even notice until the last split second before forcing us to a sudden stop just centimetres from the car in front. You would think that he'd have taken heed and slipped into a more commanding role after such a narrow escape, but no, lesson eight; he pulled out his newspaper and had himself a good old read (I can't help but laugh on reflection).
The next lesson my instructor didn't even arrive; I waited over an hour before ringing BSM to find out what on earth was going on. The woman that I spoke to told me that she would find out and call me straight back. Five hours later and she still hadn't called, so I phoned again and was told simply that "He forgot" and thus a rearranged lesson was promptly made. Four days later (waiting for my rearranged lesson) I found myself again waiting another hour for my 'no show' Instructor, yet again I rang the expensive helpline number. I was told straight away that "he has cancelled all his lessons due to frosty weather conditions", on this occasion I attempted to assert myself a little, and politely stated my disappointment with not being informed. Contrary to the same womans helpful tone when all was fairly rosey, I now had the snappy toned response "The instructors are all self employed, it's not our responsibility to inform YOU about YOUR lesson it's between you and your instructor, we are just the go between so if you have a problem with your lessons you need to take it up with him." And of course this begins to highlight the complacency of the company as a whole, blame shifting, dismissing responsibility and generally offering no real customer care once money has exchanged hands.
You'll unlikely be unstaggered to hear that the next arranged appointment came and went with another 'no show', you'll be even less surprised to hear that I found myself once again on the blower to the expensive unhelpful helpline, and I need not even bother to give you the fresh excuse given. This time, although straight to the point and unapologetic they didn't fob me off. I was offered one free lesson or a brand new instructor, not much of a consolation when you take into account that by now I should have been on lesson nine and I was not only far behind through the lack of a credible teacher, but also, now nearly three weeks out of practice. I stupidly took the one free lesson when really I should have been off to a higher authority.
Lesson nine and my instructor couldn't have acted sorrier, blaming two of the missed lessons on poor communication from head office (aka unhelpful helpline) apparently they hadn't informed him of the lessons, a familiar pattern of blame shifting? I didn't care anymore; I just wanted to get the most out of what had been an incredibly poor experience, and lesson ten, I felt much the same. These lessons actually turned out to be quite useful and fairly professional which was a relif, though I was clearly not at the point that I should have been at by now.
==Customer care? Customer what?==
Now I was due an a 'lesson eleven', that courtesy free one, but three hours before the lesson was due to take place I received a phone call from the woman that I had phoned so frequently before. Her opening line; she had just called to remind me of my lesson (strange because she had never called to remind me before) and then came the BUT "you have been flagged up on our database as not having paid for today's lesson, you need to pay in full in order for the lesson to take place, as it is company policy that you pay upfront", just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, sure enough they do. I reminded her that I had spoken to her the week prior and that 'this' was supposed to be free; she shrugged it off and claimed that my previous lesson (one I had already paid for as part of the block of ten) had been the free one, debate continued.
The truth is whoever was right it didn't really matter, I hadn't even had the lesson and if this lesson was indeed due payment then they had booked me a chargeable lesson without my consent. I couldn't have paid her in the three hours notice that she had given me anyway because my partner had taken my card to work, when I attemped to explained this to her I encountered quite an unbelievable response "Well you NEED to phone your partner at work and get him to either drop the card home to you, or get him to phone us directly with the details. This HAS to be paid by today", I was so shocked I told her I'd ring her back later. My partner, equally as shocked advised me to ring her back, cancel and just have done with it. Finally, I was seeing sense. You'd think at this point I could just make the call and that would be that but they weren't quite finished yet. I opened up the conversation by telling her how I had felt let down by the service and that she had no right to demand I call my partner at work, "I want to cancel the lesson and have nothing more to do with the company" (a little pat on the back for finally plucking the courage to stand my ground).
After every hour I had spent waiting around for my 'no show' instructor, she then had the nerve to hit me with another hypocritical, company policy "You can cancel by all means, but you WILL be charged for the lesson in full and will incur an additional charge because it is company policy that your cancelation MUST be made at least 48 hours prior to your lesson", unbelievable! I reminded her of the three no show lessons and the endless expensive phone calls. I reminded her of the blame she shifted toward the instructor for the lack of a phone call to let me know my lessons had been cancelled and I also took the opportunity to remind her of a little something above her company policy called LAW (at last I was on a complaining roll).
==An avoidant complainer finally gets complaining==
The fact is, when you go to a company like BSM and money exchanges hands; you enter into a contract, one that obligates the company to you and vice versa. So it doesn't matter whether they think your instructor is God's gift or totally incompetent, it's their responsibility to deal with him not yours (the contract is with them and not the instructor). I honestly believe that the 'complacency' and 'blame shifting' behaviours of the staff have opened up some serious cracks with the BSM business ethos as a whole. A quick Google search and you'll soon discover an archive of endless negative reviews that all seem to share a pattern of mirrored complaints, complaints that span over several years. I also found it impossible to ever speak to anyone in authority and I was point blank refused this request on two separate occasions.
When companies are able to just take your money without the people in them feeling as though they have to account for their problematic systems, is it any wonder that they may soon become lazy and nonchalant? Taking this attitude and applying it to a workforce of those that are predominantly self employed can suddenly spell out a customer care disaster, after all, it is surely more in the instructors interest to have a larger quantity of lessons booked, than it is to offer a lesser number of quality lessons, fewer lessons equals lesser pay. Problems will enevitably arise in any business but it's the way in which they are dealt with what really makes the difference between a good company or a bad one. BSM just don't deal with complaints as they sometimes should, which is evident in the way that I was often rudely spoken to or snubbed. With this in mind, I dared her to send me the bill for the interest of a trading standards letter that I might compile at a later date. She barked that she would before slamming the phone down on me. Suffice to say, I never received a bill and if that isn't telling then I really don't know what is.
Summary: An awkard company lacking in service
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