Video Chats Are (Currently) Bad

There’s nothing inherently wrong about the ability to have a video chat with a client prior to booking a lesson. However, in their current implementation they seem straightforwardly bad from the perspective of tutors for two reasons:

  • We are working for free,
  • More importantly, if a client doesn’t book lessons after a video chat, it tanks our Repeat Client Score.

Given the above, there seems to be no real reason to offer them. Unless a tutor was finding themselves unable to convince clients to book over text, there’s simply no benefit to engaging in video chats. Tutorful is actively disincentivising our usage of them by linking them to the Repeat Client Score which makes absolutely no sense given that they, by definition, are not a client at that stage. This is bad UX and also a bad-faith way to treat the tutors who make you money.

Once again, Tutorful has made a back-end decision which disempowers tutors to have any say over their client base–something of a trend in recent years. If I offer a video call and decide that the prospective client and I aren’t going to be a good match (or, as is happening increasingly frequently, they’ve misunderstood that Tutorful is now online-only), I shouldn’t be penalised for not taking them on for lessons. Similarly, if clients are shopping around for tutors, we shouldn’t be penalised for essentially agreeing to be interviewed for a role–and I can’t stress this enough–for free.

I’m sure they help with client retention on the macro level, but it’s categorically bad for tutors and I hope that the current set-up is reconsidered. Given the trajectory of the platform, I won’t hold my breath!

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I agree, the problem with free video chats is that the potential benefit to the tutor is currently not worth the potential downside to the tutor.

Yes we could get a new student from them, but we could also fail to get them because they are likely doing multiple free video chats with different tutors.

Normal lessons are more likely than free video chats to secure a client and yet they are both weighted equally in terms of their lowering of the repeat client score. Thus free video chats are more risky to repeat client score than simply not offering them and instead just offering lessons.

Since a high repeat client score = higher in the rankings etc and a low one risks hiding your account completely, it’s just not worth the potential gain of a new student from a free video chat to risk a tutor’s long-term prospects.

There have been times when I felt like offering a free chat would have helped me secure a client but I am just too hesitant to do so at the moment, out of concern for my repeat client score. I would honestly love to be able to do this feature without that risk. Yes I would be working for free but at least there would be no additional risk to my future earning prospects.

If video chats are free for the client, they should be free for the tutor as well.

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Well said!

As you note, the benefit (getting a new client) is significantly outweighed by the impact (lowering the chance of all future clients). And the benefit is by no means unique to video chat. The subset of clients who will only book after a video call is, in my experience, vanishingly small.

I too would be happy to give up 15 minutes for free in principle for clients who need some extra assurance, but I won’t be doing so until changes are made.

I have to admit that I wasn’t aware that free chats would affect our repeat client score. Perhaps now I am not going to be so keen on offering those anymore.

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I only found out today, but had been wondering why my Repeat Client Score had tanked! Certainly won’t be offering them from here on out, although that’s largely irrelevant now as I’ll likely get no further client requests!

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Completely agree. I truely cannot believe this. Usually if I disagree with something on here, I at least see why they’ve done it the way they have. With this, I see no reason. It has really shocked me. I don’t think it will have impacted me recently but I’m very suprised none the less and I feel like I have to be more hesitant to offer them, whereas I think they’re a great idea.

Why would a free video chat impact our repeat client score if the score is a measure of students having repeat lessons but a video chat isn’t a lesson and you might have a chat and realise you aren’t a good fit - that is a bookings score issue NOT a repeat client score issue.

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Agree entirely!

I think it’s, sadly, a continuation of a series of changes which have been universally bad for tutors. We see companies behaving like this across all parts of the gig-economy, but I hoped that a business based on education would act more ethically. That has not been the case.

Tutorful is increasingly anti-worker: driving up intense competition, driving down prices, asking us to work for free, developing an impossible landscape for new tutors, and penalising us in increasingly arbitrary ways. All while ignoring our concerns as well as those of, say, SEN specialists (and students), which isn’t a great look.

They seem to blame most problems on ‘the algorithm’ as if it’s somehow separate from their own enterprise and outside their control. In truth, the algorithm is working as intended to achieve the above. Alongside using the pandemic as an excuse to enact the wildly unpopular online-only decision, Tutorful increasingly reads as a deeply cynical enterprise.

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I really hope that not all of this is the case - I like to try to be optimistic and think the best, so I look forward to their response on this issue. I’ve asked over the live customer chat and have been waiting for 2 hours despite it being seen. I do agree this seems very odd and hope it’s just an oversight…

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Here’s hoping!

It’s definitely deliberate, though, and I think we should be cognisant of the extent to which it fits the pattern of Tutorful’s decision-making and prioritising (or, rather, total lack thereof) of tutors on the platform.

I do agree with your point about the gig-economy in general and of course tutorful is part of that and it’s very significant.

However I have seen them take on feedback and make changes based on suggestions people have made here. This seems like a change they might make, because it doesn’t cost them anything and is more likely to encourage tutors to use the free video chat, which some clients like.

So I suppose I’m saying let’s not be too hasty to jump to the meta-critique. Although it’s a valid critique, it’s not unique to tutorful and furthermore I think we’ve made some good points in this thread that have a chance at being taken up and implemented. So let’s give it that chance!

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Yep, that’s fair enough.

I’ve been with Tutorful for years–back in the Tutora days–and it’s frustrating to see the trend in what seems to be a continued lack of interest in the wellbeing of their tutors. That said, this does seem like exactly the kind of low-cost change it would be easy for them to make and it would be ridiculous not to.

I’m hyper-aware, however, that implementing small fixes like this and giving us the occasional low-stakes win is used to obscure the deeper issue which it will by no means resolve. The trend remains regardless of this specific point of contention.

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I didn’t know that they counted towards the repeat client score and, like many others, had assumed they wouldn’t. This does explain a big drop I have seen, particularly including a few who clearly wanted it as a free one off session. I’m very likely to stop offering them if this doesn’t change.

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Neither did I! Just saw it confirmed here: https://i.imgur.com/abNdx4L.png

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The algorithm adopted needs changing in a number of ways.

Im not surprised you didnt know. Most of.the tutorful support team didnt know until last night.

It all seems a little shady… no one willing to directly identify what the algorithm does.

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In my experience, they use “it’s the algorithm!” as an excuse for a lot of anti-tutor decisions.

Yes agreed. I’ve asked a number of times for the detail…
Just get a response saying it sort of works like this…

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Hi IBD & others,

Thank you for highlighting some of the issues with this. We of course want to make this work for both customers AND tutors. We originally added the feature because we saw large number of tutors wanting to offer free trials to customers, or speak to them ahead of lessons, yet we’re unable to under the current system. The free video chat has proven extremely popular among customers since we launched it, and has helped many tutors gain far more customers that would otherwise have looked elsewhere.

I completely agree that the scoring system is not fair as currently implemented, and would make more sense counting towards your booking score rather than the repeat customer score. We’ll get on fixing this ASAP.

Finally, while I understand the frustration when we make changes or improvements that you disagree with, we have the job of making sure that Tutorful not only works for tutors, but also continues to attract customers and offer them an amazing experience too - often a hard balance to strike! We’ll always take your feedback on board, but please do keep it constructive!

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Hi, Mark,

Thanks for contributing to the thread! I’m glad to see we’re on the same page with the flaws in the current implementation of video chat. I hope that alongside this being rectified, something can be put in place to retroactively adjust scores which have been affected. I think it’s easy for these relatively small things to be seen as trivial, but they have material impacts on people’s livelihoods.

I appreciate your position, but I feel that of the major changes which have taken place during the years I’ve been signed-up to Tutorful vanishingly few of them have been to the benefit of tutors on the platform. I’m sure both customers and Tutorful itself are doing quite well by comparison.

From the perspective of someone who tutors as a primary source of income, Tutorful is increasingly presenting itself as a poor choice for me and many others in my position. I’ve logged nearly 1000 hours on the site and have been an advocate for its use in professional circles. At its best, it’s by far the most seamless and convenient tutoring experience. I’ve even brought clients to Tutorful (taking the commission hit) for the convenience of being able to schedule with recurring lessons and automatic payments. But over the last year, I–like many others I know–have been forced to start looking elsewhere.

Changes in commission rates, moving online-only and ignoring the concerns of SEN specialists, an algorithm which has been problematic for years, forcing tutors in the London market to compete nationwide to drive prices down: none of this is to our benefit. In any conceivable sense. I take minor issue with the idea that these are improvements I disagree with: they are changes which objectively impede the ability of most tutors on the site to earn a living from working on it.

Of course there’s a balance to strike. I appreciate the business-case here, but I think it would be challenging to argue that it’s being struck with much of a concern for tutors.

I do appreciate you taking the time to respond, and I apologise if you’ve found my feedback unconstructive. My frustration with the direction of the platform comes from the fact that, for many years, I’ve found it head-and-shoulders above the competition and, as I say, have actively brought clients to it for its ease of use. I’m disappointed to see this shifting with a direction that appears to be against the interests of the majority of tutors on the site.

I’m sure you won’t take me up on it, but I’d be happy to discuss any of this by any medium you like.

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I’m always happy to have a chat IBD, and some of these would definitely be best to chat through over a call. I’ll reach out to you directly, it would be great to chat :slight_smile:

A couple of other things that are worth mentioning:

  • Completely understand concern about a “race to the bottom” on pricing. The data we have suggests that this hasn’t happened at all though, and the average hourly rate for actual bookings on the platform is slightly higher than it was pre-pandemic. Given that ~80% of tutors were travelling to students for those session previously, the effective hourly rate once you factor in travel is significantly higher than pre-pandemic according to our data.
  • Another change that hasn’t been mentioned, is the number of tutors on the platform has come down significantly as we’ve become much stricter on who let onto the platform (including interviewing every new tutor). We have fewer tutors today, but for those that are actively teaching, they are earning almost double what they were pre-pandemic.

I know first hand how hard tutoring is as a profession, especially to make a real living from, and our goal is to enable tutors is precisely that - to help tutors earn a good living through Tutorful. As you and others highlighted we’ve still got tonnes of work to do to enable that, and make it fair to our 8,000 tutors, but that’s our goal.

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I had also not realised that Video chats affect repeat scores. I thought they were a good idea but I have lost 2-3 potential bookings because they have not confirmed the video chat lost it and then not responded to me contacting them through messaging system. I have not even managed to speak to them and I have lost them. On that basis it was better before video chat - I don’t mind it being free but its not working like I thought it would - my temptation is to withdraw from it but that might well result in students going elsewhere. I too have been with you since Tutora days and the vast majority of my work comes through you. I will be sticking with you, my IT skills are not brilliant and I am usually well behind the curve but I would like to see this either simplified. It seems to me that many don’t seem to realise that they have to confirm the video chat or it lapses. Am I the only one having this issue?
thanks and best wishes to all in what seems to be becoming a bit of a difficult time!