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Video Chats Are (Currently) Bad

Hi Paul,

Sorry for the delay getting back to you! There’s a number of different factors that go into your ranking, and we do try to make sure that some less experienced tutors get a chance to gain new customers too, so sometimes there will be newer tutors appearing above more experienced tutors such as yourself in the search results.

Having said that, we know there are some shortcomings to the way that people find a tutor atm, especially that the default ranking is really the only way to search right now…which means that your position in that default ranking has a lot of impact on how many clients you get.

We’re working on improving this right now. There’s a number of improvements to the algorithm and the way people search that we’re making, including ways to sort & filter via # of lessons taught, rating, etc, and those should help discoverability, especially for more experienced tutors with lots of reviews and lessons taught.

We’ll keep you updated whenever we make those changes.

Mark

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Hi Mark

Thanks for the reply.

That all makes sense.

Best Wishes

Paul

Why can’t I book a free video chat? I have been speaking to a prospective new student and they want a free video chat so I am trying to book one for 16:20 on Tuesday 7th September (the time and date upon which we agreed). I fill in the details, click “book chat” and rather then redirect me to the lessons page or confirm the chat is booked in, it just stays on the video chat screen as though it’s loading.

I’ve tried three times now and the same thing has happened. I have a lesson at 17:15 on the Tuesday so is it because I am trying to book a video chat within an hour of another lesson starting? Or am I doing something else wrong?

NB: I’ve never booked a video chat before and only made them available on my page this week so I’m not in any way experienced when it comes to video chats.

Sounds like a bug or glitch. Booking a video chat works in exactly the same way as booking a lesson.

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Did they contact you directly? I believe if you applied for a job there is currently a glitch in the system and only Tutorful staff can book them in. That’s what I was told anyway. Hope this helps.

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Hi @Basmati64, sorry to hear that you’ve been having trouble booking a free video chat!

If you could please give our team a call on 0114 383 0989 we can look at your particular account and support you further with this.

Best wishes,
Rachel

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I couldn’t get through before so will ring tomorrow, thanks for the information.

Just had to cancel a 1hr30 session because I couldn’t hear my student so all in all - a very testing day!

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

I don’t work for free so I don’t do video chats.
I offer a 30 min trial lesson for £5. I know that may as well be working for free, but it sets a boundary with the student (parent) that they can’t just chat to me until the cows come home. They have paid for 30 mins and it’s cheap, so they are usually really polite and don’t go over.
It gives me a chance to do a quick assessment of the child, speak to the parent and then I’m ready to start the “real” lessons the week after. I’ve had a little payment too, so it doesn’t feel like my time has been wasted if they decide not to have any lessons.
If you offer a video chat, they could just talk and talk and talk. That’s eating into your time that you could be earning.

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None of us should be expected to work for free, and it’s a shame that Tutorful has gone in this direction (and then implemented it so poorly).

I too do not offer video chats, and I would encourage anyone who does to reconsider on the basis that it devalues all of our labour.

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Well done for taking this stance. I don’t do them either though I did one once. My opinion of Tutorful is going down issue by issue. They seem to have no one in charge with any wisdom, or perhaps just no backbone when it comes to resisting parent demands.

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I’m not sure why people are being so rude about other people offering video chats. You can not offer video chats without lambasting those that do.

I’ve started offering video chats because it can be a better alternative to the back and forth messaging and it also gives me the opportunity to see a parent and a student prior to the lesson so that the first lesson is less awkward. I’ve conducted three over the last week and each one has lasted a maximum of 20 minutes. In that time I have been able to ask the questions I would’ve normally asked via rounds of back and forth messaging whilst the student&parent have been able to meet me and ask their questions too. Overall, it has been quite a positive experience and I’ve got another video chat booked later too.

If you don’t want to offer free video chats then fine - don’t. But don’t make out as though those that do should feel bad for doing so

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@Basmati64 I don’t think anyone has been “so rude” about other tutors offering video chats, or made it out that those who do should feel bad. They have just offered criticisms of the impact that this feature has on tutoring in general.

I offer free video chats, and I completely accept the criticisms that it devalues our labour to work for free - it does! However, unfortunately the system incentivises me to do whatever I can do get ahead of the competition, which results in a race to the bottom.

It’s great that free video chats are good for you, they are good for me too! Perhaps your feeling that the critiques are rude is a way to guard your self-interest? I’m suggesting we don’t have to go down the route of taking it personally, I certainly don’t take it personally even though I offer free video chats. We can accept critiques of the system while also acknowledging that to an extent, in order to be a tutor, we have to continue existing in and being part of the system.

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I echo @JoeL’s sentiment.

I’m not criticising people for using video chat; in fact the entire thread was a criticism of Tutorful’s implementation of them which penalises (or penalised? I’m not clear if this has been fixed) those who used them whilst also encouraging us to work for free.

We shouldn’t be put in a position where it’s expected that we work without compensation, especially when that work can negatively impact our ability to gain future work as is (or was) the case when I made the thread.

That said, I think that we should be mindful of creating the sense that clients can shop around for free at the expense of hours of our collective (unpaid) time.

If Tutorful wants to increase its client base through this means, they should be compensating us, even nominally, for helping to attract people to their platform. Otherwise, as has been discussed, it simply increases the extent to which we’re all just competing with each other to drive down prices and drive up hours while they get more work out of us for increasingly less money.

Maybe I read through the thread too quickly but I seem to agree with everyone.

Personally I only use video chats for selected (by me) prospective students. I switch on the facility for a short time only and hope that I don’t get approached by students looking for a free lesson.

One plus of the video chat is that if the technology fails the customer (probably) blames the technology rather than the tutor. Whereas if technology fails on a paid first lesson it feels, to the student, like its not value for money and to the tutor a waste of prep time and worse if the whole lesson cost gets refunded - optional perhaps to cancel payment but I really don’t want to charge for a service not delivered…

Another plus is that far less prep time is needed for a video chat than for a first lesson and as someone said above it saves time consuming back and forth messaging.

To me Tutorful has got this right. We can opt in and out of the free chat scheme & parents expect only 15 minutes. PS to demonstrate how quickly documents can be loaded - I tend use a long exam paper from a different course to stop the session mutating into a free lesson

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What do you want to be compensated for? Having a chat with a student? I don’t understand why you see the video chat as an extension from what we do ordinarily. Usually when I receive a message from a prospective student, we correspond periodically where they ask questions about me as a tutor and I ask questions about them as a student in order to ensure that they understand what I can offer and I understand how I can best support them. With the video chat, rather than all that back and forth messaging, we can do it in one 15 minute discussion.

The 15 minute chat also has these benefits

  • Eliminates awkwardness between student and tutor which can sometimes arise in that first lesson between two people that have never met.
  • Means you can meet the parent of younger students and establish an early working relationship with them.

In not one of those video chats have I felt I was “competing with somebody else” and in not one of those video chats have I felt that Tutorful is “getting more work out of us”.

Unless you’re somebody who books lessons in after one message correspondence with a student then I cannot see how the video chat can be a bad thing.

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That seems like a good idea!

Working?

In my experience, it doesn’t take (a minimum of) 15 minutes of being at my desk during working-hours to respond to a student’s enquiry. I can do it while travelling between lessons, or while doing other work entirely. As soon as there’s a requirement that I’m in a certain place with certain equipment taking a certain amount of time out of the working day, this seems to me indistinguishable from, you know, work.
If you find it saves you time and is easier to do this over video, great. I don’t see why you shouldn’t be being paid for giving Tutorful your time to on-board a client, personally, but if you’d rather not be that’s your choice.

Personally, as I no longer offer video chats given the fact that they were/are impacting our scores negatively and my concerns about free labour, if a student is hesitant I just offer (same as @Twiglet78 mentioned above) a heavily discounted trial session. I’ve found this to be more than sufficient.

That’s not quite the point I made.

I’m not suggesting that by providing a free video chat you are, yourself, competing somehow; I’m pointing out the fact that that by giving people the option to offer free video chats it implicitly penalises tutors who have (what I’m sure you’d agree are) perfectly valid reasons not to want to offer them.

It’s a little like how Uber, once it had achieved a relatively large pool of drivers, started to suggest that they provided passengers with things like complimentary bottled water, mints, gum, phone chargers. These are not mandated, of course, they’re just options the driver has to, at their own expense, enhance the customer’s experience and boost their satisfaction metrics.

Of course, customers didn’t get the memo that this was optional and it quickly became the case that drivers who did not offer these were penalised with worse reviews. “3 stars, he didn’t even have a phone charger!!!” It isn’t the fault of the drivers for forking out resources to stay competitive, it’s the fault of a company which pits its workers against each other in what a previous commenter astutely characterised as a race to the bottom.

Whether you have felt that Tutorful is getting more work out of you is, with respect, neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that you are giving them 15+ minutes of your time per-client simply to assist in client retention or on-boarding for which you are not being compensated. As I say, you’re welcome to do this for free, but I don’t think that anecdotal positive experience with the feature—of which I also have a few—outweighs the economic reality of what Tutorful is doing.

By increasing the client’s expectations of service—purely for the company’s financial gain—without increasing our compensation (which has, in fact, been lowered over time with commission increases and the widening pool of competition), Tutorful is achieving a similar effect.

What other services might we be given the ‘option’ of providing for free down the line? Anyone who has worked with a sufficient variety of tuition agencies will know that there’re plenty of cards Tutorful has yet to play in this regard.

I honestly don’t know what else to tell you. Do you want Tutorful to compensate you every time a student messages you for an enquiry too? Because as I have already said, the video chat is pretty much the same thing as receiving an enquiry and discussing the arrangement over video functionality as opposed to over many messages. It’s an easy thing to book, it doesn’t even have to take 15 minutes if you can cover all the bases you need to cover in less than that; and you don’t even have to take too much time out of your day. I book video chats either just before or just after an online session so I’m already prepared and ready to speak to a student and I would encourage anyone to do the same. And I really don’t understand why you see it as “working” because it’s not working. It’s just having a chat with a prospective student. No working involved, no preparation involved.

I honestly cannot see a perfectly valid reason not to want to offer free video chats. I know that there were issues with the score before but those seem to have been resolved (at least I haven’t seen any recent complains about this) so if you don’t want to offer them and feel as though you are being penalised in some way then that’s fine but I am going to continue offering them. Do I feel like I am offering anything extra than you? No. I feel as though I am offering something different to you.

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When it comes to competition, what matters is how the customers see what you are offering, not how you see it.

Of course video chats are great - everything you say about their usefulness is correct. This critique is not aimed at the level of your decision making process. I absolutely think that if I didn’t offer them then I would be at a competitive disadvantage compared to tutors who did offer it in the eyes of a significant number of clients. If there are two tutors who are pretty much equal, but you could get a free introductory chat with one of them, surely you’d be more likely to choose them?

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I don’t think you need to tell me anything. We don’t agree on this matter, and that’s fine!

Do you want Tutorful to compensate you every time a student messages you for an enquiry too? Because as I have already said, the video chat is pretty much the same thing as receiving an enquiry and discussing the arrangement over video functionality as opposed to over many messages.

You’re welcome to think they’re the same thing, but I’ve explained why I find them meaningfully different. It takes me on average ~10% of the time to deal with students via text as compared to a video chat and I can do it flexibly without taking time out of my working day.

And I really don’t understand why you see it as “working” because it’s not working. It’s just having a chat with a prospective student. No working involved, no preparation involved.

Again, I feel like I’ve outlined my view on this. But here are five more reasons off the top of my head:

  1. It requires me to be at my desk,
  2. It requires the use of work equipment I’ve paid for,
  3. It requires professional dress and demeanour,
  4. It requires booking a specific time slot out of the working day which I could otherwise be billing for,
  5. It is a discussion exclusively on the topic of work.

Sure sounds like work to me!

I honestly cannot see a perfectly valid reason not to want to offer free video chats.

Then you should carry on offering them, as I’ve said.

I’ve given you plenty of reasons why I think they’re bad not just for me but for tutors as a whole, but you’re more than welcome to disagree!

Do I feel like I am offering anything extra than you? No. I feel as though I am offering something different to you.

I think @JoeL’s reply addresses this fully. It’s clearly an extra addition that will quickly (if it hasn’t already) become rolled into the expectation of the service tutors provide as per my Uber example.

I’d just like to reiterate the main thrust of what I’m saying: clearly, it is in the interests of tutors to offer video chats on an individual basis. I have no issue with people doing so.

My point is simply that we should, like all gig-economy workers, be extremely wary of Tutorful giving us cool new ways to “really show [ourselves] to be the right tutor for the job” and secure more clients when those ways (1) require that we provide our services free of charge, (2) create pressure on other tutors to offer the same in order to stay competitive, and (3) are quite clearly intended as ways to increase their profitability and conversion rates.

Being able to say “most of our tutors will give you an experience of the lesson space in a video call for free!” is, of course, a selling-point. But it’s hard to see any way in which creating the tacit expectation of freely-provided services is anything but a dangerous precedent to set.

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