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Why Pay QA?

QA's Price Discrimination Strategy - Are you paying too much?

Updated 15/3/2017

QA - the UK's largest training provider and 'preferred supplier' for many organisations has what might be described as a 'Jekyll and Hyde' approach to their customers.

Here's just two examples for EXACTLY the same QA course, on the same date and at the same location!

View the Video - Includes QA's Staff Describing their Perks!

 

Compare QA and Focus On Training Pricing for the Exact Same Event!

Website PriceCourse Location Date
QA£2231 Installing and Configuring Windows 10 Birmingham - Hill Street, B5 4UA 17/07/2017
Focus On Training (QA Owned*) £1495 - 33% less!Installing and Configuring Windows 10 Birmingham - Hill Street, B5 4UA17/07/2017
QA£3345 VMware vSphere 6.5: Install, Configure, Manage International House, London, E1W 1UN 10/07/2017
Focus On Training (QA Owned*) £2395 - 28% less!VMware vSphere 6.5: Install, Configure, Manage International House, London, E1W 1UN10/07/2017

Prices shown on respective websites 15/3/2017.

Example Price Change History on QA Main Website

Here's an example for Installing and Configuring Windows 10. There's been over a 6% price rise in under 8 months on the main QA site while Focus on Training remained constant for the example courses. Other prices changed with a different pattern - QA's main site generally showing a greater increase.

Sample DatePrice
4/11/2015£1980
21/01/2016£2010
30/6/2016£2101
15/3/2017£2213

You will find literally hundreds of equivalent listings for:

  • PRINCE2®
  • Microsoft
  • VMware and many others!

Its surprising to find that QA are selling their courses at two vastly different prices for exactly the same product on the same dates and at the same locations!

*QA openly state that they own Focus on Training and both companies are registered to the same address. The disparity in pricing doesn't appear to be down to marketing practices such as 'Early Bird' or 'Late Deal' discounts as the price differences run consistently over many months. So the conclusion must be they have a two tier approach which could be viewed rather cynically and is contrary to the statements on the 'Our Values' and other sections of their website.

This pricing strategy, where the same product is sold at differing prices, is often referred to as 'Price Discrimination'. Usually they'd be a clear differentiator such as reduced rates for students or pensioners but in this case it appears to be based purely on prospective customer's web search habits and savviness - a vague demographic at best and potentially very costly to busy HR departments sourcing training!

Preferred Supplier Contracts

Many organisations, including local government, have negotiated 'preferred supplier' agreements with QA based on their reputation and reach. A reasonable public question is what pricing model these have been negotiated in line with and hence whether value for money is being achieved?

Another aspect to this is that lower volume customers, paying the higher of QA's prices, may well be subsidising some otherwise non-viable preferred supplier contracts!

This would allow QA to exercise control over purchasing by major customers including local government.

Motivation - Substantial Financial Rewards?

The UK training market has relatively few independent providers remaining and virtually all the major players are now at least part owned by overseas investors. Once the fixed costs of an event have been met adding further attendees greatly increases the potential profit. Here's an example:

Example Classroom Revenue - £32,160!

16 attendees on a 5 day Microsoft course at QA's advertised price the revenue for a single event will be:

  • £32,160 exclusive of VAT with a very high percentage of profit

There's so much revenue in practice that QA actually negotiated a £50 million refinancing package - not something that can easily be done without evidence of substantial potential rewards!

Product Quality

QA utilise 'extended classrooms' - a mix of physically present learners and those attending virtually. The trainer's strategies to maintain the subtleties and complexity of a productive 'learner-centric' classroom will need to be well practised and ideally seamless. Learner attention spans are well documented as differing considerably in face-to-face and virtual learning environments and very careful instructional design is required to mitigate the risk of interrupting the learning of the physical attendees in order to maintain a comfortable rate of progress for the virtual attendees. We'll expand on this discussion in a future article.

At such high prices they'd be an expectation of the training results and learner's certification results to be exemplary. QA's published results for PRINCE2® Foundation, for example, are 98%. This is above the national average but is exceeded by several of the lower priced, smaller providers. A low pass mark in PRINCE2® Foundation typically indicates a much lower success rate in the more demanding Practitioner examination - QA haven't put their Practitioner success rates on their website.

All the major vendors have a direct interest in their products being correctly utilised and hence almost all have developed recognisable, consistent and typically branded, training programmes. This encompasses the trainers, the courseware, the course set-up, the facilities, interfacing to the customers and of course the examination processes. An example would be Microsoft's Learning Competency which stipulates measurable quality criteria for the entire envelope of the training engagement.

Following on from the training, the certification processes are also tightly quality controlled with some, in the cases of key Microsoft and CompTIA certifications, having proved themselves with the rigour of the ANSI/ISO process. Other quality processes are in use with UKAS monitoring and controlling PRINCE2, as an example.

The result is that an official training provider has, by definition, to meet very high and continuously enforceable standards. This levels the playing-field and high-end pricing is more to do with sales and marketing techniques influencing perceptions rather than any objective measure.

Conclusion?

Here's a quote from QA's site:

Value for money

We continually monitor the market to ensure that our prices remain competitive, and we always strive to offer the best value for money. Also, by operating a truly nationwide network of training centres we ensure that our customers can minimise their travel costs when training.


http://www.qa.com/about-qa/csr

The main QA website pricing is very much at the top end of the market but is the contradicted by the pricing they present via 'Focus on Training'.

Stating the obvious, value is not just about price but when the price is so variable, then surely the idea of 'value' comes into question?

Whilst researching for this article, we reviewed the features available at a number of the facilities QA utilise and also the features and functionality from the virtual learning environments that QA use as part of their national delivery network. There are some interesting further conclusions and we'll publish these as a follow-up.

Competently delivered classroom based training where the pre-requisites are met by all the attendees, where the learning outcomes are correctly chosen and where the instructional design allows for a rich learner-centric environment to be maintained has been shown to be the most productive environment for knowledge and skills acquisition and is a worthwhile investment for the learner and their organisation. The shame of over-pricing classes to make a quick buck and then having a fall-back plan to 'mop up' the rest of the market by a back-door root at often half the price for the same product undermines the perception of the product and is at best a short term view.

In conclusion, QA's two tier pricing strategy has to be viewed as purely self-serving and counters their own website's statements about value and customer-focus.

Alternatives Exist - #WhyPayQA - So Why Pay QA?

Website PriceCourse Location Date
QA£2010 Installing and Configuring Windows 10 (M206971) Unit5, Salisbury House, Hinckley, LE10 1YG 11/04/2016
Rezound £995Installing and Configuring Windows 10 (M206971) Sheffield Technology Parks, Sheffield, S1 2NS15/02/2016
MTC Training£1295 Installing and Configuring Windows 10 (M206971) The Industry Centre, Sunderland, SR5 3XB 11/04/2016
Dates and pricing from respective websites, 20/01/2016
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