Parents buy teaching, not the school’s costs


As with any new product, instead of defending insignificant reduction in fees, schools should first “demo” the service to justify its price (and hopefully value) before selling it.

What a deadlock!

On one hand, as one newspaper put it, “Parents are in revolt over the unrealistic costs associated with virtual education for children out of school.” On the other hand, according to Kenya Private Schools Association CEO, Peter Ndoro, “Unlike public schools, we are not funded by the government. Online learning was not factored in the normal fees. Schools have expenses relating to electricity, digital devices and Internet. All these have to be costed and someone has to pay for it.”.

With some claiming to teach even 5 year olds online, schools want their customers (parents) to buy based on the need for the business (school) to meet its operational costs. Is this how customers buy, really? Do customers reason, “Hmm! Let me agree to the price because of the costs of the business? I think, not. They buy based on perceived value of the service they consume.

And parents perceive diluted value in virtual teaching (the service). It is stretching to try and convince them that the value delivered online is the same as that offline (in the classroom).  In any case, as a retired teacher admitted, “Online learning cannot replace classroom learning entirely.” The dynamics are fundamentally different. For instance, class control is absent; parental involvement heightens as that of the teacher diminishes; and the different learning styles of students can be accommodated offline but not so, online. And these are a few of the soft issues that make parents question the value. Add hard issues like parents having to acquire internet services and internet enabled devices (laptops, for instance), the attendant costs of housing a child and all this at a time when incomes are threatened, and perceived value further diminishes. When the business (seller) insists on fees remaining constant, it is in essence saying the value is the same. Is it though?

Any seller will admit that selling a product based on what it is, is futile. Customers buy based on what the product does for them. The stylish lady buys the skirt because it’s hip or accentuates her hip movement; not because it is black and short. The inability to sell ‘hip movement’ as opposed to ‘black skirt’ is the cause of many lost sales.  The stance taken by the private schools is one of ‘buy for what the product is’. It’s a hard sell.

I think as the businesses they are, private schools should take a long term growth view as opposed to pursuing value diluted, customer frustrating, short-term profits. How? Internally, engage their banks and staff to help them navigate this unprecedented learning environment with no end in sight. For instance, some schools have adapted by significantly reducing their fees and selling their services to any interested customer, not only bona fide students. Externally, as with any new product, schools insisting on insignificant fees reductions can first “demo” the service (and hopefully value) before selling it. Instead of the other way around.

What do you think?

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