We were surprised to lose a new customer opportunity today. Remarkable because it happens so infrequently. 90%+ of our new business is by word-of-mouth as a result of our reputation so by the time we're contacted, both our offering and our company have been thoroughly vetted. We're not the lowest price but our customers tell us we provide the best value.
After answering this potential client's questions, we received an email this morning telling us they'd decided to go with someone "cheaper". What's disturbing here is the trade-off that's happened between lowest price and best value. It's a signal that the customer views dive safety training as a commodity: competitive offerings look similar enough that price should be the deciding factor.
We decided to articulate how we provide superior value and educate customers how to spot situations where lowest price may result in costly mistakes later for them.
Dive safety education changes frequently - at least every five years as a result of changes to international CPR and First Aid protocols. Not all instructors keep up-to-date. The 2012 DAN Oxygen class, for example, now includes using a manually-triggered ventilator (MTV) and bag valve mask (BVM). This equipment should be part of your standard (not advanced) O2 class. If they're not, ask why not?
A sure sign that an instructor is not current is receiving old materials without a plausible explanation. We've had instructors give us photocopied materials which is not only a copyright violation, it shows the tradeoffs they're willing to make to keep their costs down versus provide more value. What else are they not giving us?
An all-too-common practice is to quote a low price but not include student materials. Materials for many courses can be 30% of the total cost so it's not insignificant.
Probably the most outrageous practice we know about is that one local scuba shop charges extra for certification. While common sense implies that when you take a class you'll receive a certification upon successful completion, they don't see it that way and will charge you up to $50 to receive your certification card. Any "savings" you thought you enjoyed are long gone and now you have no alternative but to pay more in order to finish the course.
Lastly, many facilities you could take a dive safety course from are in retail dive shops which have a set open time. That means that no matter how your course is progressing, your session will be controlled more by the clock than by skill mastery.
We love Happy Hour - it's a great trade off when you're not really that hungry and don't want to feel full. Happy Hour portions cost less but you also get less - portions are half-sized and half-priced. That's acceptable if you just want to eat light or save money and are willing to make trade-offs between price and quality. It's not appropriate when it comes to dive safety education. Imagine being at a dive accident scene and explaining to relatives why you don't know how to competently use the oxygen unit or AED? If you've decided that training is worth doing, it's worth doing well.
How does Better Dive Pro offer better value? We are committed to life-long learning for ourselves in order to serve our customers better. This means that we've advanced our own education to the point of certified Diver Medic to competently answer emergency dive medicine questions from student and instructor candidates.
We include complementary eLearning for all our dive safety programs which shifts the time spent on lectures to practical hands-on workshops. We don't operate out of a shop so we have all the time you need to master skills. We don't charge for extra sessions if customers want them. We don't drag out courses simply to improve profitability. Your mastery of these skills is our only concern.
We include materials and certification costs in all of our quotes. Of course that is more expensive than the "tuition only" quotes but we believe we're providing our clients with better information since they're usually working with one budget not several.
For many programs, we include special surprises to reward students for their efforts. For example, if you take our Diving Emergency Management Provider program, we send you home with a waterproof First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries booklet ($15 value). Customers like these quick reference guides to throw in their logbooks.
We always look for more ways to provide value rather than reduce cost and charge less. We believe in honesty in pricing and our tuition rates are often less than competitors but we tell the whole story even if we miss out on customers who think they're getting a better value by paying the lowest (initial) price elsewhere.