What Are The Implications of Consulting Versus Commoditization of Training?

First some terms.

There are two approaches to delivering and marketing training. One is to treat training as a commodity, like soap, or something you might buy at a supermarket. The customer chooses from among a number of "products", purchases, and uses. That's a commodity, and when training is presented this way by the vendor, it's called commoditization.

A consulting approach to training is quite different. It's based on a much more comprehensive model that involves customizing to fit the specific client's needs, needs analysis, etc. The idea is not simply to sell something to a customer, but to use professional expertise to make sure that what the client gets will actually help, and will be of value for that specific customer.

Implications for Trainers and Training Departments


It's possible for trainers to have a core for a seminar, but to consult with the client to modify it to fit. This way one need not begin from scratch with each client (although that's not a bad approach, but it's expensive) That's a good middle ground and it's the one Bacal & Associates works. We don't do canned courses from off the shelf. But we do have core content and instructional processes that we modify for each client.

Training that is sold as a commodity has much lower value, both in terms of results, and in terms of what one can charge. That makes sense because it takes fair less expertise to create it and sell it.

Commodity training cannot possibly be all things to all people or customers, so it's simply going to be less effective.

A commodity model for marketing and delivering training devalues the profession, although it is common. Large companies commoditize their training and are successful at it, but it does contribute to trainers being perceived as less than expert.

There are some ethical questions for trainers here. If you know that you are offering one size fits all training that doesn't fit your customers (because it often can't possibly), what are the ethical implications for charging, while offering less than the customer expects? It's obviously a very personal decision.

Implications For Customers

Training customers shouldn't need to be experts in how training works. That's why they should hire trainers, and competent trainers at that. Often training customers don't realize that they may be paying for off the shelf training that is going to be much less effective in terms of creating the results they desire. It "seems easier" to customers. The key for customers is to expect a consulting model, and to ask vendors about things like needs analysis beforehand, and how the vendor will customize.

About Company

Bacal & Associates is a small training, consulting and publishing company specializing in customer service, communication, performance management, and other management challenges.

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