I recently had the pleasure (read: misfortune) of flying a low-cost airline across the country. Why, you ask? Because I’m a good employee and also very frugal, whether it be with my money or the company’s. But, when it gets down to it, are these low-cost airlines really that low-cost and worth the meager savings? When they start to nickel and dime you for your seat, baggage, food, etc. they become less and less “low-cost” and more of an “I’m never doing this again” situation. The same can be said for those low-cost LMS providers. Here are my thoughts on the two and some conclusions I’ve drawn.
Saving Money is Awesome…
Not too long ago I had the opportunity to fly to San Diego for a 3-day digital marketing conference. As you can imagine, flying from Florida (where our corporate office is located) to San Diego isn’t a hop, skip and jump away. And, like I mentioned before, I’m very frugal. So I was looking for the best deal possible when I started searching for hotels and flights.
I found a great rate on a hotel and luckily found a pretty good deal on flights. I’d fly one of the major airlines over to the west coast and one of the low-cost options back to Florida.
Now, I should tell you, this was my first experience with this particular low-cost airliner. I’ve flown RyanAir over in Europe so I had some concept of what low-cost airlines are like, but when you’re paying a mere €24 for a flight from Memmingen, Germany to Rome, Italy you can kind of forgive the fact that you pay a small fee for your seat and a carry on.
However, when I’m paying $35 for a carry on and $27 for a decent seat in addition to the cost of the flight, taxes and fees…I’m starting to wonder if I actually AM going to save money. We’ll see…
(As an aside: I also made mention of the fact that this was my first time flying this particular airliner in the days leading up to and during the conference and every single reaction I got made me more and more nervous about what I had gotten myself into.)
Unless You Don’t Actually Save Money (or Your Sanity)…
Fast forward to the last day of the conference. It’s Sunday. It’s done by 4pm. I head to the airport via the hotel shuttle and am posting up at the terminal by 5:30pm. My flight isn’t until 10pm. That’s right, my low-cost airline has me flying out of San Diego (a west coast city) at 10pm. Meaning, I’ll arrive at Orlando International Airport at 5:34 in the morning the following day.
At this point, my mantra is “I’m saving money, I’m saving money, I’m saving my freaking company money.” But am I really?
You see, that $27 I paid for my seat is actually more than I originally paid for it because I’m starting to dread sitting between people on the forewarned metal chairs with laughably thin cushions. I upgraded to a seat in an open row because (my goodness) if there’s a chance I can have an entire row to myself on this super red eye flight then I’m taking it! Unfortunately it didn’t work out like I had hoped.
The extra money doesn’t end there…on board they had a meager food selection that consisted solely of snacks and no actual meals like other airlines offer. Each snack or drink option was $3 unless you bought in multiples and then you saved a couple of bucks.
There was also no in-flight entertainment other than your imagination or your phone/tablet. Thankfully, since the flight was at 10pm I really had just one option: try and get some sleep!
I also couldn’t find any mention of in-flight WiFi whether it be free or even a paid option.
What in the World Does This Have to Do With a Low-Cost LMS?
In truth, my less than ideal experience is directly relatable to a low-cost LMS. Many times, when buyers are going through the LMS research and purchasing process, low-cost LMS options look great! They generally have a low per-user cost or even a flat fee for unlimited users.
Here’s the thing though…many (heck, most) of these low-cost LMS providers start to nickel and dime you for additional services that you would probably assume are included. Want email support? That’s an extra $9,500 a year. Want eCommerce functionality? That’s $3,000 a year. Need multiple languages? Tack on another $3,000 per language. Want premium support? Another $9,500 a year.
The costs quickly add up. Not to mention the fact that most of these low-cost LMS providers offer little in the way of support (unless you pay for an upgraded option) beyond a knowledge base or email support that may take days to respond and weeks in order to reach a resolution. And, if you want to run a custom report- something other than the included standard reporting- then you have to email the support team and they have to run it for you, which can also take days.
Why Low-Cost Airlines and the Low-Cost LMS Aren’t Always Best
So, that low-cost LMS that started off at a flat annual fee of about $25,000 is now creeping on up to the $45,000-$50,000+ range. That’s pretty darn close if not even more expensive than some mid-tier LMS providers whose system boasts more functionality and features for the same price or slightly cheaper.
My low-cost flight is the perfect example of this. While it may have been slightly cheaper than another carrier’s flight initially, when you take into account the nickel and dime add-ons (plus the cost of my sanity), missing out on a day’s worth of implementing the new strategies I learned at the conference, and generally being an additional day behind on my catch-up work, the low-cost airline starts to lose its appeal. And, typically, the experience is the same with low-cost LMS providers…or so we’ve heard from former clients of said providers.
The moral of the story: just do your research. Low-cost options aren’t ALWAYS a bad way to go if you have very simple training needs and are okay with doing everything yourself. But, if you have even slightly more complex needs then do your due diligence and really dig deep to see if that low-cost provider will give you everything you want for a lower cost than a more feature-rich LMS.
Do you have any low-cost LMS nightmares or tips to share?