The challenge of staying the best

I write this  on a Singapore Airlines (SQ), one of the world’s best airlines. A travel icon for decades, at least as long as the thirty years I’ve travelled with them. For SQ, and for those of us in business it’s tough becoming number one, and should you achieve its even harder to stay numbers one.
The aspiration to become number one sets for all a unique challenge for success, and having achieved this lofty goal, how do we maintain the passion in our teams to stay number one?
This is a question related to service delivery for SQ but also in terms of their brand value in the eyes of we consumers, the value to remain number one.
The IMAGE of Singapore airlines is clear…  friendly skies, superb service, excellent on board amenities, ontime performance. Simply elegant traveling whether in economy or first.
The EXPECTATION is also clear to all who seek to travel, no hassles, the best, ontime performance, no hiccups, service with a smile. I pay the price I expect the service delivery. The expectation mirrors the image.
Wow, they have set very high expectations in the minds of their consumers, and as a relatively loyal consumer, I know the consequences of these expectations, I become bored with SQ quality service. Small things that don’t go perfectly, peeve me, and my EXPERIENCE doesn’t live up to my EXPECTATIONS.
My perception of brand value is as a simple equation- value = image + expectation +/- experience. I perceive brand value like a bank account, you need an image to open it, expectation is your current account and your brand experiences credit or debit your brand value account.
As a result the brand value of Simgapore Airlines in my mind, ebbs a little when experience doesn’t meet expectation. Occasionally something goes spectacularly well, cabin staff that chat with you and appear genuinely interested, a smooth flight, no crying babies, a chance for uninterrupted work, or sleep, or entertainment ( the chance to see the movie you missed) all of this adds to my emotional brand-value bank account named Singapore Airlines.
It’s tough to become number one, but for Singapore Airlines its even tougher to stay number one in brand value. As my brand value bank account grows, my expectations grow wit interest.
The only way I can recalibrate my expectations is to ditch SQ and travel with the competition, occasionally it’s QANTAS, a nice airline, but certainly not SQ and certainly not number one, or Air New Zealand.  I also fly Korean Airlines- against a very good airline, certainly not SQ and not number one.
It’s sad sometimes that I have to fly with the competition to really experience (in a negative way) how good SQ is and this resets my EXPECTATIONS  downwards, and then the small touches now are Positive EXPERIENCES. And I’m glad again that I fly Singapore Airlines.
As senior executive, putting ourselves into the minds of both our customers and our team members, we focus very much on the image of our businesses, we invest in advertising, we promote heavily, to create an image of a winning business.
Even more important is to understand the expectations of our customers and the experiences (both positive and negative) that have with us, which create the value of our brands and our business.
After this flight, SQs brand has been enhanced, high expectations on my part, met and maybe exceeded. Yes, I’ m happy to pay the price to fly the friendly skies.
foot note- since then i’ve returned from Christchurch on a very old Boeing with faulty entertainment, and the really old reclining seats… oh well SQ brand value down a little.