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February 17th, 2012

When there is No Longer a Discernible Difference

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As a frequent flyer of both Virgin and Qantas, recent changes in Virgin due to what I believe is new leadership makes me question what real difference there is between the two airlines now.

Let me explain further:

  • Virgin now has a sectioned off business class area;
  • Passengers who are seated in this area are served drinks and papers on arrival;
  • They are provided meals that are served with stainless steel cutlery, napkins, table clothes and, where necessary, via silver service;
  • In the past the cabin supervisor made the safety announcements and nearly always added their zest to it. For example, “red planes fly faster” and “kids ready for take-off, make sure your parents are strapped in”.
  • The menu is now specifically designed by Luke Mangan (sorry Luke, but where have my Pringles gone?);
  • The only difference Qantas still has, that I can see, is that their meals are included in the fare.

My understanding is that the new leadership at Virgin is an ex member of Qantas, hence the changes.

How often do we sit back and review or benchmark our competition, and try and copy or emulate what they are doing? Do we ask what is the return on investment and if we make ourselves look, sound, and feel like the competition then how are the clients going to know the difference between us and them?

Why not go to your key customers and ask them what you should be delivering, the experience they want when they choose to do business with you, what they see as your point of difference and what new ideas and concepts you are looking at implementing in your business actually resonates with them.

You can go to market having researched your concepts or projects instead of simply copying your competition.

When your clients see no discernible difference between you and your competitors, when the service experience is the same, when you start to look, sound and feel the same, guess what? They will make choices based on price.

I selected Virgin as my preferred supplier because I liked their point of difference – the Virgin brand, the culture, the fun the crew – however now I don’t really see the difference or experience that culture that Virgin was so well known for once.

Shame the new leadership didn’t ask their key customers what they wanted before they started to look like their competition.

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