What Choppergate can teach us about customer expectations

Choppergate is a timely reminder that no matter how well documented and well-understood our work practices may be to us, customers could have very different ideas about what’s acceptable.

Recently the Federal Government in Australia was rocked by an expenses scandal known as “Choppergate”. While scrutiny over the spending of taxpayer money is nothing new, Choppergate has uncovered a systemic mismatch between what the voting public thinks is an acceptable use of public money and the internal policies and practices of the government that is spending it.

If you’re not in Australia, have been living in the outback or doing a digital detox for the last couple of weeks, here’s what has been happening:

  • Federal Parliament Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, a member of the governing Liberal Party, has been condemned for spending an excessive amount of money on charter flights, the most contentious of which involved flying the 100km between Melbourne and Geelong to attend a party fund-raising event.
  • While this was not considered official business, and the money has been repaid, other examples of Bishop’s prolific use of charter flights do apparently fall within the “rules”.
  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Bishop spent $139,196.01 on charter flights while a junior minister from January ‘98 to December ‘01, almost seven times the amount spent by Tony Abbott (now Prime Minster) and Joe Hockey (now Federal Treasurer).

The Choppergate scandal has inspired hundreds of memes on social media, including my personal favourite:

 (Source: http://mobile.news.com.au/national/politics/internet-skewers-bronwyn-bishop-over-choppergate-scandal/story)

(Source: http://mobile.news.com.au/national/politics/internet-skewers-bronwyn-bishop-over-choppergate-scandal/story)

Within important contracts and customer relationships, we have a set of external KPIs and contract conditions that we need to adhere to. Outside this, though, exist a whole raft of internal work practices and policies that may conflict with or contradict the intention of our customer agreements (whether they’re formalised or not). For example, I once worked with an organisation that had a small contract with a large government body and was seeking to win a bigger slice of their (substantial) business. However, despite their good work in meeting KPIs they were getting resistance from the customer that the management team couldn’t explain.

While unpacking their work practices, we discovered that their contract delivery team was sending 100 emails a week to the customer’s organisation – all of which required an answer. It’s no wonder the customer was getting frustrated, and management was getting stonewalled when they tried to ask for the new business they felt should be a natural consequence of their good performance.

What’s normal practice for us may come as a shock to customers, and could be the hidden barrier that stands in the way of doing more and better business together. Want to know if you’re vulnerable, and how to fix it? Join me at How To Retain Your Most Important Contracts and Customers in Melbourne on August 6 – I’d love to have you there. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.