American Eurocopter customers will begin to see demonstrably better product support, including hard AOG (aircraft on ground) support, by the end of the second quarter of this year, said Larry Roberts, vice president of sales, marketing and customer support. The new Customer Service Fleet Operations Center, which opened at the company’s Grand Prairie, Texas campus on September 1, already is improving customer service and support, he said, with an overall on-time parts delivery rate for AOG orders of 91 percent.
Roberts said the Center brings technical representatives and customer service representatives together in one building; improves internal and external communications by integrating customer management, enterprise and internal communications software company-wide; and establishes a dedicated AOG Center.
The technology tools should also yield better customer visibility and predictive data, enabling American Eurocopter and customers to better tune and maintain their respective parts inventories. “Before we had all this visibility in the ordering process we were working primarily on a replenishment basis,” Roberts said, “purely a historical approach to what had been ordered. Now we are making fleet analysis, looking into components that are high usage and looking over the horizon into potential technical issues that are developing in the field.”
However, Roberts acknowledged that having better predictive data was not a substitute for having an adequate inventory of fast-moving parts. “We still have to be careful that we keep the right inventory of these 12,000 parts,” he said.
Striking the proper balance can be difficult. Roberts pointed out that American Eurocopter supports 1,800 aircraft, including 15 models. Many of them are legacy helicopters dating back to the 1960s.
Eurocopter’s past product support has historically been ranked below its peers, and that has created certain amounts of customer creativity. “A great number of AOGs we have worked on since the [Center] opened have not really been AOGs, but AOG orders,” Roberts said. “We want to sanctify the AOG and have the AOG [Center] work only on hard AOG situations. We will work with our customers to handle other orders that are not quite AOG but require a fast response time on a rush basis or a planned order basis.”
Roberts said the best way for customers to order on a planned basis remains Eurocopter’s Keycopter automated online parts ordering system, but added that the system is not appropriate for AOGs. “We want our customers to talk to a human being so that they can be directed to the correct technical filtering and the correct customer service representative who can get them the right part as fast as we can. Customers who are hard AOG feel a lot better talking to a person, rather than just hitting the order send button on Keycopter.”
Having customer and technical representatives work together improves the precision of parts orders, Roberts said. “Customer service reps traditionally do not come from a technical background. A tech rep can call the customer” and sometimes better assess the situation. “We already have seen several instances that a customer needed more parts than he thought he did or, conversely, ordered more parts than he really needed, say ordered an assembly instead of individual parts. Through technical filtering we can amend those orders to make sure customers get just the parts they need and get back in the air as soon as possible,” he said.