Dubai Air Show

Emirates A380s will test Honeywell’s fledgling customer support organization

 - December 11, 2006, 8:24 AM

Honeywell Aerospace is in the throes of a reorganization that will result in a 5-percent cut in its workforce by year end. More importantly for clients of the U.S. engines and avionics group is the fact that Honeywell’s various aerospace businesses no longer run their own customer support activities. Led by former head of avionics support Adrian Paull, customer support exists as a department in and of itself, and covers all three of Honeywell aerospace’s newly defined divisions–air transport and regional, business and general aviation and defense and space.

In the Middle East, and indeed globally, one of the biggest tests of Honeywell’s new structure will come with the introduction of Emirates Airline’s Airbus A380s. Tasked with supplying, among other things, the airplane’s flight management system and, in cooperation with Dunlop, wheels and brakes, Honeywell has already started working with the airline to lay the groundwork for the support relationship.

“We asked them if they felt the need for some on-site repair capability,” said Paull. “Many times in this industry we end up with overserved markets, sort of counterintuitive decisions–so-called strategic decisions as opposed to ones that are practical or economic decisions,” he added.  

Under the new structure, instead of having to contact a number of different technical specialists attached to the various Honeywell product lines, Emirates and all of Honeywell’s customers will now need deal with only a single individual. Of course, that person cannot know every answer to every question, but in some cases will act as a liaison between the customer and the respective product specialists.

Roughly 80 such product specialists will staff the new product support engineering team, which will serve as a kind of technical assistance group for the field reps. “Field service representatives can be their own support team as a virtual network is being created by the regional leader for field service engineering. And similarly, field service engineers can be made more productive and get more visits done, because we don’t have to show up three at a time–wheels and brakes, engines, avionics–which is the old model,” explained Paul.

Simplicity rules

A quest for simplicity marks every facet of Honeywell’s reorganization plan, starting with something as basic as how customers contact the company. Before the reorganization, the company found 200 different telephone numbers listed for customer service or technical help. Honeywell (Stand E302) now lists only two telephone numbers for customer support–a 1-800 number for North America and an international number for the rest of the world.

Next, during the first quarter of 2006, the company plans to launch a new Internet portal to accommodate routine questions or requests. Paull estimates that the e-portal could process about 40 percent of the inquiries the call centers now take, such as questions involving order status or price estimates. Once it gets customers used to clicking on the Web site for simple inquiries, it can concentrate on training its call center personnel on becoming more proficient on complicated issues and eventually institute concierge services.

“As the calls become more complex, we’ll need a bank of concierge-type individuals who would have a much higher level of knowledge, of process, of protocol, and be synonymous with the technical assistance you’d find with many field engineers and  customer support program managers,” said Paull.

Of course, all the expertise in the world won’t help a customer who needs a part that isn’t at the right warehouse at the right time. To that end, said Paull, the aerospace division’s implementation of the SAP software has given the support organization far better access to information throughout the company’s network of warehouses and much more control over its spares inventory.

By the end of next year Paull expects to have collected enough data from individual customers to identify service-related trends within their respective organizations. After “flagging” specific problems, Honeywell would notify the customer and recommend a troubleshooting procedure. For example, said Paull, if an operator has replaced a specific part on the same airplane three different times within a month, that would indicate another problem unrelated to that part. If Honeywell can diagnose the true cause of the problem early on, it could save time, money and headaches for all involved.