Most of my career has been focused on providing service vs. receiving service. However, I now find myself with assignments that place me in the role of a customer. Because I have always thought like a customer this new role is not completely foreign to me. Instead, it provides an opportunity to reflect on what it takes to obtain new customers and most importantly retain their business. It sounds like a simple process however it takes patience and attention to detail to be successful in the fine art of retaining customers in the MRO business.
What do customers want? In reality their needs are very simple, i.e., work performed on time, within budget, defect free, and to be treated with respect. Theoretically with a bit of care and planning this should be an easy task. Unfortunately, with poor attention to detail, customers are needlessly disappointed resulting in the service provider losing money and losing the customer in the process.
For the sake of this discussion let’s assume I have qualified three service providers as technically competent to perform the work at hand on my business aircraft. Now I look beyond the technical expertise to four basic components that will affect my initial decision and whether or not I will return for future work. The four basic components of all service projects are: the quotation process, incoming briefing, ongoing communication and reports during the project, and the delivery process.
Customers expect the service provider to be the expert. A customer may ask for a strip and repaint or C Inspection quotation once or twice in their career whereas a service provider performs this work on a regular basis. The customer is looking to the service provider for guidance and will hold the provider accountable if the service providers are not proactive in the process. MROs cannot assume the customer’s request for quotation (RFQ) is complete and accurate. A customer will welcome an in-depth discussion to be certain they have not missed any items and to evaluate options to improve efficiency and lower costs. Most customers are required to get three bids; however, they often find themselves unable to make an accurate assessment because they have not provided the exact same information to each service provider. The wise MRO helps the customer in the bidding process and in the end helps itself by ensuring all parties are bidding on the exact same project. Although the MRO may see this help as self-serving the customer appreciates the guidance. In the end an accurate and complete RFQ containing the same information, disseminated to the three competitors will level the playing field.
Once the quotation process has been completed, the job scope defined, financial parameters established, and the downtime agreed upon, the incoming briefing becomes the critical point in the service project. Most likely some time has passed between the time the contract was executed and the arrival of the aircraft. The customer will need to “fill in the blanks” regarding any recent discrepancies and additional work items. In addition there may be the last minute squawks generated on the flight just prior to arrival. The customer is expecting to be greeted by a customer service representative and immediately begin the debriefing.
Nothing establishes a negative atmosphere more quickly than a customer realizing that no one was expecting him or the blatantly obvious panic that ensues when the service provider clumsily tries to recover from this faux pas. Unfortunately I have heard the following many times, “I signed the contract and established the input date with your concurrence three months ago and you are surprised to see me.” Starting off on this negative note begs the customer to question if the manpower and resources for his job have been allocated and if the work will be completed in the allotted time. Compounding these concerns will be the fear that the quality of work will be compromised. The customer who moments ago arrived with a positive attitude is now suspicicious and agitated. In addition, the lack of preparation is viewed as disrespectful and can turn the most docile customer negative. Getting off on the right foot sets the tone for the project.