The GSE industry has turned into a strategic game of inches and the successful path that one company has chosen is a short walk down Customer Service St. The question is whether or not other companies will follow suit.
With ever-slimming bottom lines, airlines are moving away from buying the cheapest equipment available. Instead, they are beginning to buy the equipment they can depend on, equipment that will be readily available when it is called upon.
Eagle Tugs, manufacturers of all-wheel drive aircraft tow tractors for the U.S. and international regional airlines, FBO's, corporate flight departments and militaries, has set the goal of gaining a reputation in the GSE industry for exemplary quality and service. Customers were standing up and shouting "Quality first, price second and availability third," and one of the companies that was listening in the distance, has reaped a significant reward as a result.
Eagle has experienced over a 300-percent revenue increase over the past three years as a result of heeding the customer's calls. So much growth, that they'll cut the ribbon off a new building, with double the manufacturing capacity, in October. After listening to their various demands, the company decided that manufacturing a quality product is worthless without providing continuous support to the customer.
The potent quality and service one-two punch has been the focus for FBOs and corporate flight departments nearly since we started sharing the skies with our feathered friends. Many FBOs don't have full GSE maintenance departments to keep their equipment running, it has just been good business to keep a roster of reliable equipment with service plans that don't require an equally large lineup of service workers.
And now, as cost reduction becomes the most important factor to any airline, purchasing quality equipment is a bigger focus than it has ever been. Airlines are putting a greater demand on their equipment and are continuously looking to form relationships with key suppliers who understand their needs and will support their products 100-percent.
"For years Eagle Tugs has done a lot of business with the U.S. Military because they could depend on the quality of our products, especially when deployed overseas," Eagle President, Jace Morgan says. "We have seen the airlines shift in the same direction. That is the reason we have been fortunate enough to become a key supplier to leaders in the regional airline industry such as Skywest and Mesa Airlines. They understand the importance of having their equipment up and running and at the same time, keeping their costs low."
As for service, when there is a problem in the field, Morgan and Co. understand the importance of minimizing the aircraft tug down-time Brad Ford, Regional Manager for SkyWest Airlines says, "Response time in our airline industry is extremely important. Because we don't have extra equipment, we need the equipment up and running as fast as possible."
You may have the quality equipment and you may have the service, but what's the missing piece to the jigsaw? Financial security. Ed Vasicek, Vice President of Eagle Sales, said it best, "There isn't a better way to show your customers that you stand behind your products than with an industry-leading warranty. We feel that a longer warranty is yet another way we can service our customers better." This month, Eagle Tugs will announce a new manufacturer's warranty, three years or 3,000 hours.
As many GSE suppliers are focusing their efforts on keeping up with the latest technology, Morgan states, "Until there is a clear path that the GSE industry is going to embrace, we aren't going to chase what might end up being a technology fad. As we develop new products, our goal is to develop products with current, proven technology, which fully meet our quality standards. It is real tough to maintain quality and service standards when you develop new technology that is unproven in the marketplace."