American Eurocopter Lands on CRM Pad
Clarify's eFrontOffice helps AEC's field reps anticipate customer requests.
By Paul Nesdore
American Eurocopter Corporation (AEC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Eurocopter, serves the helicopter market in the United states. AEC is a $200 million company with more than 400 customers in the United states, having delivered more than 1,200 aircraft. AEC is a perfect example of an aerospace company that is grabbing all the benefits that CRM offers.
Before AEC's CRM initiative, it had a number of disparate databases: marketing, customer service, spare parts, maintenance contacts and one just to handle sensitive information. Jim Carver, manager of technical services, explains, "most of these databases were actually created in-house from other standard software packages such as Excel or Access. It just finally got to the point where it was either unmanageable or became very specific to just one part of the company." Not only was this an untenable situation, but it did nothing to help AEC's goal of increasing customer satisfaction. AEC decided to rectify this situation using Clarify's eFrontOffice suite of CRM products.
Carver comments, "with Clarify, we have been able to combine all of these separate databases into one database, which provides access for whatever role is needed within a customer's organization." Additionally, AEC was also able to join the new database with another that tracked its fleet. This gives AEC an easy way to track the hours of service that individual helicopters accumulate, which helps determine when an aircraft is due for inspection or new parts. This tracking is a definite plus for customer satisfaction because the parts will now be ready when they are needed.
Christine Ravanas, business systems analyst for AEC, notes, "whenever we go out into the field and visit our customers, we now know what the issues are before we get there. We can anticipate the requests the customer will have for our technical people."
One of the Clarify eFrontOffice modules AEC chose was ClearSupport, which provides configuration control, workflow, problem resolution and ownership and commitment tracking to manage information flow within a service organization. By automating the entire customer service relationship, ClearSupport ensures that individual customer needs are addressed quickly and efficiently.
The other module AEC obtained from the Clarify eFrontOffice suite was ClearEnterprise Traveler, which provides full mobile capabilities, enabling information access without a direct connection to the corporate database.
AEC implemented ClearSupport in July 1999 and is still adding capabilities. Ravanas explains, "we are still building the knowledge database. The first goal of the database is not to manage. It's to have all of the information we need for customer requests. We are in an industry where the calls are more a question of quality than quantity."
Like most aerospace companies, the volume of units is not high, but the product is complex. Ravanas adds, "Any time a customer calls us, it's usually a deep technical question. So it is important for us to register the question an0d track its history."
Query Audit Trail
When a customer calls AEC with a technical question, AEC uses ClearSupport to log it. A customer's query is followed from its origin until it is satisfactorily answered. If the inquiry requires answers from outside the organization, the case is put on hold and monitored until the answer is received.
Ravanas comments that, "When we have completed a customer inquiry, we know how long it took and how much phone and research time we spent on it. So not only does it help us respond better to the customer, but it adds to our knowledge database and gives us data that we can use for manpower estimates and other strategic initiatives."
Previously, AEC was performing these functions manually. Each technician who answered a customer request had his own method of logging the transaction. Carver says, "As long as nothing fell through, we were OK. The real problem was that there was no way of knowing whether something fell through until the customer called. Now, nothing can fall through because of the business rules we set up in Clarify."
Clarify enables organizations to set up different groups, each one headed by a supervisor whose responsibility is to ensure that all issues are being addressed properly. The supervisor reviews the weekly queue of questions and through the business rules notifies the necessary people.
When AEC delivers an aircraft, the Clarify software can receive and record feedback on how the product and the documentation are perceived and track this information so improvements can be made.
"With Clarify, we have been able to combine all our separate databases into one."
Focus on the Customer
AEC's goal is to improve its customers' overall image of the company. Like most CRM initiatives, the systems increase customer satisfaction by improving internal processes, which often also results in cost savings and revenue gains. Carver remarks, however, "we haven't really looked at the implementation from a cost savings standpoint yet. Because the implementation is so recent, our main focus is customer service."
AEC uses a number of methods to evaluate how it is doing in customer service. One way is by viewing industry surveys that address products and services in the aerospace industry.
"We also have customer meetings every year," adds Ravanas. "We meet our customer face-to-face and get feedback. We talk to our customer in detail on what we need to improve and how they feel we are doing. We call these meetings Epicenter. We held them this year in Orlando and Las Vegas."
While Ravanas is pleased that the July implementation has put a new light on customer service, she is looking ahead to expanding the CRM capabilities with a sales module. With Clarify working at AEC and CRM capabilities within the mother company, Ravanas says, "we will have a really global view of our customers. Eurocopter has customers in 130 countries. Because aircraft move, it will be a tremendous advantage to have this global view. Today, an aircraft can be operated in Hawaii and then can move to Guam and then to South America."
This tracking is important marketing intelligence for AEC. For example, if it is seeing a lot of imports into a region of the United states, it may be an area AEC wants to look at as a used aircraft market opportunity.
Ravanas sums it up this way. "One of the reasons for implementing Clarify is that our goal in the industry is to be No. 1 in customer service. And that's where we are headed."