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Inside the Growth of Mitsubishi Aircraft’s Customer Support Team

Posted by Mitsubishi Aircraft on Sep 5, 2019 4:00:00 AM
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In an industry defined by tight turnarounds, high volume and slim margins, strong customer support is just as important to operators as the aircraft itself. Unplanned downtime or maintenance can damage their reputation, hurt dispatch reliability and affect their bottom line. After all, buying a new aircraft is a one-time event—it’s the ongoing support that ensures the aircraft is operating at its full potential.

For Mitsubishi Aircraft, this means providing a premier customer support experience from the moment the SpaceJet M90 enters service. To make that possible, the company has focused its efforts in the past 12 months on assembling a team of the best industry experts from programs around the world. Led by aviation veterans Nelson Jabour and Nicola McCarron, the Customer Support Senior Leadership team has an average of 25 years of industry experience. This influx of talent has been at the core of the team’s rapid transformation and a key factor in reaching crucial milestones for a successful entry into service ahead of schedule. “We identified the gaps in expertise and knowledge and made a significant effort to bring the right expertise on board,” McCarron says. “As a direct result, the activities of the first six months of the year have completely transformed. Our customers expect excellence in terms of performance and responsiveness and are holding us to a high standard—we are getting their feedback and, in a recent survey, All Nippon Airways (ANA) indicated that we are exceeding their expectations.”

Spread across several sites located in Seattle, Moses Lake, Nagoya and Tokyo, every aspect of the customer support processes have been meticulously tracked to maintain that schedule for entry into service—from Ground Support Equipment, Recommended Spare Parts Lists, Reliability & Maintainability, Technical Publication & Flight Operations Manuals, Spare Parts Logistics and the Maintenance Repair & Overhaul (MRO) Network. In recent months, the team achieved two key milestones on the path toward entry into service: the first submission of technical publications to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau and the delivery of a full flight simulator to launch customer ANA. Both of these were accomplished nearly a year ahead of time, boding well for the SpaceJet family’s future airworthiness and operation.

With the aim of being a leader in the regional sector for decades to come, Mitsubishi Aircraft is also focused on investing in tools that will help future-proof their operation. One such innovation is an aircraft health monitoring system.

As aircraft operations become increasingly computerized, the data gathered from the aircraft can be used to prognose when certain elements will fail or need maintenance, ultimately allowing customers to better plan their fleet assignments and schedule optimal maintenance downtimes to ultimately avoid flight cancellations. “At the end of the day, customers want planes flying,” Jabour says. “The only way we can do that is if we have the infrastructure and integrated systems in place that allow us to understand the problem proactively. The customer does not want to lose revenue for their crew waiting on an aircraft. So the right planning, stock and tools are paramount for success.”

Successful customer support can be described in three words, McCarron says: Ready, Receptive and Responsive. “Our team must be constantly ready to respond to customer requests and queries; be receptive and understanding of their needs; and responsive to ensure that every commitment is delivered on time. Ultimately, customers want their planes flying, and the only way to make that happen is by understanding their problems right away and having the infrastructure and fully integrated systems to provide a solution.”

As other requests are received, the customer support team must ensure that the changes are reflected throughout the entire SpaceJet ecosystem. “Having the right expectations and maintaining excellent standards is what customers expect from us,” Jabour says. “We must be able to earn the credibility and confidence from them.”

These high expectations don’t come solely from customers, either. As a regional market, Japan presents some interesting challenges, most notably the prevalence of high-speed rail. The Shinkansen provides an experience and convenience similar to air travel, and for airlines to compete, they need to ensure their aircraft operate reliably and with minimal disruption. The customer support team is keenly aware of this, and is working tirelessly to achieve this next level of performance.

As the customer support function continues to evolve and grow, the team is excited for the future, Jabour and McCarron say. With a strong product in the SpaceJet M90, the customer support function will set the tone for the future of the program, including the M100 development. Working closely with ANA and fueled by an experienced group of customer support veterans, the team is confident their offering is among the best in the industry.

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