Rethinking customer support in the world of digitization
Interview with Managing Director Dr. Stefan Stenzel
The Customer Support Department of the Future Will Act as a Service Hub.
Manufacturing customized components for airplanes, helicopters, land and air defense systems, or rail vehicles is one thing. Technological solutions that focus on the customer extend far beyond development and production, however. Providing reliable and unlimited support, even years after the original project has been completed, is a core element of our business model. At the same time, digitization, globalization, and new application scenarios also require companies to fundamentally rethink what customer support means. VINCORION Insights spoke with Manging Director Dr. Stefan Stenzel about the customer support team of the future.
What do you think of when you hear the term customer service?
I think of reliability. In an ideal world, our customers would require as little support as possible – simply because our products work perfectly. Achieving this requires low-maintenance, customized solutions. But it’s also clear that this wishful thinking quickly reaches its limits, especially when dealing with products that have extremely long life cycles. That’s why it’s essential for us to take a holistic approach to MRO and consider all aspects of life cycle management right from the very beginning of the development process. This also encompasses spare parts and service technicians being available worldwide and around the clock. We need to already know how maintenance and service could ultimately be structured and implemented early on, during the development stage. It’s also important to ensure that the necessary spare parts and expertise remain available for maintenance and mitigating obsolescence. Preparing this process in an ideal manner is also a part of professional customer support.
It is also clear, however, that a workshop or a logistics system with customer support staff and spare parts is by no means the end of the process.
In what direction is customer support evolving?
The assembly was developed together and fits perfectly into the customer’s platform, the customer and contractor are satisfied, everything has come together perfectly. It goes without saying that our components and solutions are long-lasting and work reliably. But technology advances at a breathtaking pace. Energy management systems must become even more powerful, more rugged, lighter, and more modular. We continue to work on this while the solution is in the field being used by the customer. Or the other case – challenges arise in the field that were previously impossible to foresee. Even in this situation, it’s important to adapt the components to the conditions and not the other way around – and respond to this as quickly as possible. Or have the customer perform this work themselves under our guidance. Data analytics, sensor technology, intelligently connected components, stockpiling – all of these play a critical role right from the initial project planning stage.
What would this form of life cycle management look like in the real world?
We collect exactly the data needed for reliable life cycle management via our on-site and obsolescence service, via remote access, but of course also during development and production. When it comes to power electronics, for example, this means that we not only collect and utilize data and events from product testing and prototype engineering, but also directly from the field. The automotive industry is a trendsetter in this area. But our technologies also support remote and predictive maintenance. Take, for example, our new electronic rescue hoist – its modular design and built-in test equipment (BITE) give the system the ability to inform the user not only that a functional module needs to be replaced, but also exactly how to do so. The next step would be remote maintenance and advance warning long before the end of the life cycle as well as augmented reality access for maintenance purposes.
That sounds like a lot of data. How can you be sure that it will be stored properly and securely?
This is the tremendous advantage of having everything flow together into one service hub – from development to production to operation to analysis and ultimately to advancement. We impose the highest standards not only on our products, but also on the data behind them. That’s why compliance with international standards and specific industry requirements is a matter of course for us, and our numerous certifications are proof of this. In addition, we have decades of experience with security-critical infrastructure and in processing and saving data from the German Armed Forces. Moreover, we have the expertise and the will to integrate such innovative approaches and advanced systems into long-lasting platforms.