Estimated reading time 6 minutes, 18 seconds.
In any industry, customers want to deal with companies that have a good product and are easy to do business with.
In the aviation world, Donaldson Co. has always had the first part of that equation well in hand. As an engineering-driven company, its inlet barrier filter (IBF) products are well known for helping customers save time and money, and maximizing their ability to do business. However, about 18 months ago, Donaldson realized it needed to upgrade how it engages with current and future customers.
“We have historically been a leader in inlet barrier filtration for the rotorcraft market–an innovator in that space,” said Dan Larsen, general manager, Donaldson Aerospace & Defense. “We had customer access because of that brand status.
Customers came to find us, which we appreciated very much. But as we looked at that and saw how our customers have grown throughout the world, we wanted to ensure their experience matched the value our products provide.”
Larsen said Donaldson wanted to be about more than just great products that customers really liked. It wanted to be a company that clients found it easy and enjoyable to do business with. So, Donaldson began creating initiatives to help improve its customer engagement.
To start with, Donaldson reorganized itself and added key personnel.
“We’ve made rotorcraft products a separate business unit,” said Tom Newman, director of rotorcraft business for Donaldson Aerospace & Defense. “It allows us to focus on this specific market and the products and customers that pertain to the rotorcraft world. To support that, we’ve created two new roles to focus on the aftermarket and retrofit spaces.”
These two new personnel–an aftermarket sales manager and a dedicated commercial and technical resource specialist–will enable closer communication with Donaldson’s North American maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and distribution partners, as well as end-user customers. They will also help ensure technical questions or needs can be addressed more quickly.
The next step in Donaldson’s customer engagement plan was to improve product access and support for its growing number of customers.
“We really wanted to get our products organized in a space where customers could easily come and find them,” said Larsen. “But, we also recognize the technical nature of the product and its applications, so we wanted to include all the product specifications they need, installation information, commercial documentation and more.”
As a result, the rotorcraft section of the new Donaldson e-commerce website was created. It provides answers to primary product questions and provides information about specifications, installation, applications, efficiency, service cycles, approvals and even updated lead times.
The purchasing process, meanwhile, borrows customer-friendly elements from leading B2C e-commerce companies. That means, once a product is selected, Donaldson’s site will display complementary items that customers may also need. When clients place an order, they will receive a confirmation notice and can then view the order’s status and track delivery. A vital extra feature is the ability for each customer to review their complete purchase history.
Newman said his team also wants to add elements like technical publications to make the site a one-stop portal.
North American customers currently have full e-commerce access, while European clients will gain full access early this year. Other regions will launch after that.
Donaldson’s IBF product line will be available on the site. In the second quarter of 2020, the company will add its liquid filtration products.
To help with product availability–as well as aircraft-on-ground (AOG) and immediate customer needs–the company is increasing its overall inventory. “We are also working to achieve customer-requested lead times for our entire product line,” said Newman.
At the same time, Donaldson is creating several new civil and military products.
“In the past year,” said Newman, “we worked with Leonardo on a dry media IBF system for the AW189. There is also another IBF for a medium helicopter that we will reveal fairly soon; it’s currently in the certification phase. We’ve developed several products for the military and are continuing qualification efforts on the [Sikorsky] CH-53K engineering particle protection system. Plus, we’re near qualification on an IBF for the [Boeing] MH-47 special ops community.”
These new products highlight Donaldson’s excellent working relationship with “all the major airframers.” It’s why the company’s products continue to be installed on so many helicopters right from the factory.
Those ongoing design innovations and OEM working relationships are also part of the package of traditional Donaldson strengths that Newman said are not going away. After all, those strengths are why every customer can depend on the company’s well-designed and -engineered filter products to reduce maintenance costs and maximize the uptime of their aircraft. The only thing that will change with the new customer engagement initiatives is now it will be easier to purchase products and get the information and support needed.
“We’ve got a great product line and are very proud of it,” said Larsen. “We also work closely with our OEM partners and are extremely proud of that work, too. Now, it’s about helping our customers around the world. Downtime is expensive, whether that’s AOG or ordering parts. Our customers are operating a business, so the more time we can give back to them, the more they can satisfy their customers. Our ultimate goal is to make their lives easier and contribute to helping their businesses run more efficiently.”