The importance of listening

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 Jean-Christophe Gallagher talks to Anthony Harrington about his new role heading up Bombardier’s client services

With new business jet sales likely to be at best flat over the next year or so, it makes sense for airframe OEMs to take a fresh look at the revenue and service opportunities that lie in their large existing base of users. Bombardier Business Aircraft recently moved Jean-Christophe Gallagher from his role as Vice President, Strategy, Marketing and Innovation, to a new position as Head of Customer Experience. This puts him in charge of Bombardier’s entire customer service organisation. EVA asked him what this means for him, for Bombardier and for the company’s client base.

A: I have now been in the role for three months. We have some 4,500 Bombardier aircraft flying around the world so that is a very big installed base of customers. Getting to know our customers is part of my mission, as is getting to know our entire service network around the world.

There is tremendous potential for Bombardier to grow its after-market business. Before this, while we have always taken pride in having a world-class support network for our entire fleet of Bombardier aircraft, the focus has been on new aircraft. Our interest in bringing new and world-class aircraft to market is just as intense as ever, as demonstrated by the recent first flight in November of our Global 7000 business jet, but in addition to this, we are also placing a great deal of focus – more than ever – on the customer experience in the after-market segment. As Bombardier becomes more active in the after-market, our team is well-positioned to support our customers, their aircraft and all their maintenance and retrofitting needs.

As such, we are looking to expand and enhance our service offerings. For example, we are hiring some 200 new technicians and project managers to boost our capacity across our service centre network, so that we are best placed to service more of our own fleet of aircraft.

Q: The new Bombardier service centre at Biggin Hill will be part of that, doubtless?

A: Exactly so, and not just at Biggin Hill. We have expansion projects and plans for new facilities all around the world. Our new service centre in Biggin Hill will soon see the first Bombardier aircraft serviced there and it will be a very important European MRO facility for us. I have just recently returned from a visit to the facility at Biggin Hill and it is an exceptional place. We’ve completed all the technical training required and received our certification as the facility became operational in December this year.

The OEM has so much to offer in terms of value-added services and particularly when it comes to scheduled maintenance. When the aircraft is a little older, a little further along in its life cycle, the OEM has vast knowledge about the availability of enhancements and upgrades that can be applied to that aircraft to keep it up to date. Whether it’s connectivity in the cabin, or avionics upgrades for the pilots the OEM is ideally suited to provide these offerings. So, it is all about unlocking these growth levers for Bombardier’s after-market business.

The most important thing for me is twofold: to be totally connected to the customers so that they feel free to call me directly, to tell me what we are doing right – and if there’s something wrong, how we can improve. Much of my day now is spent listening to our customers and getting their feedback. We are fortunate to have a very varied customer base flying out of virtually every country in the world. So we receive tremendous feedback.

Secondly, I want to ensure that we are constantly improving our service delivery and service quality and that everyone in our entire support infrastructure is satisfied and engaged because this is what ultimately drives the customer experience.

Q: What is the appetite like among owners for upgrades?

A: My conversations with our customers and operators make it very clear that there is a tremendous appetite out there for getting modern technology onto older aircraft. Owners and operators notice the new technology that will be available on the Global 7000, for example, or the way we are rolling out Ka-band high-speed internet onto our Global aircraft. So we are focused on bringing these technologies to the fleet as factory retrofitted services.

Our deep engineering know-how about our own aircraft allows us to add value for our existing customers in new ways, so that latest products, technology and innovations can be retrofitted to their existing Bombardier product.

Q: You’re also quite involved in addressing climate change. At NBAA you spoke on the environment and on the OEM’s role in helping business aviation meet its environmental objectives.

A: I have been involved in environmental policy discussions in business aviation for more than a decade now. This is something I personally feel passionate about and want to be involved in. Over the years the environmental debate in business aviation has shifted from noise emissions, which dominated the environmental debates a decade ago, to carbon emissions today. Through intense collaboration between airframers and engine makers, there is a lot that the business aviation industry has achieved on the noise reduction front and to make life easier for communities living around airports.

Today that same focus exists on reducing business aviation’s carbon footprint, and Bombardier is one of the OEMs leading the discussion.

But we also need to put this into perspective. Aviation as a whole contributes just 2% of world greenhouse gas emissions, and business aviation itself contributes just 2% of that 2%. In other words, our net contribution to global warming, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, is just 0.04%. That being said, as one of the leaders in business aviation we are committed to bring to market aircraft that continue to show enhanced fuel efficiencies.

The Global 7000 business jet, for example, is as much as 20% more fuel efficient than previous generations of Bombardier aircraft. There is tremendous pride right across the company right now regarding this aircraft. After years of hard work and planning come to fruition, the Global 7000 aircraft took to the air for the first time in early November. On that day, you could really see the pride in everyone’s eyes.

Q: How much is fuel efficiency and “greenness” down to the engine OEM and how much is down to the airframe OEM?

A: We generally say that it works out about 50-50. While the engine OEM focuses on making its engines as lean and as fuel efficient as possible, the airframer constantly works to improve the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft. And every new aircraft Bombardier has introduced in recent years has been more efficient and contributed fewer emissions than previous models.

Q: Any final, forward-looking thoughts you’d like to share?

A: We understand the importance of investing in our products and services. Our ultimate goal is to continue to find more ways and more places to serve our customers with world-class aircraft and outstanding after-market services. This is what we are all about. n