Why are There so Few Factory Authorized Service Centers?
(This viewpoint article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Professional Pilot Magazine – page 24)
Lexus owners don’t need to drive 200 miles to find a factory authorized service center. Instead, the lucky owner can choose from 2 or 3 nearby locations which are staffed by trained experts and not owned by the manufacturer. So why must aircraft owners fly 500 miles or more to find a factory authorized service center when there are quality maintenance facilities much closer?
Over the years, Banyan Air Service has outgrown most other business aircraft maintenance and avionics service centers in the southeast US. This success has come despite our limitations as an official factory authorized service center for only a few aircraft. However, Banyan has FAA approval as a repair station for many aircraft.
So where has all this growth come from?
• Being easy to do business with
• Having a commitment to delivery times
• Being well trained and accountable at every level
• Providing value by being the customer’s entire solution
Our customers have told us time and time again that we are better, faster and cheaper than our competition.
In the past 12 months Banyan has worked on 210 different business jet aircraft and 30 different turboprop aircraft for which we are not an approved factory service center. Let me make it clear that the factory does give technical support—but we are not “part of the family” as our customers and we would like.
As a service provider, the 2 most important questions to ask your customer are “What is the likelihood that you will recommend us to a friend or colleague?” and “If we changed one thing that would improve your experience, what would it be?”
A common answer to the 2nd question is, “Obtain factory authorization for parts and service from the aircraft manufacturer.” With factory approval, the maintenance facility can process warranty claims, pay less for parts and avoid repositioning the aircraft, making ownership less costly and more efficient, and improving the ownership experience.
It is far less costly for the manufacturer to support, audit and communicate with independent service centers than to build, operate and compete. You’ve heard the saying, “Happy employees make happy customers.” It goes without question that more factory authorized MROs make happy aircraft owners.
Manufacturers are hesitant to grant service center status to qualified maintenance facilities if they are near one of their own, but aircraft owners are asking why.
First, a manufacturer’s MRO only maintains the aircraft they manufacture, and yet often the aircraft operator flies several different makes. An independent MRO can provide maintenance solutions to a variety of aircraft makes. Second, factory MROs do not need to be granted authorization to sell new aircraft. Third, many independent MROs have technicians who have worked at factory MROs. Fourth, if an independent MRO does not maintain the factory standards, then the privilege of approval must be removed quickly.
I believe my points are reinforced by the case of Pilatus, which has enjoyed excellent customer satisfaction and steady growth despite the fact that there are no service centers operated by the manufacturer.
Relationships drive the business aviation world, and large maintenance facilities develop wonderful relationships with owners and operators. It is common for customer relationships in independent facilities to become stronger than those with the factory facilities, because the independent MRO is often a division of the FBO where the aircraft are based or where they visit frequently for services other than maintenance.
In conclusion, those aircraft manufacturers that invest in perfecting ways to build and sell the best aircraft, while focused on supporting more first-class independent maintenance facilities (to support their aircraft for years after the sale), will have lower costs as a result. At the same time, this will enhance the customer’s ownership experience, strengthen independent MROs and sell more aircraft.