Though 2020 was full of challenges, it also presented many opportunities for industrial manufacturers. Kathleen Elward, Haskel’s Aftermarket Manager, saw her team presented with a number of these opportunities and is working to take advantage of the shifting practices within post-purchase service. We spoke with Kathleen to learn more about the adjustments in store for Haskel’s aftermarket department and what customers can expect to see in the coming year.
Tell us a little about your background. What brought you to this role at Haskel?
I have a background in engineering and that is where I originally started my career, working directly with the design, manufacture & installation of equipment. From project engineering, I made my way into sales management and have experience leading sales development programs. In my previous employment, I worked for a hydraulic component manufacturer that focused on the off-highway vehicles sector.
The role of Aftermarket Manager at Haskel was a very attractive one. The organization is growing and developing the aftermarket department to better serve customers in the ways that support them best. This comes with challenges to ensure we are growing in a manner that best meets customer expectations and needs. Solving those challenges drove my interest in the role.
What developments are you currently focused on to grow Haskel’s the Aftermarket Department?
We are working on several initiatives to ramp up the offerings of the department. We started with restructuring and role changing within the department, ensuring that all team members were in a role that optimized their skillsets. Doing this better positioned us to serve customers’ needs. Other areas we are examining include:
• Increasing our global footprint for service support
• Remote diagnostics & service delivery tools for proactive maintenance
• Certified training
• Implementing a 24-7 help desk for service contract support
How will these changes to aftermarket services better support customers?
The goal we are working toward is a global aftermarket service offering that allows us to maintain an all-encompassing service and installation guarantee for the lifetime of our high-pressure products. Ultimately, this builds confidence in the products users are purchasing. Expanding this offering and our network of experts aligns with the values we have always held as an organization and reinforces our position as an industry leader.
Within our hydrogen division for example, by including lifetime service support of the hydrogen refueling system a customer purchases, we can ensure product success and customer happiness on a much more reliable level.
COVID-19 greatly impacted the way companies handle customer services. How was your team impacted and what adjustments did you make?
The pandemic created challenges and caused us to come up with innovative ways of resolving customer’s problems - throughout the pandemic our service engineers continued to work alongside other essential workers to keep things moving forward. Obviously, we had to make a fast shift to remote training and instruction which created a lot of learning on the fly. In cases where remote instruction wasn’t feasible, alternative solutions were found that kept in line with regulations and safety protocols.
We reassessed boundaries and the flexibility of schedules to provide more leeway. We had situations where product repairs needed to be done in person, so some of our engineers voluntarily took these cases on. They had to go into isolation both going to and coming home from the customer location. They went above and beyond for the customer, which has always been a commitment of Haskel’s. The challenges of 2020 brought out the best in our team and our customers got to see that firsthand.
Shifting pandemic regulations forced our team to reassess technology use as well. The nature of the industries we serve will always require some in-person repairs, but in a lot of instances we have been able to create new environments for learning and identify opportunities for improved levels of service through technology. We have been able to start thinking about customer service in new ways and understanding the technologies that will become an essential part of the service toolbox in 2021 and beyond.
What do these changes mean for your internal team?
There will be a lot of changes to how we operate internally, fundamental changes through new processes and the implementation of FSM software. The introduction of the 24/7 help desk for our service contract customers will require a robust on-call strategy to serve a global customer base. We are also planning for new training programs, so all team members have the right skills and know-how to apply those skills in different scenarios. All of the changes internally will in turn help us develop closer relationships within our supply chain and with our customers to ensure we deliver on our service promise.
What are the biggest steps your department is looking to make this year?
With the success of our Hydrogen division, we are continuing with our upscaling plans to support the increasing installed base of refueling stations. Alongside these plans sits product development as our service contract offering is evolving to suit the demands of this sector which includes uptime guarantees and outcome-based solutions rather than more traditional SLA contracts.
We’re also anticipating a big increase in the need for spare parts and accessories. The economic changes and strains of the last year are causing more customers to invest in maintenance rather than spend the money on new equipment. These changes are showing long-term investments in IoT enabled assets to be important, being predictive rather than reactive with equipment maintenance is a priority. Our engineers have already started honing in on some of these features in the new Q-Drive gas compression system.