First Word: June 2014

Customer Service Matters

A recent call to Garmin’s technical support center for help with my Edge cycling computer got me thinking about the overall quality of customer service in our industry, how it defines a company and what consumers should reasonably expect when buying a service or product. Here at the magazine, we define customer service on the shop level as a company doing what it said it would on the schedule it promised, meeting its price estimate and promptly returning calls and queries. That’s why it was no surprise the shops that scored well in our recent paint shop survey consistently excelled at customer service. Comments like “easy to work with, regularly sent photos and reported on progress, and brought the project in on time and on budget,” define a shop that has it going on.

Dealing with a failed product is frustrating, but palatable if the company steps up and tries hard to resolve the issue on the first try. One company that’s vowed to improve its customer service is SiriusXM and in my estimation, its longevity in the aviation market could depend on it.

Our report on SiriusXM’s new weather packages in the May 2014 issue of Aviation Consumer apparently struck a nerve with some existing XM Weather subscribers. To recap, SiriusXM Aviation is the name of the new broadcast weather service that packages WSI weather products at a reduced monthly cost, in addition to lower receiver activation fees. The rub is you’ll need to buy Garmin’s new GXM42 receiver to play the new weather on

Garmin’s aera796 portable GPS because existing first-gen receivers won’t work with the new data stream. That’s not sitting well with customers that are stuck with old subscriptions and higher monthly fees.
As enticing as the new pricing structure may be for new subscribers (you get more weather products as standard in a lower cost subscription bundle) SiriusXM faces strong competition from the FAA’s free FIS-B ADS-B weather service. Moreover, the company knows it has to step up the performance of its customer service and support efforts.

Rewind to last year when my friend called looking for advice on how to get his XM Weather receiver working. He was sitting in the cockpit of his twin, ready to launch on a sizable trip in the clag when he noticed that the XM data was missing from his Avidyne display. I figured that a signal refresh request made on the SiriusXM web page would bring the data back online. Since he hadn’t flown the airplane in over a month, it wouldn’t be unusual for the receiver to time out and need a refresh. The signal refresh didn’t solve the problem and my friend ultimately flew his trip without the XM data he paid for. I’ll spare you the details of why the company shut off his receiver after a mix-up in billing that tagged his aviation receiver to a deactivated entertainment receiver that was in a vehicle he traded in. More important was the customer service representative’s lack of understanding about aviation receivers and how pilots rely on them for almost every flight. To help ensure these kinds of issues don’t happen again, SiriusXM Aviation set up a customer support center that’s dedicated to aviation accounts. You can reach them at 855-796-9847. If you call this support center, let me know about your experience.

As for my experience with Garmin’s support—which was obviously outsourced abroad—it was superb. The representative was cordial, patient, understood the product, understood my problem and got my cycling computer back in the game in short order. The experience was a textbook example of a company that knows that customer service really matters. — Larry Anglisano

Editor in Chief Larry Anglisano has been a staple at Aviation Consumer since 1995. An active land, sea and glider pilot, Larry has over 30 years’ experience as an avionics repairman and flight test pilot. He’s the editorial director overseeing sister publications Aviation Safety magazine, IFR magazine and is a regular contributor to KITPLANES magazine with his Avionics Bootcamp column. When he’s not writing, Larry is working on a collection of guitar compositions for the upcoming Flying n’ Jazz production.