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Getting to customers first

-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE --

Nils Even Urkedal, Customer Support Manager, Kongsberg Maritime, Inc., New Orleans, USA
Nils Even Urkedal, Customer Support Manager, Kongsberg Maritime, Inc., New Orleans, USA

Kongsberg Maritime's customer service and support office near New Orleans has gained responsibility for support throughout North and Central America. A big task just got bigger.

Kongsberg Maritime first set up its New Orleans office in 2003 to get closer to its customers operating in the Gulf of Mexico. The office's first manager said: "The customers were clear. We had to move from Houston closer to their operations. Most of them are a short distance from us here in New Orleans."

The office has grown steadily and rapidly. Its current staff of 20+ include software and hardware engineers, DP technicians and service coordinators, as well as the administration and invoicing personnel that back them up. Specialists from Norway frequently rotate into the New Orleans office, supplementing local expertise. By year's end, the office aims to number almost 30.

Fast, effective all-rounders

As Kongsberg Maritime's support center for North America, this office is on call for any customer making a port call in North America. Traci Percle, the office manager, and her administrative staff efficiently provide support to the service personnel, who may spend as much as 50 to 70 per cent of their time on the road, and ensures that they are where they need to be as quickly as possible.

Sam Weatherall is one of these technicians. "If a customer has a problem, they may call a number of vendors for support. Because of our location," he says, "we can often be the first support person on the spot. Customers like that."

Because it supports the full picture of Kongsberg Maritime products, this office must strike a balance between breadth and depth. Says Nils Even Urkedal, Customer Support Manager: "We need to satisfy our customers, no matter where they are experiencing problems. That means we need people skillful in the full range of our products. We can consult with colleagues in Norway or elsewhere, but there's no substitute for expertise on site."

Gulf of Mexico

As many as five dozen new drilling rigs are on their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Many of them will have Kongsberg Maritime systems. These will be served by a growing fleet of DP support vessels. Many of these, too, will have products from KONGSBERG.

"The number of service jobs has increased dramatically over the past two years. We expect the activity level to keep increasing in the coming year or two. During this building boom, much of our work is with commissioning," says Urkedal.

Service jobs range from readjusting DP thruster control after work on a vessel's thrusters or engines to correcting a failure caused by one of the Gulf's frequent summer lightning storms. Well-trained DP users can drive down the frequency and cost of service, however, and Kongsberg Maritime's DP training courses have shown real results in this respect.

"We aim to deliver quality and keep our customers happy. We're doing a good job, and we're expanding our team so we can continue to give good service and support in the future," concludes Urkedal.

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