Geven’s Roberta Macciocca balances engineering and business

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Walking the line between the exacting demands of airline customers and a deep knowledge of seat engineering processes is a complex challenge, especially when issues arise with a seatmaker’s products. But it’s a challenge that Roberta Macciocca, customer support manager at Geven, enjoys.

Macciocca, a sixteen year industry veteran with a wide and varied career path, was the Italian seatmaker’s first member of the customer support department, which has now quadrupled in size alongside a slightly larger technical assistance team. The department all started with what she says were “just a few customer assistance requests”.

“We started understanding that the business was growing and more seats were delivered, so we needed a dedicated department for customer assistance. It was just me at that time as the customer support department,” Macciocca explains. “Now we are four people working in the customer department and six working in technical assistance.”

Understanding how the engineering aspects of the business work is key to supporting customers. Image: John Walton

Macciocca is the first port of call for Geven’s customers, who will often be asking complex technical questions about a variety of aspects of the seats they’ve purchased.

“When the customer is writing me, they want to know if they can purchase parts or need information, so mainly they’re requiring my assistance. The nice thing about my job is that I don’t know what will happen today, and what will happen tomorrow,” Macciocca says. “Every day is different. You’ll never be bored because you don’t know what surprise you’ll have today, so you must be flexible. Problem-solving is the first thing you have to do, because without it you can’t assist the customer. The moment you’re reading your email, you’re starting to solve the problem in the fastest way.”

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Macciocca’s technical and process problem-solving skills stem from her extensive background within the Nola-based company. When she began working at Geven, “I was young then!” she laughs. “I started in the purchasing department, because a colleague of mine was on maternity leave. That was the opportunity for me to enter the company. At that time, we were 80 people at Geven, and we were 30 kilometres away from here.”

After a stint in the public relations and marketing side of the business, “I had some contract review work, which was very important too, because I understood what the commercial proposals we do for customers are, the conditions, the warranty, and so on,” she says.

Foreign language skills stood Macciocca in good stead for dealing with customers, she says, as did a willingness to get technical. “I remember that few people spoke English at the time. I was one of a few of them. It was very interesting starting at the purchasing department because I started understanding what was the seat, what was the material needed to make a seat, from the screws to the plastics to the leather, to everything that’s needed. It was good training!”

Today, Macciocca is the interface between customers’ reports of technical problems and the engineering teams within Geven who research, test and fix them. Sometimes, she jokes, “I’m more an engineer than them after sixteen years!”

Macciocca manages a wide variety of technical requests and questions as part of her role. Image: John Walton

Once she acknowledges receipt of the problem, Macciocca says, engineering starts the root cause analysis. “We have a laboratory for tests, and they do test cycles, abuse tests, everything that’s needed. At the end, when they have found the solution, we have a meeting together. We say whether it’s our fault or the customer’s fault, how to explain it to the customer, who will pay, what the costs are, and the final analysis before sending a reply to the customer.”

Much of the success she finds in her current position dates back to her first role in purchasing, which from the airline perspective is in many ways the flip side of the coin to her customer support role. “The purchasing department and customer support are, at the end of the day, the same,” Macciocca says. “Now, we need customers’ purchasing departments to purchase the parts for our customers. Everything is linked.”

Does Macciocca think spending so much time in so many parts of the business has helped her career? “Absolutely!” she enthuses. “I’ve appreciated working in different departments, because now I can say I know the company very well, and how every department works.”

Geven’s customer support team has grown since Macciocca was its inaugural member. Image: John Walton

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