The image of an incandescent lightbulb is indelibly attached to the General Electric brand. But the company that was founded by Thomas Edison is now on the forefront of a variety of industries from consumer appliances to healthcare to power-generation. GE Aviation’s innovative new path involves building closer connections to its customers — and even making its products more socially connected. To make GE Aviation’s business more social, the company looked to the latest cloud technologies — and invented some additional ones.
GE Aviation started by using Salesforce to connect with commercial customers and manage opportunities. At first the division saw Salesforce simply as a way to give everyone access to customer data. But it was the collaboration it enabled that changed the day-to-day business. “Salesforce connected salespeople. It connected sales and marketing people. And it made those connections in a very iterative, fast way,” says GE's CMO, Beth Comstock. “It also gives everyone the synthesis of the data that we need to really know our customers.”
Chatter adds a deeper level of collaboration to GE Aviation’s sales efforts. Reps use it to share documents, answer questions, and get instantaneous feedback. “What might've taken a team—in the best case—a week, can now be done in minutes,” continues Comstock. “The immediacy and the touch points of Chatter change commercial business as we know it.”
Social networks are helping GE Aviation update its brand image and become more approachable to consumers. Using Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the division can take consumers behind the scenes to see innovation at work. Social networks also provide valuable feedback, and GE Aviation is monitoring and participating in online conversations about its brand. “Social networks give you continual real-time feedback, unlike anything you can get from a focus group,” says Comstock. “Plus, they are a great source for ideas for future inventions.”
It’s not just the people of GE Aviation that are becoming social. New products that will talk to customers are in development. The new GEnx jet engine—currently flying on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner—has proven the capability to provide newsfeeds that can be accessed by service teams on their mobile devices. “The idea of connecting a machine to a social network is really exciting,” says Comstock. “We can build a community of service professionals around a machine to help reduce maintenance costs and increase engine lifespan. Social will help us deliver a better engine than ever before.”