The Customer Champion

April 13, 2022

When it comes to International Customer Relations, there are few more expert than Maryline Cazelles. Little, if anything, fazes her, and no question among her OEM and MRO customers is too unusual. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that she’s been part of the customer services team for almost 20 years. It’s also not surprising given she can speak four languages and started her career in hotel administration!

“After my baccalaureate I studied at the Lycée Ozenne for a Secretariat Trilingue and wanted to become cabin crew. I had a vision of being able to travel the world to exotic destinations. Now I travel the world every day without ever leaving my desk.”

Maryline sitting at her desk holding documents

Working for prestigious hotels in Paris, the Pyrénées and Corsica, Maryline started out on the reservations desk before being promoted to front-of-house as a receptionist and reception manager: “I had a very enjoyable time meeting so many interesting people including singers and movie stars, working winter seasons and summer seasons, and finding a husband at the same time.”

A move back to the south of France for family reasons required Maryline to find a local job. Mapaero – which became part of AkzoNobel in 2019 and was at the time a small family business – was looking for someone to operate the switchboard. Maryline was offered the job, and soon after found herself multi-tasking, working alongside the purchasing department, the export department and sales.

“You learned very quickly in those days,” Maryline laughs, “and if the boss asked you for a coffee you said ‘yes’.”

The senior management were quick to recognise Maryline’s skills and experience, especially dealing with international customers. Her ability to speak French, Spanish, Italian and English means she has many bases covered, and she has built such technical knowledge over the last two decades into the company’s products and services that there are few questions she cannot answer.

“My job starts early and finishes late, especially as I liaise with my AkzoNobel colleagues and customers in North America and Canada, but having worked in hotels I am used to late hours. If a customer asks a question, I will try and answer it for them, as well as taking responsibility for providing quotes and information on delivery and dispatch."

Maryline working at her computer while on a call

“It means understanding the differences between pounds and kilograms, litres and gallons, and prices quoted in pounds, euros and US dollars, and making sure that the customer understands too so there are no misunderstandings which could lead to disappointment. It also takes incredible concentration: one minute I can be working on an Excel file of prices, and the next answering as technical question about a coating!”

Maryline says that the key to delivering exceptional customer service is having a good understanding of the customer’s business: “Having worked for the business for so long, you understand the role that OEMs and MROs play in the supply chain – the people who make or repair the seats, the arm rests, the assemblies etc – and you understand why a delivery may be so urgent in meeting AOG targets. 

“Typically, orders are dispatched within five days of receipt, but sometimes a customer may want a special finish or metal effect that may take longer, and by understanding lead times and being clear in our communications we can manage expectations accordingly.”

As well as managing external customers, Maryline says she also has to manage internal expectations: “It can sometimes be a fine balancing act to keep everyone happy,” she jokes, “but there is a great sense of family, even in a much larger group, and we are all focused on delivering customer satisfaction.”

What Maryline particularly enjoys about her job is that it is never routine and she is always ready for a challenge: “It is a huge irony that while I never got to become cabin crew, I now know more than I ever thought I would about cabin interiors!”

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