Technology 1, Training 0
September, 2010A few weeks ago, my Ford dealership sent me notice of a major upgrade to its SYNC system for my vehicle. The SYNC software program is for hands-free calling, GPS navigation and 911 assist, and has an iPod connection and other marketing options. All I had to do was bring my vehicle into the dealership on the designated Saturday and wait a few hours for the upgrade to be installed.
So I did, along with about 25 other owners who have the SYNC program in their vehicles. While we were being given coffee and donuts and told about the new marvels of the program by the dealer’s marketing staff, a couple of tech teams were in the service bays updating the program with Bluetooth-enabled laptop computers.
The only downside was that the upgrade wiped away the current phone book listings, the Bluetooth pairing of my cell phone, and my MP3 library; but not to worry. The dealership had its IT Director, a Factory Engineer from Detroit, and another tech on hand to reprogram our “stuff” (a technical term used by IT people).
I was fortunate to have both the Factory Engineer and the IT Director resetting my SYNC module. At first, there was some problem, as neither could access the program. After several minutes, they realized there was interference from the other tech teams’ laptops that were still in use on nearby vehicles. Problem1 solved …
Next, the IT Director asked me which of the three cell phone numbers should be set as the primary. I felt important that they thought I was important enough to have to carry three cell phones. As they read out the numbers, the IT guy said, “Wait, that’s my number.” Sure enough, my car was picking up his cell phone. Duh, what would you expect – he was sitting behind the steering wheel of my car! Problem 2 solved …
Then we could not figure out the next number displayed for pairing to my unit, so I called the number from my cell phone. Well, yes, it belonged to the customer whose car was sitting in the stall next to my car. Problem 3 solved …
One of the neat items is that the updated SYNC program will automatically send you an e-mail message when it’s time for scheduled service, an oil change or crucial problems with the vehicle if I registered my e-mail address with the Ford SYNC website (which I had).
The IT Director was showing me how to generate a “health report” ; sure enough, in a minute or so, my BlackBerry buzzed and showed me a Health Report e-mail from my car. Now I have my car sending me e-mails!
Unfortunately, the print on the cell phone screen was ant-sized and I could not read it but would be able to when I got home. Fast forward to my home computer: I logged in to pick up my e-mail and excitedly printed out my car’s Health Report.
I am now near cardiac arrest! I have three critical, life-threatening problems with my new Ford of less than 8,000 miles. It was suffering from a failed charging system, significant loss of oil pressure, and electrical system malfunctions/draining battery life.
But not to worry, SYNC had taken the initiative, made an appointment for me at 8 Monday morning, and sent a copy of the Health Report to the dealership’s service department so that the emergency room would be ready for my sick vehicle.
And now it was four hours into the ER service as I waited in the dealership’s recovery room; finally, my service adviser came out and said, “You had us stumped there for a while, but after a few calls to Detroit and Microsoft, we have discovered the problem!”
When you run a Health Report, the motor has to be running!
Now, in hindsight, it made perfect sense why there was a failure of the charging system, no oil pressure and electrical problems – the motor was not running; the ignition was only in accessory mode. My service adviser was a little disappointed with me that I had wasted four hours of his time.
Except – I had not run the report. The Ford IT Director and Factory Engineer had! I suggested that the dealership check to see how many other cars had called in sick after the SYNC upgrade session. Sure enough, several other appointments were scheduled over the next few days.
So what does any of this have to do with the parking industry, other than it involved a car? Training, that’s what!
Here we have a multinational multibillion-dollar company working with one of their top-rated dealerships in the state of NJ and neither the Factory Engineer nor IT Director knew how to properly do any of the items described above. (They later explained that this was the first time they had done this, and it was a learning curve item for them as well. We all had a good laugh about it after the embarrassment faded.)
Now think of the parking industry. We spend $250,000, $500,000, maybe a million dollars on a Parking Access Revenue Control System for a facility and maybe, just maybe, we also include a whopping 8 to 10 hours of training over a few days on how to use the system.
This training is for the parking garage employee who may or may not be able to spell PC. At some future date, this employee is transferred to another site, and he is now responsible for training his replacement. Within a small window of time, no one knows how to manage, operate or program the system! On top of that, the garage staff has no clue as to how to download updates, patches or service releases offered by the manufacturer to fix known bugs in the program.
The parking industry is rapidly changing. Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance rules and Internet access are changing so rapidly that by this year’s end, we may have to have the PARCS’ PC on a “VPN” to remain compliant or lose certification from the bank clearinghouse.
Yes, now I know that every garage manager reading this article understands implicitly what a Cisco VPN is, how to install the VPN, set the VPN for domain access, maintain the software as patches are released and downloadable, and finally set the firewall access for open ports behind or in front of the DMZ!
Yes, our industry is rapidly changing, and many operators, large and small alike, have no continuing training program established; they do not have a secession program in place when transferring employees, or even basic SOPs written in the garage manager’s language on how to log into the system.
From my point of view – manufacturers need to step up and begin to formalize ongoing training and make it a part of their cost of the system.