DEARBORN — In a step to further enhance the Sync experience, Ford is adding Operator Assist, a new free service that allows users to connect with a live person, as a standard feature of Sync Services.
Previously in beta test trial phase, the service is now available as part of Sync Services and joins the growing list of cloud-based driver assistance features offered by Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F).
“This isn’t just about offering customers a back-up option to the services we have already,” said Doug VanDagens, director of the Ford Connected Services Solution Organization. “This is about giving customers a variety of choices when it comes to how they would like to receive information.”
Cloud-based, on-demand, voice-activated Sync Services provides access to information about traffic, news, sports, weather, horoscopes, stock quotes and movie listings along with business searches and turn-by-turn directions. Seventy percent of all Sync Services calls are for business searches and from those seeking turn-by-turn directions, said David Gersabeck, product manager, Sync Services.
Using advanced vehicle sensors, integrated GPS technology and comprehensive map and traffic data, the Sync Services automated voice recognition system delivers turn-by-turn directions to the user. Further, with access to more than 14 million business listings, SYNC Services directs users to the businesses they seek. Operator Assist works with both the business search and directions options.
At any time during a business search or directions interaction between the user and the SYNC Services automated system, the user can say, “Operator,” confirm his or her request to speak with an operator, and connect to a live operator.
In the event a user says an address or business that the voice recognition system can’t identify, the user will be prompted with the option to connect to a live operator. If the user confirms he or she would like to speak with an operator for further assistance, the system automatically connects the user to the live operator.
“This is more than getting from point A to point B,” said Gersabeck. “It’s about delivering a level of connectivity that provides fast, hands-free connections to businesses or residences without the need for drivers to take their eyes off the road.”
A beta test trial phase — started in spring and ended with the official launch of Operator Assist — found that drivers really like having the option of talking to a live person, Gersabeck said.
“The feedback was very positive,” he said. “Our operators were told by customers that they were very happy and surprised to have an option for additional help, especially when they realized it was a free service. They expected Ford to charge for these services like our competitors do.”
When a live operator assists with a business search, the user can choose to receive turn-by-turn directions to the business, receive a text message with name, address and phone number information about the business (applies to certain phone carrier networks), or be directly connected to the phone number of the business. When a live operator assists with address entry, the user can have the directions sent directly to the vehicle. When the information is sent or the user is connected to a business, a “session” has been completed.
New customers eligible for a three-year complimentary Sync Services account will receive 60 operator assist sessions. Customers with an active SYNC Services account receive a number of complimentary sessions depending on the remaining duration of their Sync Services account — 20 sessions for those with less than a year remaining, 60 for those with one to two years remaining, 60 for those with two to three years remaining.
No in-vehicle software upgrade is required. The live operator services are provided by MyAssist, a leading live assistance and telematics service company for individuals and businesses based in Stevens Point, Wis.