ACTE Techniques April 2012 : Page 48

Fea ture By Cara Adney Driven: Bringing German Auto Concepts to the Classroom WHAt WE COULD tAkE BACk tO tHE “‘tHIS tRIP WAS ABOUt A WORLD AWAy FROM tHE RED DIRt OF OkLAHOMA, Customer Service and Culture Understanding the technicalities of the German auto industry was a major com-ponent of their experience. Shields and Smith also sought to grasp the customer service and cultural components of the European automobile market. “In the States, customer service is often an afterthought,” Smith said. “The European market was just the opposite. They really treated their customers like they were a part of the BMW team. They went the extra mile to ensure they knew everything about the car from how to turn on the lights to how to set the seat to their individual preference. They didn’t just throw them the keys and thank them for their purchase.” Shields and Smith have incorporated customer service training into their classroom curriculum as a result of their trip. They insist it is an essential, yet often overlooked, component of training in the automotive industry. In fact, a recent J.D. Power and Associate survey indicates that customer service satisfaction levels have the ability to actually impact the profit -ability of automakers even when sales are on the decline. “In a world where technology is taking over, it’s important to remember that the core of any service industry is the ability to understand your customer’s needs and expectations,” Smith said. “This can be accomplished by having an awareness of the technical aspects of the automotive in-dustry and the changing needs of drivers.” CLASSROOM tO BEttER HELP tHEM [StUDENtS] PREPARE FOR A CAREER IN tHE AUtOMOtIVE INDUStRy. IT IS IMPORTANT THEY UNDERSTAND HOW THEIR FIELD DEVELOPED AND HOW IT’S CHANGED THROUGH THE YEARS.’” David Shields takes a closer look at an early-model Porsche Coupe. As a young engineer, Ferdinand Porsche, the brand’s creator, designed the world’s first electric/ gasoline hybrid automobile in 1900. David Shields and Shelly Smith felt right at home. A national grant took the Meridian Technology Center automo-tive teachers on a trip to Germany that car lovers only dream about. The tour to the major automakers last summer has them geared up and bringing fresh ideas to the classroom. “We knew little about the language and the culture, and we hoped to learn more about the auto industry,” said Shields. “When we got off the plane 12 hours after we left, and jet-lagged, just two guys from Oklahoma, you can imagine how in awe we were that all of our plans had finally come together.” In what would end up being a whirl-wind trip, Shields and Smith started out in Stuttgart, Germany, the birthplace of the automobile. They spent four days gathering information and soaking up the history of the auto industry through tours of the museums and manufacturing plants of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. From seeing early industry design sketches to today’s latest models to tomorrow’s concept cars, the two immedi-ately sought out ways to bring their first-hand experiences back to the classroom. Within moments of stepping off the plane, they started to document their experience. “We wanted to remember it not only for us but also for our students,” Smith said. “This trip was about what we could take back to the classroom to better help them prepare for a career in the automo-tive industry. It is important they under-stand how their field developed and how it’s changed through the years.” The Classroom To assist students in this dual process, the teachers will expand their curricu-PHOTO COURTESY OF SHELLY SMITH 48 Techniques April 2012

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