SYNC, Ford's voice-operated in-vehicle phone and media player interface, has become hugely popular feature. Since its introduction a couple years back, Ford has added new features and functionality to the system, including the ability to call up turn-by-turn directions, even on cars without navigation.
If you have a newer, more advanced phone that can download its address book, you can make calls by simply telling the car to call a given contact's name. If, on the other hand, you're stuck with a more prosaic communications device, you're limited to dialing by number.
To address this limitation, Ford's has introduced SYNCmyPhone. This is a desktop application (available for Windows and Mac) that allows users to create and manage their address book. Once the address book is ready, it can then be saved to a USB drive and loaded to a SYNC-equipped car, giving it the dial-by-name functionality previously available only to users of newer phones. If you drive a Ford vehicle with SYNC, you can download the app at SYNCMyRide.com .
FORD RESPONDS TO SYNC OWNER COMMUNITY REQUEST; LAUNCHES NEW ADDRESS BOOK DOWNLOAD APPLICATION
- Ford launches SYNCMyPhone, a new phone contact list app for SYNC users that allows them to create, manage and download multiple address books to their Ford, Lincoln or Mercury vehicle
- The software was developed by Ford, along with current SYNC users, who beta-tested the application and contributed to features found on the finished product
- SYNCMyPhone is compatible with all current production versions of Ford SYNC and is available for free download at www.syncmyride.com
DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 11, 2009 – Ford engineers and IT specialists teamed up with Ford SYNC owners to help develop SYNCMyPhone, a new phone address book download app for Ford SYNC.
SYNC's ability to pair with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, access its phonebook and allow occupants to use simple voice commands such as "Call Mike Smith at home" to make hands-free calls while driving is one of the most popular and recognized features of the SYNC system. In recent Ford owner clinics conducted with retailer Best Buy, more than 35 percent of SYNC users tagged hands-free phone usage as the most appealing feature of SYNC.
Customers talk, Ford listens
The Ford SYNC team actively engages SYNC users and asks for ways to further improve the system on the Owner to Owner community forum set up on the SYNC Web site (www.syncmyride.com). Recently, those chats inspired the idea for a phonebook download assistance application that would help customers with older cell phones or pay-as-you-go phones, who could only digit-dial a contact via voice ("Dial 1-800-392-3673"), rather than ask the SYNC system to call a person by name ("Call Mike Smith at home").
The SYNC team shared their idea with Ford's IT community, looking for a software-based solution that could bring all phones to a higher level of compatibility with SYNC. Within 90 days, the teams had developed a prototype application, offered it up as a download for beta testing by SYNC users on the owner community forum, incorporated customer changes and launched the finished product – SYNCMyPhone – on www.syncmyride.com.
"Our IT team is taking a much larger and more upfront role in customer satisfaction as the amount of software in the vehicle continues to increase," said Darren Shelcusky, supervisor of Vehicle Solutions with Ford's Product Development Systems/Information Technology. "We are paying close attention to what our customers like and dislike; taking fast action to deliver the technology and features that they value."
Now available for free download on www.syncmyride.com, SYNCMyPhone gives users the ability to hop on their home computer or laptop, manually create and manage multiple address books and contact lists – from a cell phone, Outlook distribution list or other device – and upload the information to the SYNC system via their vehicle's USB port.
Customers can enter from 1 to 2,000 different numbers and contacts to their SYNCMyPhone download. And they can also choose any combination of names and contacts, so while some may only want to enter the 20 people they call the most, others can choose to enter only their business contacts from their laptop or go for it all and throw on entire address books from multiple sources.
Through the SYNCMyPhone download, all the contacts that users can access hands-free in the SYNC-equipped vehicle don't have to be entered on the paired phone – a painful data-entry exercise that everyone has endured after buying a new cell phone.
Testing the rules
While early customer engagement and beta testing of new vehicle designs and equipment isn't a feasible or safe practice for automakers in most instances, SYNC is redefining that hard-and-fast rule for Ford.
"We could never provide customers with a new suspension or brake component and ask them to beta test it, but since SYNC is software-based, it opens up a whole new dimension in our ability to respond quickly to customer needs and engage them in early development," said Shelcusky.
With SYNCMyPhone, Ford engineers worked with some 50 current SYNC users with phonebook download issues to help define, develop and tweak the application to get it just right.
The company-to-customer dialogue was massive. In total, more than 6,500 page views on the application were created on the SYNC owner forum during the beta testing and a soft launch that followed. In addition, the amount of feedback gathered in the less than two months the soft launch post was active is unmatched by any previous Ford SYNC announcement made on www.syncmyride.com.
As a result of this dialogue, several customer requests were baked into the final product, including the need for specific user defined import fields and the application's compatibility with both PC and MAC operating systems.
"SYNCMyPhone speaks to how the SYNC Owner to Owner community can help enable our engineers to identify issues in real-time and solve them quickly," said Trisha Habucke, Ford's digital marketing manager. "The forum has given our company and our customers a feedback mechanism that is as sophisticated and responsive as the SYNC system itself."