Quirk Ford in Quincy, Massachusetts has found a purpose for high school kids with an obsession for their smartphones. It seems that everywhere I go, I hear old timers griping about teenagers and young adults who are seemingly preoccupied with their personal communication and entertainment devices. If you are one of these people, then I’ve got some news for you. About 70-students in the Northeastern U.S have carved out a niche for themselves because of their smartphone and technology prowess. How about that, you old grouch?
The high school students (some as young as 14!) work with customers during vehicle delivery or service visits to help them understand the complex strategies involved in integrating smartphone technology into their automobiles. The teens give tutorials, answer questions, and address system compatibility functions after school and on weekends (full-time during summer months). They typically make $11 an hour and put in a couple of years before departing for college and their “real” career. “They were surprised the job would be so simple for them,” said Quirk Ford’s general manager, Mike Quirk. “Technology comes to them pretty easily.”
The “Technology Team” as they are referred to, was started four-years ago in Quincy and has been so successful that it has been expanded to the Quirk family’s 14 other locations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Despite the popularity of the program and resultant expansion, interest in the teen focused jobs has exceeded demand. “I love coming to work every day,” said Thomas Pugsley, who started right after turning 16 last fall and previously worked part time at a T-shirt shop. “We’re dealing with customers who are buying expensive cars and want to know what they’re getting for their money. We show them their vehicle basically top to bottom, from the hood to the spare tire.” For many of the teens it’s their first actual job. The jobs are viewed as a welcome alternative to such conventional jobs as working at a department store or a fast food restaurant.
The young employees are required to endure Ford’s Sales Support Certification program, just like other adult employees. They are also regularly tested on their knowledge of Ford vehicles, as well as the competition. They have recently undergone instruction in Ford’s new Sync 3 system and older, full-time employees frequently come to them with questions. While some customers initially seem reluctant to interact with the teens, they are normally impressed with their skills and depart with a new-found respect for the youngsters. “We’re their go-to guys”, said the young Pugsley.
In addition to enlightening their customer base in regards to trending technology, the Quirk family believes that consumers appreciate the break that the Technology Team can offer during the delivery process. Team members usually spend approximately one-hour with each customer, which takes them into a separate environment from that of the sales process. “It’s nice for the customers because it becomes a separate environment from the sales process,” Quirk said. “Customers find it a very comfortable situation where they’re not rushed.” The Technology Team also frees-up sales staff personnel so that they can deal with other potential car buyers. The Quirk dealerships typically schedule four members of the Technology Team on any given shift; two are assigned to the sales floor and the remaining two help out in the service department.
Pat Freeman, who graduated from Quincy High School in the spring and will attend Quincy College this year, is one of the Internet sales hires. “This is a great first step to start in the business world,” said Freeman, 18, who had an iPhone but knew little about in-car technology before joining the Technology Team in March 2014. “Before that, I had a paper route,” Freeman said, “so this is the real deal.”