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SPECIAL REPORT Changes


Evolving technology makes it necessary for suppliers to make client support a key ingredient when selling bus routing software to school districts.


WRITTEN BY ART GISSENDANER S


uperior-quality client support is a core strategy that vendors use to ease the potential trauma school districts may experience after purchasing routing software, according to representatives


of several technology providers. After all, making bus routes safer and more efficient is a key part of every school transportation department. The level of support, in the form of training that is provided by vendors, de- termines how quickly and seamlessly school personnel become acclimated to new routing technologies. First, however, vendors advise school districts to


identify their needs before changing their routing pro- cedures. Then, just as in the old light bulb joke, school district personnel need to want to change. “It’s human nature to want to avoid change,” explained


Ted Thien, vice president and general manager in charge of student transportation solutions at Tyler Technologies. “But change comes easier when the team has buy-in, un- derstands the reasons for the change and the value it will bring to the district, as well as students and parents.” Thien emphasized that from the outset, Tyler asks a


prospective client to invite the right people to the initial briefing. “Not only will it get buy-in from a router to include them and ask their opinion, but they’ll ask ques- tions that administrative staff wouldn’t think to ask. This open communication benefits everyone and mitigates concerns that could otherwise arise during training.” Rich Papa, general manager of TripSpark Technol-


ogies, agreed that the biggest challenge that school districts face with new technology is change. “None of us really like it, but change is a constant in life,” Papa said. “With new technology, transportation departments have to work differently than they have in the last 20 years. But the benefits of the new technology will out- weigh the initial efforts of change.”


20 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2020 Papa said clients who embraced the changes did so


by being trained to better understand the technology. More often than not, they look back on what they went through, and they are grateful for the experience. Transfinder spokesman Rick D’Errico said many trans-


portation professionals wear many hats. “The biggest challenge we encounter is working with school districts to find the time they need to fully integrate their business into software solutions,” D’Errico observed. “To com- bat that, we have taken many strides over the past few years to reduce the amount of time it takes to implement Transfinder products. We’ve done everything, from pre- senting our training content in a variety of different and easily consumable formats, to increasing our consult- ing services staff who assist school districts in the more time-consuming aspects of onboarding new software.”


Assessment and Training Routing changes begin with solid assessments, which in most cases drive the type and frequency of the train- ing that vendors provide to support their clients. “Before we sell something, we work with customers to assess their needs,” shared Justin Malcolm, director of product management for Safe Fleet. “What are the rules they want in their plan?” Malcolm explained that a school district must decide on


what it needs. For instance, where does it want the bus to stop? What side of the road does it want the bus to stop on? Does it matter if the bus stops on busy roads? Should it avoid U-turns? Do registered sex offenders live in the area? “I need to understand the rules of the vehicle,” he con-


tinued. “Do I have other places where I can’t pick up very young children or special needs students?” Malcolm added that a plan that might work in smaller school districts may not be appropriate for larger school


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