When most people say they're headed to the Olympics, they're expecting to see finely honed athletes at the top of their form. When a team of MCI technicians, troubleshooters and customer assurance pros loaded up a conversion coach bound for the Vancouver Games, they knew that they would instead see cracked windshields, blown tires and dead batteries.
They weren't disappointed.
MCI sent its team and a load of tools to Western Bus Parts a week or so ahead of the opening ceremonies and stayed for a time after to make sure that MCI customers had easy access to comprehensive mechanical and emergency support during the Olympics.
John Leone, MCI technical solutions manager, was part of the first wave, along with Guy Tessier, director of customer solutions, who was there for the duration and oversaw MCI technicians Serge Gagnon, Michel Mayer and Simon Lesiège, who rotated in and out, helping the staff of Western Bus Parts. Also lending their expertise tobenefit MCI customers were Bruce Malcolm, director of technical product support, Skip Neff, senior Technical Solutions manager; Scot Doerksen, Customer Assurance Technician; and Chad Sadowy, technical solutions manager.
Accommodations were tight — MCI staffers slept on the coach, which featured a master bedroom (Guy Tessier won it in a coin toss early on, and Malcolm later claimed it out of seniority) as well as bunks outfitted with satellite television, iPod docks, privacy curtains and individual air controls. Shore power kept it heated at night, and the shower stayed hot. The crew ate breakfast aboard, helped out by a refrigerator, microwave oven, always-on coffee pot and the grocery-shopping skills of Malcolm and others. Though the coach was comfortable, there was one major drawback — the U.S.-based satellite television wasn't carrying much in the way of the Olympics, so the MCI employees had to get their fix during meals at local restaurants.
Not that there was much time to watch TV. The days were long, often 16 hours, and technicians worked on everything from tires to a transmission swap. In one case, technicians were even able to help out a Van Hool owner who finally got a nagging AC problem diagnosed and fixed.
The early crew handled an expected rush of Olympics-bound coaches — some of which were slated to carry athletes, sponsors, reporters and other participants. Those coaches were among the most critical, because security concerns made it paramount that they be in tip-top shape even before they hit the Olympics compound. Each official-use coach underwent rigorous inspection both by provincial authorities and the RCMP — Leone says video probes and dogs played a part. Once inspected, loaded buses could not open their doors for any reason until they reached their destination, and a downed coach would out of necessity become an evacuated, replaced coach.
"We worked on anything and everything," says Leone. Many coaches had to travel long distances to Vancouver, so many were sporting the minor injuries of a long road trip — cracked windshields, electrical issues, and HVAC systems previously untested by long stretches of cold weather.
Leone credits Mark Smith, general manager of Western Bus, with keeping things running smoothly.' He was right there, expediting parts and helping out tremendously. I don’t think any customers were turned away or went home unsatisfied with their service."
Malcolm reports that during his week in Vancouver, which coincided with the Winter Games, the service center was hopping. "We got our first call even before we were off the plane," says Malcolm. "But it went well. We had a really hardworking group of people."
Malcolm says it was a good opportunity for people from different parts of MCI's operation to meet, even if communication was occasionally a challenge between French-speaking technicians and English-speaking MCI staff. Doerksen says, "My French improved."
Although none of them took the time to attend an event, it wasn't all long work days and stolen glimpses of Olympics glory. Malcolm credits Smith and Western Bus Parts with making the MCI team feel at home, to the point of inviting groups to his house for a barbecue or taking them out to dinner. Says Malcolm, "The people at Western Bus Parts were great. They opened their homes, their hearts — and their toolboxes."
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