Case Study:
Quilakwa Centre

Sector: Retail

Improve the existing gas station experience to provide consistent, quality service no matter how busy.
Redefining the full service gas attendant role to one of on-site manager, who supports the overall aims of both the organization and the customer. Attendants are now able to provide exceptional service no matter how busy, using the same resources.
Nicole lives in Enderby, a small town in the Interior of British Columbia, but makes the short 30 min daily commute to work in the larger municipality of Vernon as a lawyer. She is the mother of two elementary school children and they often travel throughout the region for soccer games, skiing, work, and to visit family. Nicole generally doesn’t like to let her gas get below ¼ tank full. She typically chooses the local gas station in Enderby, The Quilakwa Gas Station, to fill up due to its convenient location to her home.

However, the gas station is situated directly off the busy Trans-Canada Highway and in peak times of day, especially during the Summer months, Nicole has found the station to be difficult to use due to long lineups and heavy traffic. Even when she manages to get to a pump, the full service attendant is often too busy to give her much attention and she ends up pumping the gas herself.

Nicole’s experience is typical of the Quilakwa Station, especially at peak times of day and year. The busy location, confusing site setup, and high traffic volumes make it challenging for the staff to provide excellent service when even a few cars arrive at the same time. Over the last 18 months, overall numbers have seen a steady decline, due in part to a local gas war in Vernon.

Recognizing the need to do something different in the face of these declining sales numbers, the Quillakwa team come to Nucleus Strategies with a question:

Can design thinking improve the boring, traditional gas station experience and create a competitive advantage that isn’t price-related?

To ensure the work was human-centred, the collaboration began with an intensive exploration of the problem. The Quilakwa team participated in a series of mapping workshops involving staff at all levels and from all departments. Together, the group visualized a shared understanding of how things worked, from the perspective of both the customer and the organization.

Then, Nucleus spent more than a week on-site conducting field interviews with customers and employees along with on-site observation of traffic flows.

As a result of this exploration, a few themes became clear:

  • The responsibilities of the gas attendant were too much for 1 person whenever there were more than 3 cars at one time (there are 9 pumps).
  • Customers disagree greatly about their expectations around “full service”.
  • People valued the personal interaction with the attendant the most.
  • The site was difficult to navigate mainly due to high traffic volumes and the other amenities offered (art gallery, restaurant).

Given this information, the Quilakwa team and Nucleus Strategies redefined the problem:

How can we use design thinking to improve the gas station experience to provide more value, even when busy, using the same resources?

Building on the insights learned from the exploration phases, Nucleus and the Quilakwa team took another look at the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved. Through a number of different ideation workshops, the team explored multiple solutions to the redefined problem.

After prioritizing the results, the team settled on redefining the role of the attendant in the delivery of the overall experience. First, all signs referencing “full service” were removed from the site to create a different set of expectations in the mind of the customer.

Then, a number of different prototypes of the new role were tested at different times of day and under different conditions. Each prototype focused on a different aspect of the role, from traffic manager to salesperson to window washer to gas pumper.

Each of these tests allowed the team to track the importance and effectiveness of each responsibility to determine the right mix that balanced customer needs with traffic flow requirements. This allowed the team to determine the right mix and hierarchy of responsibilities that allowed the attendant to make a positive contribution to the customer experience, no matter how busy they were.

Once this new role was fully defined, Nucleus Strategies developed a series of training modules for both existing and future hires to ensure consistency and continuity. Finally, Nucleus worked with the Quilakwa team to develop a process to introduce the new, revised role to its existing customer base so they would support the new changes.

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