Case Study:
Skogie's Auto Spa

Sector: Retail

Improve the existing car wash experience at a very successful auto spa to be easily navigable during peak times, reduce wait times, and reduce strain on staff.
An integrated on-site sales and wayfinding system that greatly reduces the cognitive strain on customers, especially new ones, while reducing the impact on staff as customers purchase services and navigate the site during peak times.
Dave loves his truck. He works hard as a journeyman electrician and his truck is the one material possession (besides his equipment) in which he takes great personal pride. He has spent his hard-earned money customizing the paint and adding a few other personal touches to the flatbed, cab, and exterior. However, he spends much of his time driving all over the Okanagan Valley visiting dusty jobsites for his job, leaving his truck in constant need of a wash, inside and out.

While there are a lot of different choices for Dave to use, he really loves using Skogie’s Auto Spa because the job they do, in his words, is “incredible, especially for the price.” There’s only one problem: Dave doesn’t enjoy going to the wash when it is really busy, especially during the Summer months. He finds the site is packed with vehicles of all types and sizes, all trying to navigate a challenging site with multiple types of car wash services. Dave ends up waiting for longer and longer periods just to get the service he loves.

Dave’s experience is typical of a Skogie’s customer. Due to their exceptional service and value, Skogie’s has built a large, loyal, local customer base. However, this success – coupled with their site being directly off a very busy highway – means their loyal customer base has been getting frustrated at longer and longer wait times as more and more people (and tourists!) come to experience the exceptional Skogie’s service.

Recognizing the need to address their congestion issues, Skogie’s approached Nucleus Strategies with a problem:

Can design thinking help solve their congestion challenges?

To ensure the work was relevant and human-centred, Nucleus Strategies conducted a series of mapping and blueprinting workshops with a team of owners, managers, and front-line staff. These workshops created a shared understanding across the entire team of how things currently worked from both the perspective of the customer and the organization.

These workshops were supplemented by several days of field work by Nucleus Strategies. On-site observation and customer interviews in context was conducted from multiple spots and at different days, times, and under diverse weather conditions.

This exploration revealed a few important themes:

  • The site lacked a consistent or, in many cases visible, wayfinding system, resulting in confusion for customers, especially new ones unfamiliar to the site.
  • Sales material was visually busy, confusing, and sometimes conflicting, leading to even more customer confusion and often tied up valuable staff time figuring out what they needed to purchase.
  • There were a number of constraints around the site for any wayfinding system, due to municipal bylaws, location, and physical geography.
  • Customers had very little time to spend worrying about how to buy, where to buy, and what to buy; any difficulty in any of these three parts of the process would likely result in confusion and irritability.

Given the information uncovered during our exploration, the Skogie’s team and Nucleus Strategies redefined the problem:

Can design thinking help reduce traffic issues, customer confusion and anxiety, and lessen the stress on staff?

Building on the insights and feedback from the exploratory phases, Nucleus Strategies worked with the team to create prototypes for both a new on-site sales system as well as a new wayfinding system.

First, Nucleus tested several different prototypes of a redesigned sales system. Nucleus tested these directly with customers on-site to determine what information they needed to make an informed and accurate decision about which services they should purchase. Once this was determined, the prototypes were further tested to find the best way to categorize, organize, and communicate the necessary information.

Then, Nucleus developed a prototype of a new wayfinding system that relied on colour and shapes to lead people through the site. A combination of the site constraints and on-site testing with customers led to a system of signs, colourful laneways, all anchored around a brightly repainted external sales kiosk (a landmark visible from all areas of the site) that helps orient customers from any vantage point.

Finally, the wayfinding colour system was integrated into the sales system, providing consistency and greatly reducing the cognitive load on customers. Nucleus Strategies developed this integrated system into a set of internal store signs, external signs, brochures, mirror hangers, and other print collateral distributed around the site.

After implementation, the load on staff in the convenience store was noticeably reduced, resulting in shorter wait times. The time spent at the kiosk with each client was reduced by more than half, resulting in more cars through even on busy days. Finally, the anxiety of customers, especially new ones, was noticeably reduced.

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