The client,  one of the biggest oil and gas companies in Turkey with more than 1400 gas stations and an annual revenue of 5 billion TL, asked us to understand common customer and employee problems and offer solutions in order to improve the service experience in their stations.


Process

The client is one of the fastest growing companies in Turkey. However, their growth mostly comes from the emerging market dynamics and individual attempts at innovation. In order to create a sustainable growth, they decided to launch an innovation management program. They didn’t have any previous work on innovation other than individual attempts on creating technological solutions. Our work was a part of this program.

We conducted a month-long contextual research where we interviewed 107 people in 5 different locations and 3 different cities in Turkey. We utilized in-depth semi-structured interviews, observations and shadowing methodologies, in addition to projective techniques, like word and image association, in order to get an understanding of how employees and customers think and feel about the company. During the research, we focused on revealing opportunity areas that the company can address. The research was planned and conducted by a multi-disciplinary team that is comprised of an anthropologist, a business designer, and myself.

  • Interviewing a gas station manager in Istanbul

Synthesis

Although detailed findings cannot be revealed due to confidentiality, below are the four main categories:

The Disproportionate Burden on Attendants
Mapping out how the different actors interact with each other, we realized that most problems we identified affected attendants negatively in some way. This, coupled with long working hours and physically-demanding nature of the job, caused a disproportionate stress on the attendants which resulted in health problems and early retirement. In addition, the cultural gap between the management and the attendants makes it difficult to relate to and understand each other.

Station as a Social Space:
Customer behaviors largely depend on in which city, neighborhood, street, or highway the station is located. For example, in working-class neighborhoods young people hang out and socialize in gas stations, while in upper-scale neighborhoods customers usually tend to stay as briefly as possible. In bigger cities, the brand is a sign of trust. On the other hand, the reputation of the owner and the employees is a more important factor in smaller cities.

Interaction Between Attendants and Customers
Lastly, there are problems that arise from the interactions between employees and customers. for example, especially in bigger cities and busy highways, the customers are stressed with traffic when they come into the stations. Likewise, the attendants are stressed with volume of customers they need to serve. The interaction between them is not always pleasant for both parties.

  • Mapping findings after the research

Outcomes

After we presented these findings to the client, they developed and implemented a technology solution with Microsoft. The solution, that tracks attendants’ workload as well as their well-being, can potentially impact 20K employees and more than 80K people throughout Turkey.