Friday, 9 September 2011

User Experience: Petrol Pump

Objective: How to enhance the user experience at a Petrol Pump?

The Story:

I recently came across this problem statement, that was given to the manager of a Petrol Pump. I imagined myself to be that manager, and thought, thought hard! Then I browsed the internet to have a look at the variety of petrol pumps that we usually come across.

I also thought about some of the characteristics of a petrol pump :
  • Petrol is more of a commodity, with prices differing only between states. Some companies tried to create Premium products but I have seen commoditization even on those premium products. So, a person is largely indifferent on where the petrol is getting filled from! 
    • There might be exceptions: Example: People believe petrol available on highways might be impure and ruin their engines. 
  • Personnel at a petrol pump understand numbers, so one needs to indicate what and how much is required. And since, petrol or diesel doesn't usually have local names, language barriers are low. 
  • Services usually offered at a petrol pump: Petrol filling (obviously!), Air Check and Pollution check
  • Petrol pumps are businesses of scale just like hyper markets. 
  • Service design - 
    • How many vehicles can fit in at a time?
    • Maximum capacity
    • How will vehicles get in?
    • How will vehicles get out?
Now, my thoughts went on to how can one enhance the user experience given such characteristics of a service. And an important point to note is that, "Enhancement of User experience is not an end goal, it is a continuous process. One can add some components in a service that may seem to achieve the goal, but it will be momentary."

Without any proof, I dare to show how a user experience curve might look like, something like this decay curve over time!
Hence, my point here is not to build the perfect service, rather build relationships over time; relationships between employees and customers, that give the necessary feedback into the system to enhance further. Here we go with my observations on how some petrol pumps do that:
  • As soon as we enter some petrol pumps a person guides us to the shortest line, or stops us or the line to get shorter. He also indicates the approximate time required to wait. In India, usually it is 2 minutes!
  • We also observe arrows to indicate the manner in which our vehicles should enter the filling areas and out of it.
  • A friendly smile when we stop the car is always welcome!
  • While, our vehicles are getting their food, someone comes over to ask "Sir ji! Shall I clean your windshield?" So, by the time the refilling id done, your windshield gets a makeover!
  • If you are paying by card, there is an apprehension as the cashier takes the card along inside a queer building. To change all that some petrol pumps are now equipped with mobile card swipes for Visa to American Express! (American Express, although an express, is the least accepted card in India, according to my observations! That's why it needed special mention :) )
  • I would love if someone would be able to check the tire pressure as well while I am filling. This trend is yet to catch up due to some unknown reasons. But this would be really useful!
  • Extra lubricants, and oils within a hands reach is always better at the petrol filling station. Not many petrol pumps do that, hence causing that unnecessary delay in delivery the service
  • Petrol pumps are also the best places for driving directions (till the days when we will each get a GPS!) So, an intelligent, direction-informed attendant is a good resource at any petrol pump.
  • I think the idea of a supermart at a petrol pump has still not picked up in India. But, I have surely seen the potential for a small vendor selling ready snacks like chips, tetra pack of juices, cans of cold drinks etc.
  • And finally, if the person filling up my car gives that "I know you!" smile and the greeting then it makes us feel special! We feel like sharing our car troubles with him. We also give the person tips at times! And, as we embark on our journey for user experience, this is the just beginning.... ...

1 comment: said...

Thanks for the good news.