Space Age Travel Center located off of Interstate 84 in Hermiston, Ore., sets itself apart by offering interesting merchandise, aggressive pricing, a variety of amenities and friendly employees. The mix works, and the location does over 50,000 diesel transactions and serves over 750,000 gas and c-store customers each year.
The location sits on a major east/west route between Boise, Idaho, and Portland, Ore., and Don Nelson, general manager, Space Age Travel Center, said one of its keys to success is having long-term employees. “Regular customers prefer to see a familiar face—someone that knows what they want and how they want it,” he said, adding that customers are impressed by well-trained and efficient staff.
That’s why Nelson focuses on maximizing his 24 employees’ time and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs. “We try and make every employee’s work duties and tasks simple and efficient by providing the necessary tools and organization for them to their job without unnecessary hassle,” he said, adding that if a broom and dustpan are needed by several employees, the company provides them at every station so employees don’t spend time looking for them.
The location also updated to the Trendar Smartdesq system from the old Trendar Nextdesq system. Nelson said the new system is much easier to use and reduces training time.
Providing ease boosts employee retention, as does establishing clear guidelines for staff. “Employees want consistency in rules and procedures to feel secure in the job they are doing and their performance,” he said.
When Nelson does have a position to fill, he reaches out to those he sees excelling in customer service at other businesses. “When I notice an employee from another business doing an excellent job, I tell them that I am impressed and invite them to come and talk about working for Space Age. Most times employees appreciate the offer and will come and see what your business may have to offer them,” he said.
Nelson doesn’t just focus on his employees' ease and convenience. He does the same for customers, and the location offers “no-hassle amenities,” he said. “If a customer fuels with us, we’ll give them a cup of coffee and a shower without the hassle of adding and subtracting them off a card.”
Keeping the facility clean, easy- to-shop and uncluttered also boosts sales, he said. So does having a wide selection of unique merchandise, such as printed blankets, novelty signs and trendy jewelry. “We know we have done a good job when customers’ reactions are, ‘Cool! Check this out,’” he said.
Space Age Travel Center is also focusing on the future. “We have partnered with Transfuel and are currently in construction to provide natural gas dispensers on two of our fuel islands,” Nelson said.
Nelson's best advice for his fellow operators is to “keep your facility fresh and listen and consider what your employees and customers tell you,” he said. “Continue to learn how new technology and innovations can benefit your operation.”
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