Better Business Bureau

In the weeks and months ahead, there will be no “business as usual.” The coronavirus pandemic has made every American rethink all facets of everyday life and has created serious challenges for business.

However, there’s hope ahead. States are allowing a widening number of businesses to open, so new revenue possibilities are becoming available. Your business has a fresh opportunity to encourage new relationships and build trust.

Until businesses are allowed to re-open, offering curbside pickup might be an option to increase sales. Follow these curbside pickup best practices to set yourself up for success.

Provide Experiences

Think of curbside pickup as more than just a way to make a little money and keep your business afloat. It’s an opportunity to stand out, serve your community and build relationships.

Consumers have been stuck at home for weeks. They’re eager for personal connections, for human interaction. When you (safely) provide what they’re looking for, you encourage customer loyalty and repeat visits.

Prioritize Customer Service

Make every aspect of the experience about them. Prioritize a hassle-free ordering experience and a fast handoff. Have a system in place to double-check orders for accuracy. Be transparent to prevent consumer frustration. For example, if you’re out of forks and napkins, let customers know ahead of time and apologize for the inconvenience.

Think about employees too. If they’re waiting outside to deliver goods, set up protection from sun or inclement weather. They’ll be better able to provide a cheerful handoff if they’re comfortable and supported.

Live Your Brand Values

Consumers want to see brand consistency, whether you’re interacting with them online, in the store or through curbside pickup. Use this opportunity to communicate what you stand for. If your brand is about quality, make sure every part of your curbside pickup experience is top notch. If you emphasize diversity, passion or confidence in your branding, demonstrate that to consumers throughout their interaction with your brand.

Create A Little Ambiance

Think outside the box to stand out from other local businesses offering curbside pickup. Use lighting creatively in your parking lot to create a welcoming nighttime pickup. Consider using low-power local radio communication and encouraging customers to tune in while they’re on your lot. Reduce perceived wait time when you use it to advertise specials, explain what you’re doing to protect consumer health and play music that enhances their experience.

Train For Curbside Pickup Success

The pandemic caught the world by surprise, and many businesses had little time to think through the best way to serve customers. In the beginning, it was enough just to be able to take orders and get them out the door.

However, restaurants and retailers without systems in place often ended up with frustrated customers, and that’s bad for business. Whether you’re just starting to offer curbside pickup or you’ve been providing it all along, it’s best to systematically train all employees for every step of the process.

Enforce Strict Health and Hygiene Policies

As unthinkable as it seems, some of your employees may not be washing their hands correctly and doing their part to prevent the spread of infection. Develop an official policy for your staff and use training to explicitly communicate your expectations. Find ways to regularly verify everyone is doing their best. We offer hygiene tips in our BBB Toolkit, if you haven’t already developed them for your organization.

Some businesses allow outside delivery services to pick up items and take them elsewhere. Those workers don’t have the same hygiene policies yours do, so make sure your staff has a plan for disinfecting after each interaction with them.

Curbside Pickup Process Training

Create procedures for each stage of the process and train staff on those procedures. If your business takes phone orders, clarify who is responsible for answering the phone and what information they need to gather. Instead of just handing that person a blank notepad, create a form or document with fields for all the necessary data. Look for upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

If you take orders over the phone, encourage customers to make payment when they call. That minimizes handling of items like cards, pens and receipts.

If you’ve been offering online ordering all along, you may already have fulfillment procedures in place, but if your online ordering system is new, train employees on receiving, fulfilling and accepting payment for that type of order.

Consumers are already frustrated because many of the things they’re used to buying aren’t available or are in limited supply. Help diffuse that frustration when you decide how staff will verify items are in stock and how they’ll communicate with customers if they find there’s a problem.

Train employees on what to do when problems arise. For example, if customers receive an incorrect order and need to return to the store, how should they handle the exchange?

Update Online Information

Consumers that can’t come in your store are looking for what you offer online. Make sure your website and social media pages show your current store hours, your curbside pickup availability and ongoing promotions.

Clearly Direct Consumers to Curbside Pickup Area

One of the top consumer pet peeves is when businesses have unclear instructions for curbside pickup. One consumer in East Texas expressed his frustration when he said “Do I call? Come in? Sometimes there’s a sign outside, but it’s so small you can’t read it until you get out of your car and walk up to the door. I might as well go in at that point.”

Use large visual aids that show consumers where they should park for curbside pickup and what to do next. As soon as they enter your parking lot, they should be able to see you were expecting them and you’re glad they came.

Communicate handoff procedures ahead of time. Will employees hand items directly to consumers, place them in an open trunk or take some other action? If a transaction takes place, how will you exchange funds without also exchanging germs?

Follow Up With a Thank You

Show your appreciation with a text message or email that thanks each consumer for their business. Consider including a coupon or loyalty rewards points to encourage future transactions.

Protect Consumer Data

To serve your customers, you’re collecting information on them you wouldn’t have if they just stopped in your store and made a purchase. Have a plan for safeguarding or destroying that information so it doesn’t get misused.

Embody BBB Standards for Trust

Curbside pickup best practices are really about building trust, something BBB has been doing for more than 100 years. These BBB standards apply during the pandemic and beyond as together we find our new normal.

Build trust – Keep prices fair. Don’t use your curbside pickup to try to unfairly benefit from coronavirus.

Advertise honestly – Let people know what you’re doing to protect public health, but don’t play on fear in order to create buzz or increase profit.

Be truthful – If what you offer is limited because of supply or delivery complications, let customers know up front.

Be transparent – Clearly communicate your offer, then do what you say you’ll do.

Show integrity – Find ways to support your community during this difficult time.

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