/ Articles / BBB business tip: Boost business with these curbside pickup best practices

BBB business tip: Boost business with these curbside pickup best practices

May 12, 2020

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. Businesses have 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 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 the community and build relationships. 

Consumers have been stuck at home for weeks. They’re eager for personal connections, for human interaction. When a business (safely) provides what consumers are looking for, customer loyalty and repeat visits are encouraged.


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 — if 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 comfortable and supported.


Live brand values

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


Create a little ambiance

Think outside the box to stand out from other local businesses offering curbside pickup. Use lighting creatively in a parking lot to create a welcoming nighttime pickup. Consider using low-power local radio communication and encouraging customers to tune in while they’re waiting. Reduce perceived wait time when a business uses it to advertise specials, explain what the business is 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 just starting to offer curbside pickup or it’s 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 employees may not be washing their hands correctly and doing their part to prevent the spread of infection. Develop an official policy for staff and use training to explicitly communicate expectations. Find ways to regularly verify everyone is doing their best. 

Some businesses allow outside delivery services to pick up items and take them elsewhere. Those workers don’t have the same hygiene policies as others, so make sure 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 a 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 taking orders over the phone, encourage customers to make payment when they call. That minimizes handling of items like cards, pens and receipts.

If a business has been offering online ordering all along, it may already have fulfillment procedures in place, but if a 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 deciding 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 a store are looking for what is offered online. Make sure a website and social media pages show current store hours, 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.

Use large visual aids showing consumers where they should park for curbside pickup and what to do next. As soon as they enter the parking lot, they should be able to see they were expected and 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 can funds be exchanged without also exchanging germs?


Follow up with a thank you

Show 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 customers, a business is collecting information on them it wouldn’t have if they just stopped in the 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.

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

Advertise honestly — Let people know what the business is doing to protect public health, but don’t play on fear in order to create buzz or increase profit.

Be truthful — If what is offered is limited because of supply or delivery complications, let customers know up front. 

Be transparent — Clearly communicate an offer, then do what is promised.

Show integrity — Find ways to support the community during this difficult time.

For more tips on staying safe, avoiding scams and growing your business despite COVID-19, see the Coronavirus Resources Page and our Small Business Resource Page, and follow our news feed for businesses. 

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


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