What makes for perfect curbside service? A customer pulls into the parking lot. Frantically, they scan for any indication of their order. Instant relief, a sign for “Curbside Pickup”. They call a clearly displayed phone number. A courteous employee answers promptly to confirm the order. Finally, a masked employee waves with their order in hand. Success.
However, this is on a good day. What if the signage is improperly displayed? What if the order is not ready when the customer arrives, or the phone line is busy? Or worse, what if the order is incorrect with no clear way to rectify the problem? For some customers, curbside pickup can feel a little impersonal, frustrating, or even risky. Yet customers find curbside service essential during this time of uncertainty. If executed with the same meticulousness as the in-person restaurant or retail experience, there are many ways brick and mortar businesses can wow their customers with curbside service. Simply eliminate the guesswork to deliver a smooth hand-off with every transaction.
When stay at home orders began in early March, many restaurants and retailers were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19. Even if some businesses were not forced to close, many faced new service standard demands from their customers wanting to stay safe and “stop the spread”. According to CNBC, “The number of orders placed online and picked up at stores by customers surged 208% between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago.” Forbes revealed big brand retailers like, “Target, Lowe’s and Wendy’s have pivoted with the times, and have succeeded…These are retailers that bend over backward to make it easier on the customer, even if it made it harder on their own brand.” It pays to follow industry trends even if that means making further considerations for your customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Conversely, curbside pickup is not just a fleeting trend. In fact, many consumer reports indicate that curbside service is here to stay. Forbes reports, “59% of customers say they are more likely to continue curbside pickup after the pandemic.” The service is not only safe for customers but convenient, “because they don’t have to get out of the car” as noted by the National Restaurant Association. Plus, this service is ultimately beneficial for restaurants and retailers’ bottom lines. When more goods are sold in advance and efficiently delivered to the customer, employees have more time to devote to other customers creating an opportunity for more sales. So now more than ever, it is best to invest in the future of your business by building trust with your customers through curbside service.
In order to report the best practices, sometimes you have to see it for yourself. We conducted a private study of frequented businesses. In our independent experiment, some businesses excelled in their service while some were adequate but had room for improvement. We agree with Grubhub’s list of best practices for curbside pick-up:
- Provide clear pickup location details in the pickup instructions (ex. Meet at the side door on Park Street)
- Create signage indicating where the pickup area is at your restaurant (ex. Add signs that say “Curbside Pick-up here”)
- If you have a designated curbside pickup zone, please add details.
- Add an on-site phone number. Be sure to have the phone available at all times as customers and drivers will call that phone number upon arrival.
- Ensure employees are wearing personal protective gear to keep themselves and the food safe. Gloves are recommended when handling bags and follow proper handwashing procedures.
- When receiving a call, make sure employees ask for clear instructions (i.e. type of car, color of car, etc.) to ensure the correct match customers and driver with the correct order.
In our own experience with an undisclosed restaurant, we received the correct order expeditiously, but there was no clear signage indicating where to park. Furthermore, the phone number was not displayed or offered, so we had to look up the number on the company website. The employee delivering the food to our car got an A+ for manners and proper personal protective equipment. However, the employee could have asked for more information about our vehicle over the phone to make the process smoother.
There is always room for improvement even for our most frequented establishments. If this is the case, how can a restaurant or retailer know when their curbside pickup is effective or lacking? With A Closer Look’s Mystery Shopping solutions, a business can effectively receive discreet feedback to make improvements to their curbside pickup service.
A mystery shopper administers the feedback based on their experience with your business. The mystery shopper orders and picks-up like a typical customer. Before their visit, the mystery shoppers are given a specific set of guidelines and questions so they can observe and take note of each criterion while it is occurring. Mystery shoppers report successes and shortfalls with a detailed explanation of the employee execution. Plus, these evaluations are delivered consistently so the business can optimize every transaction and avoid a negative experience for their customers.
The feedback from the mystery shopper also provides data points. The customer can access this data through A Closer Look’s proprietary reporting platform. Through the platform, the customer can segment the data to see performance on a variety of levels, not just focusing on the highest or lowest performance, but everything in between.
Even though this time is arduous for restaurants and retailers, it is crucial to focus on the aspects of your business that you can control. With A Closer Look’s Mystery Shopping solutions, your business will be well-positioned to deliver accurate and timely curbside service to your customers.