This is a guest post by Eleanor Hecks, the Editor-in-Chief at Designerly Magazine.
Although many restaurants provide no-contact delivery, you can offer your customers this option for any product you sell. The pandemic has changed the way people do business and made contactless delivery the norm.
To prevent the spread of COVID, businesses came up with creative ways to keep running and serve customers. Brands that never offered it before now have numerous delivery options available.
According to Statista, about 37% of Americans are now using contactless delivery. Food delivery services top the list of things people want to be sent to their homes without worker interaction.
People order everything from groceries to restaurant fare and have it left on their doorsteps. Consumer demand for delivery services has never been higher.
Table of Contents
- What Does Contactless Delivery Mean?
- How Does Contactless Delivery Work?
- Is There More Need for No-Contact Delivery Options?
- Improve Your Delivery Methods
- Pitfalls to Avoid
- A Growing Need
What Does Contactless Delivery Mean?
Contactless delivery means 1) the client orders via an app, the company website, or on their phones, 2) the buyer pays with a credit card or attached account, and then 3) the delivery driver leaves the item in an agreed location without getting near the customer.
No-contact delivery can be a bit impersonal. Companies must find ways to keep the consumer engaged, or risk losing brand loyalty and longtime customers.
For example, have your driver knock on the door and then wait at a distance to ensure the customer receives the order. They can give a polite wave as the consumer picks up the bag.
Customers also expect additional safety measures, such as the person leaving their purchase to wear a mask and gloves and for any items to be safely sealed inside the packaging.
How Does Contactless Delivery Work?
How no-contact delivery works depends on the item you’re leaving and your company policies. An excellent place to start is studying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines.
They recommend drivers knock on the door, stand back at least 6 feet and confirm the user received the order. Set up procedures still allowing your delivery driver to interact with the customer, but from a recommended distance.
Think about what you’d want as a customer and ask your current clients what they’d like. Do they prefer you to seal items with tape? How can you help them feel secure about ordering from you?
Some of the best ideas for improvements come from the existing buyers. They use your service regularly and know what needs improvement.
You can also study what third-party extension delivery providers offer. Most now have no-contact delivery options users can choose during the checkout process. They never need to speak to the driver if they don’t wish to.
Is There More Need for No-Contact Delivery Options?
The pandemic forced people to stay home. Those who are most vulnerable to the virus cannot go out and shop as they once could. They have to think through even deliveries to their home and whether appropriate social distancing is in place.
Small mom-and-pop shops that never provided online ordering now find themselves in a position to come up with contactless delivery options for their customers. Without adding the service, they might lose even more business.
Things may change a bit as some receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it will be a long while before the entire population is protected against the virus, and there may still be strains the most vulnerable worry about contracting.
No-contact delivery is likely to be needed for the foreseeable future. Once people grow accustomed to ordering online and having items delivered, they are likely won’t be willing to give up the convenience. Businesses would be wise to offer contactless delivery as a permanent service.
Improve Your Delivery Methods
Your business benefits from offering contactless delivery and your customers are likely to demand it for years to come. Whether you’ve always provided some options or you’re new to no-contact delivery, you’ll want to perfect your process in 2021.
Here are the steps you should take to get ahead of the competition and keep your customers happy.
Keep Customers Informed
Your clients may not realize you offer contactless delivery options. Start by sending out an email to your mailing list. Let your regulars know you deliver and your methods for orders preparing. Give them ideas for maintaining their regular order schedule while still keeping their distance.
Place vinyl signs in front of your store to let people know you now offer curbside pickup or contactless delivery. If the service is free, stress you’re offering the new delivery option to help them through this time. It costs the store money to hire delivery people so that the public will appreciate your efforts.
Window decals are a top way to communicate policies without spending a fortune. Add a few to the front of your physical location. You could also use vinyl wraps on the cars carrying delivery bags to customers.
When a customer phones in, educate them on your new methods. The more informed your clients are, the more comfortable they’ll feel ordering in a way outside the norm of what they’re used to.
Upgrade Your Software
No matter what ordering system you use, they likely offer a shipping extension with no-contact delivery options or some contactless delivery freebies. Some providers allow you to email the users about everything from new ways to order to food options available.
Make sure your software can handle increased demand from consumers. You should also ensure the communication system works effectively. Are you informed immediately when a customer places an order?
Thanks to Amazon and food delivery apps such as GrubHub, people expect an immediate response. If you deliver food, it is even more critical you fill the order as rapidly as possible.
Magento offers an extension allowing you to let the user specify a date for delivery. Date customization puts control into the user’s hands, but it also helps you plan for staffing on high-demand days.
Tell your clients you received their orders. Send an SMS message and an email stating you received the order and its details. A lot of the work can be automated, but take the time to make sure your systems work correctly.
Depending on the type of business you are running, you should also connect when the item leaves your store and heads to their doorstep. If you ship products with a logistics company such as UPS or FedEx, you might add tracking information.
Delivery date and timing are key to perishable orders. Set up your system to send out a notice when the order is received, when it’s on its way, and an estimated time it will arrive.
One example of a company that utilizes a smart strategy for customers is Domino’s Pizza. It has full contactless delivery. The customer places the order and pays for it. They can then track the app to see when the pizza comes out of the oven and as it is en route to their home. Domino’s estimates almost to the minute when the food arrives.
Keep your customers informed, and they’ll feel much more secure ordering from you without coming into a physical location.
Those who prefer to have zero contact will know when the order gets dropped and can get it immediately to prevent any chance of theft or lost items.
Train Your Employees
Spend extra time ensuring your staff is up on the latest safety requirements. Provide gloves and masks. You want to keep them as well as customers virus-free.
If you don’t already have one in place, start a policy to take workers’ temperatures when they arrive for their shifts. If anyone begins feeling ill, send them home immediately.
Make sure staff understands the concerns of your clients. If you serve senior citizens, they may want more safeguards than 20-somethings.
Hang up signs and send out regular reminders to wear a mask, wash hands and keep a distance from others. It is natural for people to loosen up their procedures over time. With the number of cases falling, people tend to get lax in their practices.
Make sure you stick to the same standard so your customers know they can trust you to follow every regulation. Even if it is overkill, it will give them a sense of security.
Watch for holes in your routine. If you receive a customer complaint, review how you handle the situation and make any adjustment needed. For every single criticism, you can be sure other customers feel dissatisfied.
There are some things you’ll do while COVID is still around that your customers won’t see. One of those changes is cleaning more frequently. Although scientists believe the virus spreads more easily via air droplets, it can still linger on surfaces.
Set up a protocol where you clean between each customer. Set a timer to remind employees to sanitize their workstations every 30 minutes or hour.
Follow both federal and local guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting to ensure you’re keeping things sanitized.
Keep plenty of cleaning supplies on hand. Let your customers know about your sanitation efforts. Having details reassures them you put their safety first and holds you accountable to stick to the policies.
Set Delivery Dates
You may have a higher volume of delivery requests than average during the pandemic. Retailers like Kroger have had to reduce the number of slots available for curbside pickup in some locations.
The Magento delivery date extension is a big help when your customers want to schedule a delivery or pickup ahead. Let them pick the available day and time that works best for their needs.
Enabling delivery date functionality also helps you with staffing needs. If you have a higher volume of requests at certain times, you can bring in temporary help or offer overtime to your staff.
Look for bottlenecks in your process. Fix any backups, so your customers aren’t waiting too long. Sometimes it is a staffing issue, or you may need to reduce the number of orders at a specific time. Look for the best solutions to any backups you’re experiencing.
Customers often have some specific needs and expect your business to meet them. If you want your contactless delivery to be a success, you must go above and beyond the minimum requirements.
The Microsoft Dynamics report indicated brand loyalty is determined 95% by customer service. If you don’t do everything to ensure your clients have a fabulous experience, you may lose them to a competitor.
You’ve probably heard the saying to underpromise and overdeliver. The assumption is correct when it comes to your no-contact delivery service. Watch local competition and do more than they are.
Train your employees not just to meet standards. Encourage them to go above and beyond for people. Reward those who go the extra mile for their creativity and care of your clients.
Ask for Prepayment
The restaurant industry has changed a lot during the last year. In the past, people ordered their food and paid when they picked it up. Conversely, they dined in and exchanged money at the end of the meal.
To reduce exchanging items, most restaurants now require prepayment for delivery and pickup. The customer adds payment info to their phone. Paying digitally eliminates the need for money to exchange hands and reduces exposure to germs.
Keep in mind most will pay with a credit card, and you’ll have processing fees you didn’t experience with cash exchanges. Adjust your pricing accordingly.
Mark Delivery Cars
There are several reasons to place vinyl wraps on your delivery cars, or at least a car topper showing the company they work for.
You accomplish a couple of things by marking cars delivering your goods. First, people know the delivery is actually from your place of business. They don’t have to worry about someone with ill intent knocking on their doors.
Second, the wrap or topper serves as an advertisement that your brand delivers to the local area. People may not be aware you offer the service unless they see a vehicle in their neighborhood, and this can be a great way to attract new customers.
Most big chains use a topper, such as Jimmy Johns and Pizza Hut. They aren’t an expensive addition and can be placed on the top of any car, even non-company vehicles.
Pitfalls to Avoid
As with any service you provide your customers, no-contact delivery comes with some challenges. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure the experience is the best it can be.
Untrained Delivery Drivers
In the push to fill the need for alternative shopping methods, businesses hired more people or threw current employees into new positions. They might have as much training as you’d like.
The last thing you want is to alienate customers because of a bad experience due to lack of training. Take the time to make sure you train all regular staff on your customer service policies.
You should train them thoroughly in safety measures and appropriate social distancing and teach them to do extra things that make your company stand out from others.
Permit your employees to think outside the box for solutions. Reward them when they improve customer satisfaction.
You may have a pretty good idea now of how to juggle delivery traffic flow. What happens if there is a sudden demand, such as for a holiday or special event? Do you have a plan in place for contactless delivery demands during peak times?
Suppose you don’t have enough people to cover deliveries, limit slots. Encourage customers to plan ahead and schedule times in advance. Offer a discount for repeat deliveries you can count on.
Lack of Employees
Essential services such as grocery stores discovered the difficulties in keeping up with the high number of orders for delivery and curbside pickup. It isn’t always easy to locate and train reliable workers.
One solution lies in third-party providers. Restaurants can tap into apps such as DoorDash and GrubHub to provide their food to residents without hiring delivery drivers of their own.
Hire seasonal workers for peak times. Look for ways to increase efficiency and productivity with your current workforce.
Make sure Magento or whatever software you’re using to manage orders is updated, and you’ve added extensions to handle deliveries.
How well your system functions directly impacts the customer experience. Have you ever tried to place an online order with a system that malfunctions? It’s frustrating, and you likely abandoned the shopping cart.
Baymard looked at 44 different studies of e-commerce shopping cart abandonment. It calculated an average 69.8% rate. Any small improvement in those numbers increases your revenue.
Paying More Than You Make
The pandemic has had a ripple effect on the economy, with the restaurant industry suffering more than many others. Statista reports a loss of $130 billion for restaurants and bars between March and October 2020.
You must be smart about where you spend your money. Charge a delivery fee if necessary, but only offer the service if you can still make money.
Restaurants operate on notoriously thin profit margins. Make sure you crunch the numbers about all costs involved, including how you package the food. If you can’t make a profit, there isn’t much point in offering the service.
Don’t let tight numbers deter you, though. You can add a surcharge for deliveries outside a particular area, tap into third-party providers and find creative ways to make money while still keeping things running.
A Growing Need
The pandemic increased the need for no-contact delivery. In some areas of the country, restaurants were under local mandates to not have diners in their locations. Others chose to shut down to the public.
Besides, people chose to stay home to protect themselves and their loved ones. They demanded services such as contact-free delivery and curbside pickup.
Now that people have grown accustomed to the convenience of online ordering and having items dropped at their door, the call for such services is sure to continue.
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the director at a marketing agency before becoming a freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.