Article by Bob Summers, General Manager of CallJoy
It’s no secret, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the official buzzword of the new decade. It is changing healthcare, finance and even the construction business. So, what is AI, really? Simply put, it’s the ability of a computer program or machine to think and learn. You’re probably already using a machine or computer to handle many of your daily tasks, so you might as well do it a little smarter, right? However, because AI has historically been an expensive investment, many owners haven’t seen it as an option for them to explore.
Fortunately, its rise in popularity and potential to improve productivity have made it more cost-effective than ever before. This has allowed for an increase in adoption, with many restaurants using it in ways that you may not even realize: mobile ordering, employee scheduling, and sales projections that inform purchasing decisions and help minimize food waste. Whether you’re a restaurant that offers takeout or fine dining, you can incorporate AI into your business’ day-to-day, starting with something very familiar — a phone call. Yes, the rise of AI has even made old school tech, like the telephone, much smarter. Here are four ways that intelligent phone tech can help you give your guests next-level service.
1. Get Customers the Information They Want Faster
With advanced phone technology in place, restaurant owners can use virtual agents to offer answers to common questions. For instance, if a customer asks, “Do you allow dogs on your patio?” The agent can respond, “Yes! We allow pups on our patio.” And if customers typically call to ask about happy hour or meal specials, owners can include that information in the programmed responses, too. This frees up staff to focus on dine-in guests and automates requests that restaurants get several times a day. Let your virtual agent text a customer directions to your restaurant while your human host seats guests that just strolled through the front door.
2. Make it Easier for Customers to Take Action
There are so many delivery and reservation apps that it can be overwhelming for customers. It’s hard to figure out which app works with which restaurant, prompting some to simply call to place an order or reserve a table. On the other hand, certain customers may not even be aware that their favorite restaurant offers a digital way to manage food deliveries or reservations, so their first instinct is to call. Modern phone technology can help address both of these scenarios by allowing restaurants to text callers a URL to the restaurant’s ordering or third-party online reservation app. For instance, if a caller says, “I’d like to place a to-go order,” the agent can respond with, “OK, I can text you a link to order via the Slice app or connect you to the host directly. Which would you prefer?” When callers choose to order online, it will free up your host to focus on seating dine-in guests.
3. Staff appropriately based on the most frequent call times
You probably look at historical sales data, neighborhood traffic patterns and nearby events when considering your staffing needs. But, have you ever considered the number of calls you receive? In some cases, like private dining requests, corporate event planning, or large catering orders, missing a call can lead to thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Advanced phone technology will allow you to track incoming call volume and peak times to inform your staffing decisions, and help you capitalize on more business opportunities. Knowing which hour of day and day of week customers are most likely to call your business can help you plan to be well-staffed and meet consumer demand.
4. Improve Touch Points Between Employees and Customers
Even the best restaurant training programs can’t anticipate every customer service issue. And while cross-training is a great practice, each employee will have a different level of comfort when handling customer questions on the phone or knowing what information is important to relay to managers and event planners. For phone training, you can use a call recording feature to find good examples of positive customer interactions. Some modern phone systems even provide transcripts, which should be reviewed often in order to keep track of details, get ahead of any customer service issues and give specific feedback to individual employees.
Fortunately for independent restaurants, AI driven phone technology has recently become much more affordable, intuitive and easy-to-use. Answering calls with intelligence provides a streamlined experience and increases levels of customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. The combination of AI and the human connection has the capacity to take customer service to the next level.
Bob Summers is general manager of CallJoy, which was built within Area 120, Google’s internal incubator for experimental ideas. CallJoy is an easy-to-use cloud-based phone agent that enables small business owners to delight customers. Facebook • Twitter