Who’s got the bots? How restaurants are boosting business with AI

Artificial Intelligence is popping up all around us today – and chatbots have finally made their presence felt in the hospitality industry.

So how are savvy restaurateurs capitalising on this clever technology to deliver exceptional customer service and increased revenue?

The hospitality industry depends on personal interaction and exemplary service to thrive, of course.

But with the rise of mobile technology and the millennial generation the way we carry out that personal interaction has changed.

Young people are comfortable engaging with a device and prefer messaging to other forms of communication – so for restaurateurs seeking their business, it pays to capitalise on this behaviour.

Technology talks…

The good news is, the restaurant management technology for this exists now – for example, Open Table integrates with Facebook Messenger.

People can engage in conversations on Messenger about their dinner plans and before they know it they are booked into your restaurant, all thanks to a friendly bot.

Today’s generation of guests is far more likely to engage with your brand online or through a third-party website such as TripAdvisor than dial a number.

As instant messaging is often their preferred platform of communication, even for customer enquiries there’s a real opportunity for restaurants to use chatbot technology to engage with their guests 24/7.

TripAdvisor has also launched a chatbot for Facebook Messenger. Your guests simply send TripAdvisor a message and the chatbot will do the rest.

What’s more, they can invite friends into the conversation to review the suggestions or share an itinerary. Far more efficient than email.

Over time, the bot learns your guests’ preferences so if you are, for example, a sushi restaurant in London it pays to have impeccable TripAdvisor reviews when “sushi restaurant in Kensington” comes up as a Messenger search.

Personal service from a chatbot may seem counterintuitive. It requires a step change in thinking.

Customer service levels are often determined by a staff member’s mood – if they are in a great mood they will give great service and if they are in a bad mood then the service may suffer. A chatbot will always respond to customers in a positive way.

What does Facebook say?

  • > 76% users say mobile messaging apps have improved their lives
  • > 53% of people would rather message than call customer service.
  • > 53% of people are more likely to shop with a business they can message directly.

> That final statistic is the real killer…

Major companies such as Evernote have reported an 80% increase in the number of customers helped via direct messages in twitter per month as part of their social care strategy.

And leading chatbot developers Rakebot suggest that by the end of 2020, about 80% of businesses will adopt chatbots to increase their revenue.

Who’s already got the bots?

Restaurant brands such as Starbucks are using chatbot technology to enhance customer service – order by text and the bot will place your order and total it all up as fast as you can say pumpkin spice latte.

Pizza Hut is also using chatbot technology to keep ahead of the competition. The chatbot works with Messenger and twitter and customers can ask about the menu and special offers and place an order.

Time is money

As well as being convenient for your time-poor “digital native” guests, chatbot technology is good news for your staff as well.

You want your staff to be motivated, which creates efficiency and better guest service. The chatbot frees them from repetitive, mundane and demotivating tasks such booking tables or processing take-away orders.

If you can remove these tasks, then their time can be better spent on customer service and up-selling.

Also, as they are fully automated, the bots are available even when your restaurant is shut so the potential for more orders and bookings is greatly increased as your guests can contact you on their schedule and the bots can handle multiple simultaneous enquiries at once, so you never miss a potential sale.

Increased intelligence

For the savvy restaurateur, the chatbot can also help with insights into consumer behaviour that are simply impossible through a phone call or email. In difficult trading times it pays to have any information that can help you to up and cross sell more effectively.

With the chatbot technology you can gain insights into buying patterns and customer conversations that enable you to send highly targeted promotions.

The time is now

This chatbot technology is moving on at a pace, with full integration to restaurant point of sale systems now possible to offer a full to end service to your guests – all from a simple conversation on their phone or smart speaker.

As we have written elsewhere, digital transformation is revolutionising the restaurant industry. Leveraging existing chat bot technology such as TripAdvisor and Open Table is a simple process that can pay dividends for your brand.

If you wish to take it further then you can develop or purchase your own app – such as the Starbucks one – which has the benefit of being under your control and having your branding. What’s truly exciting is that off the shelf programs, such as Sprout Social, exist to enable you to get started quickly on this journey.

If you go down this route then integration with the restaurant point of sale system is key to delivering a seamless ordering experience – from message to an automated kitchen to table to mobile payments all in one slick process.

What’s more the chat bot technology offers the possibility of faster redemption rates on loyalty programs. Drinks brand Absolut reported a 4.7x uplift in sales on the back of their Messenger-based campaign.

All in all, the chatbot technology offers the perfect combination of speed of customer service and almost unlimited sales opportunities.

Now is the time to seize this tremendous opportunity. So isn’t it time you got with the bots?

Luis De Souza
Luis De Souza Chief Executive Officer Posted on: November 2, 2018
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