There’s no question that the restaurant delivery and reservations experience has become increasingly digitized in recent years, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down in the future. At the current pace, you might even think that apps have replaced the more traditional processes for placing takeout orders, making reservations or asking menu questions, right? Not so fast.
A recent study found that 60 percent of consumers prefer to pick up the phone to get in touch with local businesses instead of emailing them or contacting them via social media. Combine this with the fact that restaurants get more customer calls than any other kind of small business and you can see why it’s important to provide an efficient and positive experience for customers calling your restaurant.
Despite the number of customer calls that come in, 62 percent of them go unanswered. Why? It simply isn’t feasible to have a dedicated employee whose sole responsibility is to answer incoming calls, as hosts and cashiers are typically tasked with both answering the phone and providing in-person customer service. Missed phone calls mean missed revenue opportunities, as most customers are unlikely to call back in such a crowded market and they’ll simply call their second choice.
To remain competitive and profitable, independent restaurants must overcome resource challenges to ensure they are connecting with their customers whenever the phone rings. Does that mean they need to hire someone to staff their phone line 24/7? Absolutely not.
Answering the Call
Along with the digitization of the restaurant industry, phone technology has also become much more advanced. Enterprise features that have previously been cost-prohibitive to small, independent restaurants are now available at an affordable cost. There are now phone solutions that allow owners and managers to see what their customers are calling about, the frequency at which they're calling and more. This visibility allows for more intelligent decision making that can increase revenue and improve the customer experience.
Here’s three ways that restaurants can make the most of advanced phone technology:
Get Customers the Information They Want Faster
With advanced phone technology in place, restaurant owners can use custom greetings to offer solutions that preemptively address common questions or call themes. For instance, if they know a lot of customers call with questions about where they are located, a manager could customize their greeting so that it gives callers an address up front, before connecting the call to the restaurant. This reduces the number of repetitive inbound calls and frees up time for employees to focus on other tasks. If customers typically call to ask about happy hour or meal specials, owners can include that in the greeting up front to help highlight them and drive more foot traffic. also adjust information on their website or other online business listings to ensure they reflect gluten-free and vegetarian options. Providing answers to common questions up front when diners call frees up staff to focus on dine-in guests and gets customers the answers they are looking for quickly.
Make it Easier for Customers to Take Online Action
As previously mentioned, the number of delivery and reservation apps has reached an all-time high. In fact, there are so many options that it can be confusing for customers to find which app works with which restaurant, prompting some to simply call their preferred restaurant 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 pick up the phone to call.
Modern phone technology can help address both of these scenarios by allowing restaurants to easily add an option for customers to opt-in to SMS text communication as part of their personalized greeting. The customer can choose whether they prefer to speak to someone or receive an automatic text message containing a URL that will prompt them to take an online action. For instance, “looking to make an order? we can text you a link to order via GrubHub or stay on the line to speak with our hostess directly.” Some customers will enjoy choosing a more modern experience and it will free your staff to focus on other customer needs.
Improve Touchpoints Between Employees and Customers
Even the best restaurant training program can’t anticipate every customer service issue that could arise in the future. 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. Call transcripts and recording features can be used as references for new employee training, keeping track of small details or when addressing any customer service issues.
Fortunately for independent restaurants, cloud-based phone technology has recently become much more affordable, intuitive and easy-to-use. Answering calls with intelligence provides a streamlined experience and keeps high levels of customer satisfaction, productivity and profitability. Since consumers’ preference for calling local businesses isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon, there’s never been a better time for restaurant owners to invest in their phone line.