August 27, 2019

A guide to getting started with chatbots for restaurants

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely come across the term “chatbot” in some way.

The word “chatbot” combines chat and robot simply put, that is precisely what it is.

The term chatbot gained popularity in and around 2016 around the time Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook’s Messenger platform which was a new service to enable businesses to make more effective use of Facebook by allowing even smaller businesses to build bots that would attempt to provide real-time customer service powered by AI.

From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense: most businesses are on Facebook, most of their customer are on Facebook, the Facebook platform already has a massive database….what’s not to like?

In this article, we’re going to take a deep-dive into the world of chatbots to help you decide if this might be something your restaurant wants to try out.

The basics first.

What is a bot?

A chatbot is a program that can automate the process of a chat with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Whilst neither AI nor chat programs are new, what is special about Facebook’s chatbot is that it uses the Wit.ai bot engine which can turn natural language into structured data.

Simply put, this means that not only can Facebook messenger bots understand and converse in a more natural language they can also learn from it i.e. become “smarter” with each chat interaction.

How your restaurant can benefit from using a chatbot

Although AI has come a long way, when it comes to voice recognition and natural speech processing it still has some way to go.

The conversational capabilities of chatbot is currently more suited to carry out basic conversations and tasks: booking a restaurant reservation or a doctor’s appointment.

Some digital assistant apps are now also coming equipped with native features to automate certain tasks for you. For e.g., Google is soon to launch new features for its assistant enabling it to make eerily lifelike phone calls for you to book a restaurant reservation (but you will have to use your Google Assistant for that).

Another way a chatbot can add real value to your restaurant operations is providing an AI-powered interface for your customer interactions. For e.g., whilst interacting with a website visitor and then taking the basic details such as name, phone and email and then emailing you those over so you can get in touch with the prospect (or customer) directly.

On a very simple level and with the current level of their advancement, chatbots have the potential to make your organisation more efficient, reduce costs and admin time esp. in areas where repetitive tasks are common.

How do potential customers find bots in Facebook Messenger?

The first question for any restaurateur is how will people find your product, or chatbot in this case, once you’ve built it.

The answer here is that users are able to search for companies and bots inside Facebook Messenger by name so that is one way. However, just as your post’s organic reach is now limited and some promotion is a must esp. for restaurants, the same goes for getting the word about your chatbot out there.

Here are some tools Facebook have released that can make it a little easier for potential diners and customers to find and interact with your chatbot

Messenger Links

If you have a Page for your business, Messenger links will use your Page’s username to create a short link e.g. m.me/username. Whenever you click on that link, it will open a conversation in Messenger regardless of where you open that link from.

Try it now.

Customer Matching

Using customer matching, you can find your customers on Facebook via their phone numbers assuming you have permission from them to do so.

Conversations initiated via customer matching will have a final opt-in during the first Facebook Messenger chat interaction.

Messenger Codes

Messenger codes are unique images that serve as a visual thumbprint for your business and bot on Messenger. If you are familiar with Snapchat codes, these visual cues act in the same way, redirecting anyone who scans them using Messenger to the corresponding company page or bot.

Messenger Buttons

No doubt you’ve seen these before and these are provided b Facebook so you can embed them in places such as your website and wherever else you want to facilitate Facebook Messenger chat interactions.

How you can use chatbot to aid your restaurant marketing efforts

1) Create and enhance your subscription list

The size (and quality) of your email list is one of your most valuable business assets and a Messenger chatbot can go a long way in helping you increase it.

Marketers that use chatbots are seeing 80% open rates and 50% click-through rates on their chatbot messages. This is about 5x more effective than email.

Many chatbot apps can now automatically add the details of each person you chat with into a chat subscription list and these can be in some cases more effective since not only are chat messages and conversations more information, they are typically shorter and not as commonly used as emails and newsletters.

 

2) Create chatbot-powered lead magnets

Exit intent popups and can have a major positive impact on your website’s conversion rates and you can greatly enhance their usefulness with chatbots.

For e.g., Andrew Warner of Bot Academy uses pop ups which have 2 parts.

The first is your typical popup asking user to enter their email:

The second looks like this and has the option to join a chat conversation via Messenger:

The beauty of this approach is that not only is the user added to the email list, oftentimes, they opt for the send to Messenger option as well which means they also get added to an chat subscription list.

3) Spreading the word about offers or new products

Although email is still one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing especially for B2B, chatbots are now a close second and in fact can often be more effective than email since the chat medium is relatively less used still.

Just like you would’ve sent out a newsletter to all of your email subscribers informing them of a new product or offer, you can now expand your reach and get greater brand exposure by leveraging on your chat subscription list to do the very same thing.

And, as mentioned before, your conversion rates from chatbots can often be much higher since there’s a good chance most of your competitors arent using this platform as of yet.

Some other cool things you can do with chatbots

Use as a shopping assistant

Thank Nordstrom from across the pond for this. They launched a chatbot for the holiday season in 2016 which helped customers choose and ultimately buy products via smarter suggestions.

Not only was the chatbot a huge success in being able to handle a larger number of shoppers it also provided customised product recommendations, answered questions and enable immediate purchases.

Buy food

The way you order food has evolved over the years. First you had the paper menu, then came aggregate sites like Just Eat and Deliveroo along the same time many restaurants started to have their own online ordering system integrated with their websites and Social Media platforms.

Now, restaurants are embracing chatbots to enable customers to order online via chatbots. 2 prominent players in this space are Chatobook and BellyHungry 

In some ways, chatbots can better suggest food recommendations than us since they can take historical, location and type of cuisine data to make suggestions.

Get valuable and actionable business insights 

Regardless of what purpose you decide to use chatbots for, ultimately you’re looking for a way for it to provide a positive Return on Investment right? Yep, and chatbots like StatsBot (we love the wordplay too”) are designed to precisely that.

StatsBot connects with other data points like SalesForce, Google Analytics, SQL databases to help you get the most out of your business.

If you want to increase your sales, simply ask the bot to show you the outliers this week, what categories are selling the most, the least, what sources bring the most customers, etc. Then go, and you can focus on what matters and drop the things that aren’t making you money.

It’s a brilliantly efficient technology that relies on AI to spot the data that will take you weeks, if not months to catch.

So, are you ready to jump on the build-me-a-chatbot wagon?

Great, here are some things to keep in mind if you’ve decided to take the plunge and build a chatbot of your own.

1) Decide on the platform

There’s a whole slew of chat platforms so first decide where your target audience hangs out the most and start there to make the most of your chatbot investment. More interactions means more qualitative and quantitative data , both of which are worth their weight in gold when you build your second chatbot for another platform.

2) What is the goal?

The worst thing you can do is build a chatbot just because ‘everyone’s doing it’. You’re likely not going to get all that much value from it and your business ROI is going to be limited.

Instead, first ask yourself what purpose can the chatbot serve: provide tech support? Generate leads? Provide customer service?

Think about how and where it can add most value and start there.

3)  Use third-party resources

There’s no need to build your own bot from scratch. There are tons of third-party chatbot programs that allow you to easily create bots that integrate with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat or Viber.

Here are a few readymade chatbot platforms you can use — all are compatible with Facebook Messenger, and they could work on other platforms, too:

MobileMonkey: A popular chatbot platform, you can enlist MobileMonkey to create your chatbot for you or learn to create your own.

Flow XO: This is a flexible chatbot solution that allows users to create fully automated bots.

Chatfuel: Chatfuel claims that you can create a chatbot in seven minutes using their platform — no coding required.

4) And, finally, don’t compromise

It is incredible just how easy it has now become to build a basic chatbot. However, one that works and delivers what you need it to do is far more challenging.

Unless you have the technical resources and expertise inhouse, it might be worthwhile to deploy the use of an external agency to help you with this.

Some examples of chatbots in action that you may or may not have experienced

Lyft

Although not so big here in the UK, Lyft is the only real competitor to Uber in the US and uses chatbot quite effectively to keep its customers up-to-date and informed.

What’s more, the chatbot is able to add further value by increasing safety for its passengers. For example, as soon as a ride is arranged and the driver gets dispatched, the bot sends a photograph of the driver’s licence plat and a description of the vehicle so customers have a visual representation of what the car looks like.

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Fandango

If you’re a movie buff, you’ve interacted with the Fandango brand in some way. The app is extremely popular for watching trailers, read and posts reviews of films and interact with others who share the same interest as you do.

Fandango’s chatbot is pretty spot-on when it comes to suggesting new movie trailers to watch based on your past viewing pattern and interests. Not just that, each time you’ve seen a preview, using your location data, it can suggest nearest cinemas showing the film and even show times. You could argue that IMDB does the latter as well without any fancy AI powered chatbot but it’s the way Fandango brings it all together in a single seamless experience is what makes the difference.

Spotify

Spotify’s Facebook Messenger chatbot is another chatbot that does away with any unnecessary bells and whistles and focuses on the task of providing value to the user experience.

Not only does it do a great job of suggesting new music based on what you’ve listened to before, it can learn to fine-tune its suggestions to you with the power of its AI brain.

It can also answer questions related to your account as well as show clips of songs your friends might be interested in hearing.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is using chatbots and AI in some new and clever ways which is exciting.

For e.g., showing relevant recipes based on an actual search is nothing new. However, taking emoji data into account when doing so is novel.

Whole Foods allows consumers to search for recipes based on emoji reactions which means not only are the recipes and suggestions likely to be of a higher quality since it takes a new data point into account, even those who don’t use emojis can tune in to the younger mindset!

Apart from that, the chatbot also serves some basic and useful functions such as checking stock for the ingredients in a recipe in your local or nearest store.

That’s that for now! We hope you find this short guide useful and of course, as always if Routes 4 Media can be of help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.