Technology continues to have a positive impact on the restaurant industry and has without a doubt helped operators reduce labor costs and streamline operations. The pandemic sped up the adoption of tech, and there is little possibility of going back to where we were pre-pandemic.
Yet the need for humans to connect with other humans remains strong; especially when it comes to the hospitality industry where people enjoy being catered to. The key is in creating a balance between technology and personal touch.
Customer service technologies should be viewed as tools for staff, not replacements. Below are a few scenarios in which personal touch trumps technology in delivering customer satisfaction.
When it comes to service, the National Restaurant Association's 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report shows that 68% of adults prefer traditional service from a server over ordering or paying via tablet or phone app. While technologies such as kiosks and mobile ordering are certainly efficient, it is not possible to personalize every experience. Customer satisfaction is often rooted in the personal attention staff provides to each guest.
Humans long for emotional connections. When a customer has a meaningful interaction with staff, they are more likely to remember the experience and want to return. Personal touch is how a restaurant stands out from the competition and lets customers know what the brand is about. Building a loyal customer following by connecting emotionally with guests is key to increasing a restaurant’s long-term profitability.
Avoiding safety issues
What happens when a customer wants to modify a dish in a way that is not pre-programmed? Machines can only complete the assigned tasks in a very precise manner. If a special situation were to arise, then human intervention would be required. Having a backup system in which a waiter could run to the back to inform the kitchen that a customer has severe dairy allergy and cannot have their hamburger grilled on the same grill as a cheeseburger would allow for an exchange that could avoid illness.
Many food ordering systems can be programmed to ask questions intended to upsell. But the art of menu recommendations feels more like talking to a friend than punching YES/NO buttons. The art of menu recommendations allows interactions with customers in a whole new way. Staff gets the chance to present themselves as an expert. Done correctly, it has the ability to boost everything that a restaurant business thrives on: sales, positive experiences, and strong relationships.
While some machines are equipped with learning AI that allows them to adapt to situations, it is unable to read its audience. This can be unfortunate when dealing with an unsatisfied customer since 50% of communications come from tone of voice, stance, facial expression, and other forms of body language. When it comes to resolving issues that require a personal touch, humans cannot be replaced.
Machines cannot be empathetic. Most customers want to ask questions or share their opinions and receive an immediate response, making the personal touch in customer service a vital part of customer satisfaction. It is the human touch that takes an experience from effective to exceptional.
Obtaining positive reviews
43% of customers are likely to leave a review after a positive customer experience. But guests know when they are interacting with bots, making it easy to decline the interaction. When engaged by a manager asking specific questions like “Was the steak to your liking?” — that is an interaction difficult to avoid. It creates the perfect opportunity for staff to gain honest feedback while building a repour with the customer.
Using technology in the restaurant industry can provide a multitude of options. Technology can be used as a great enabler of customer satisfaction, but should be considered an enabler, not a replacement. The key is finding the perfect balance of high-tech and high-touch service.
About the Author
Jennifer Simmons is Director of Marketing at Restaurant365. From digital presence to public relations, event planning to internal communications, she is an excellent leader for all marketing elements.