Increased Call Volume Due to COVID-19? Improve Your Bar’s Phone Line with AI

CallJoy phone technologyBetween managing employees and maintaining marketing channels to crafting a unique menu that goes beyond basic brews, today’s bar owners have more pressure to make their businesses stand out than ever before. Adding to this are the challenges of reopening in light of COVID-19 with new sanitizing and social distancing practices.

Their top priority, however, is to ensure profitability, which means they must first get patrons back through the door and then provide great customer service to encourage a steady stream of repeat business.

Technology and automation are going to be key moving forward, and there are now affordable technology tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that bars can use to streamline backend processes between the bar and front-of-house, allowing staff to consistently offer positive customer experiences that result in repeat customers and five-star Yelp reviews. In fact, many bars and restaurants are already using AI for serving tables, employee scheduling, managing inventory, and more.

But, if the thought of AI makes you think of robots serving drinks and running your business, think again. You can incorporate AI into your business’ day-to-day starting with something very familiar—your telephone.

According to a report by marketing platform BrightLocal, 60% of customers prefer to call local businesses rather than contact them through email or online forms. Post COVID-19, this percentage is only likely to increase as customers have questions about takeout, seating arrangements, dine-in setups, and even whether a bar has reopened.

However, with limited staff, late-night hours, and noisy environments, promptly answering customer calls at a bar can be a challenge. Below are four ways that intelligent phone technology can seamlessly combat these challenges, give your patrons next-level service, and ultimately help you to scale your business.

1. Avoid Missed Calls During Your Busiest Times and Closed Hours

Depending on a bar’s clientele, peak service times can occur during happy hours, immediately after dinner, or last until the wee hours of the morning. However, customer calls don’t always mirror a bar’s busiest hours, as potential patrons may call to arrange a special event or check to see if you have the credit card they forgot to close out the night before. And if your hours have changed due to COVID-19, this can mean even more missed calls.

It doesn’t make financial sense for a bar or nightclub to have someone working daily from 9 am-5 pm simply to answer the phone, but missing out on calls at that time could mean missing out on a large party reservation and revenue opportunities. In fact, 85% of customers whose calls you miss will not call your business back.

With advanced phone technology, bar owners can count on a virtual agent and AI-enabled technology to answer 24/7, meaning that customers can always get the answers they need no matter what time of day they call.

2. Answer Every Call Without Competing with Background Noise

Between preparing cocktails, seating patrons, and clearing tables, it’s no wonder waitstaff at bars struggle to answer incoming telephone calls. And, when employees can answer the phone, they often struggle to hear the person on the other end of the line because of loud music or chatty customers. Instead of missing out on calls, bar owners can use advanced phone technology to answer every call and offer answers to common questions. For instance, if a customer asks, “Do you have a Wednesday night special?” a voice agent can respond, “Yes! On Wednesdays, we offer half-priced bottles of wine.”

If customers typically call to ask about hours, prices, or location information, owners can include that information in the programmed responses, too. Bar owners may even want to consider including a programmed response relating to their reopening and any new practices they have implemented in the wake of COVID-19. This frees up staff to focus on in-person customers and automates requests that employees get several times a day.

3. Empower Customers to Book Tables Digitally

If you think it’s tough to communicate basic “yes” or “no” answers over the phone in a loud environment, imagine how hard it must be for hostesses to verbally convey more detailed information. Fortunately, beyond providing automated responses, modern phone technology can also connect callers to information that they can view online, such as menus or reservations. For instance, if a caller asks, “Do you offer VIP service?” a voice agent can respond with, “Yes! We offer bottle service, table reservations, and VIP sections. Can I text you a link to view our bottle service options and book a table?” When callers choose to schedule their reservations or view menus online, staff can focus on providing in-person service.

And with more bars and restaurants reducing capacity and spacing out seating, reservations will be more important than ever. If establishments make it easier for customers to reserve tables and special events—through multiple platforms—they are likely to bring in more reservations.

4. Improve Employee Phone Training to Enhance Customer Service

While advanced phone systems can streamline nearly all customer calls, there are times when it’s necessary for staff to personally provide customer service over the phone. However, due to the high turnover in the industry, it can be difficult to ensure that callers are consistently receiving quality phone support from new employees.

For consistent and seamless employee training, you can use a call recording feature to find examples of positive customer interactions or to keep track of specific requests, such as party information. 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.

To improve the efficiency of backend business operations, bar owners can use technology tools to streamline processes that have previously required personal attention, such as answering customer calls and employee training.

If you’re looking to explore how affordable AI technology can help you better run your business and improve customer service, look no further than your phone line.

By Bob Summers, 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. Connect with CallJoy on Facebook and Twitter (@CallJoyAnswers).