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You’re in business, so you’ll know this feeling: You’re out with the family on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, having lunch. Work shouldn’t be further from your mind. But you just can’t help quietly critiquing each little interaction.

Why didn’t the waiter offer a dessert — surely the boss tells them to? Was the Lacquered Walnut finish in the gents really necessary?

Or maybe that’s just me. It’s probably just me. This restaurant was great, by the way. I had very little cause to lapse into petty judgements. Well, until the bill arrived.

Here’s a photo of it:

So I know what you’re thinking. You really, really want to tuck into that Fritto Misto. It was delicious.

But you saw the call to action on the receipt too, right? This one:

Download App
Earn Loyalty Points and Rewards
Receive Special Offers

So they make you download and install their app to connect with them and get in on their loyalty program. This is one step up from asking to email them or visit a website. But in my opinion, they’re missing a trick by not using a bot for this.

I value my phone real estate. Probably more than most, I accept. But I hate to have apps live on my phone that I don’t use often.

Then there’s the bandwidth you need to download an executable and run the app. It’s not huge, but connecting to this restaurant via messaging app would require no download, no SD card space, no wait.

So let’s preview the app itself on Google Play. It’s built on a customer loyalty product called Keeprz.

Within it, you can book a table, redeem coupons, and find out about the restaurants within this small, local group (there’s about 10 of them).

Now, this isn’t a teardown of the app or strategy. So I’m not going to comb through the app and point out what’s right or wrong.

Having said that, you can see from the reviews that the app isn’t being received particularly well.

Perhaps it has to do with setting expectations. When we download an app we expect a better experience than a website; hence we get frustrated when it’s “just a web wrapper.”

Chat doesn’t suffer that same steep expectation ramp. We simply expect to be able to get simple tasks done inside our messaging app, with a conversational approach.

There’s a whole argument about whether the chatbot should be intelligent or not. We won’t get into that here.

Here’s how I think the restaurant could benefit from moving this initiative to bots:

  1. Make it low friction. Just like supermarkets stick those treats on the checkout and expect us to incidentally purchase them without much thought, connecting to the restaurant via a messaging channel should be a no-brainer. In that way adoption should increase.
  2. Perform a perfectly executed onboarding exercise without having to get in the way of the user. The restaurant bot could find out what venue the customer is at, take their receipt number, and link that to an email address or phone number with just a few informal questions back and forth. I won’t patronize you by telling you how valuable that is.
  3. Offer multiple ways for the user to connect. It’s important to offer the user a choice of platforms — find us on Messenger, or say “hello” to 07712 345678. Using a platform like Flow XO, you can do this without any hassle. You build once, and it works everywhere that we support.
  4. Keep the customer in the loop in a familiar, chatty way. Email marketing still has its place, of course. But it’s getting more and more difficult to cut through. Bots give the restaurant a chance to be the customer’s “friend,” to send carefully crafted, highly targeted messages that show up alongside the customer’s other conversations. Of course, the number and tone of messages is crucial for this to work out well.

It will take some time before bots really hit the mainstream, but there are some shining examples of businesses in real need of them, right now.

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