The benefits of moving away from paper diaries to digital appointment management for restaurants are well documented.
But a basic contact form on a webpage may not be the ideal solution either, depending on how it’s incorporated.
Here are a few of the downsides of using a contact form to manage your restaurant customer bookings.
Not enough detail
Completing a contact form on a website may elicit an impersonal automated response and that’s hardly the optimum customer experience.
A variation on ‘thanks for your booking, we’ll be in touch soon’ doesn’t confirm for the customer any of the bespoke information they may need.
This might include a choice of table, an acknowledgment of dietary requirements or answers to specific questions.
And the vagueness of ‘we’ll get back to you’ is in stark contrast to most booking processes in other sectors.
If you book tickets for a concert or a plane, you can select your seats and specify any special requirements before you confirm.
Many of your customers could be wondering why some restaurants don’t offer the same convenience and attention-to-detail, especially if your competitor are already doing it.
You may have a great looking website with fantastic looking photos of your food, showcasing your staff, setting and menu in a great light.
But have you checked how your contact form works on a smartphone, tablet or different sized laptop displays?
If your contact form isn’t set up to provide a consistent user experience on all devices, particularly phones, it may turn customers off.
With far more webpage viewings (and subsequent form fillings) taking place on mobile, any form needs to be optimised to work in this format.
And one way to avoid this potential problem is by using a more comprehensive online table booking system.
With a non-automated system that relies on one of your staff receiving and responding to emails generated by a contact form, there are risks.
The most obvious being that someone looking online for restaurant bookings probably wants to confirm one there and then.
By the time you’ve got back to your customer, they may have secured an alternative table somewhere else.
And of course, they’re not likely to get back in touch to tell you they no longer need the booking, meaning more needless work for you too.
Meanwhile, without an automated system sending out booking reminders or providing cancellation links, customers are much less likely to no show. In fact, most restaurants see a significant drop in no shows when they switch to a table reservation system.
Want to move beyond contact forms?
While some may argue the cost associated with an online booking management system isn’t worth it, consider the alternative.
Bookings lost to no-shows, or abandoned forms will always outweigh any expenditure on improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.