5 Ways to Reduce Errors in Voice Ordering

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This post is the latest in our “Beyond the Screen” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of February, and you can see the rest of the series here

Can you please repeat that? As smart speakers become ubiquitous in homes across the country, more people are ordering takeout from their favorite restaurants without ever picking up a telephone.

Restaurant chains like Wingstop, Domino’s, Panera, and Round Table have created their own skills to make it easier for people to place orders through voice assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home. But before voice ordering can truly disrupt the restaurant industry, restaurants have to find ways to reduce the friction and eliminate the kinds of errors that lead to incorrect deliveries.

Without the ability to see how their orders have been placed, consumers are more likely to discover errors when their food arrives. Consumers can also run into trouble when they accidentally order items that aren’t on the restaurant’s menu, or when they can’t remember the specific names of certain dishes.

Here’s how some of the country’s top restaurant chains are overcoming the challenges associated with voice ordering and developing more frictionless customer experiences.

1. Reordering Options
Domino’s is one of a handful of restaurant chains to implement a reordering option for customers who order via voice. Customers can save a default order from their existing accounts, called an “Easy Order,” and then say, “Alexa, order a pizza from Domino’s” to place that same order again. They can also re-order recent orders saved in their “Pizza Profiles.” This strategy minimizes the number of words that users have to speak when placing new orders and cuts down on the potential for misinterpretations or other issues that often come along with voice ordering.

2. Machine Learning
Using machine learning, some technology companies are providing restaurants with information to unlock deep levels of menu personalization. For example, consumers with younger-sounding masculine voices might be more likely to want certain add-on items than consumers with older-sounding feminine voices. Machine learning can also be used to detect emotional states, which means restaurant chains will eventually be able to develop better voice ordering flows based on customer moods and demographic information.

3. Linked Loyalty Programs
Consumers share all kinds of information with restaurants when they join their loyalty programs. Beyond just their names, email addresses, and phone numbers, consumers who sign up for these programs are giving restaurants a way to track their orders in exchange for special benefits like free items and quicker service. When Dunkin’ Donuts started accepting voice-enabled orders with an Alexa skill in 2018, the company made the feature exclusive to members of its DD Perks Rewards program. Making program membership a requirement meant that all ordering and payments were handled on the Dunkin’ Donuts mobile platform, which ultimately led to a more streamlined, positive experience for consumers.

4. Natural Language Ordering
The companies that develop speech technology are working to adapt natural language technology in a way that makes it easier for people to order via voice. With the right technology in place, people can place orders via smart speakers with interactive dialogue, just like they would in person. So instead of ordering a pizza and then individually going through all of the customization options one by one—size, toppings, crust style, etc.—consumers can simply ask for a “large, thin-crust pepperoni pizza.”

5. Build on Previous Interactions
Whether they’re using chatbots, AI, or another voice technology, restaurants should be capturing the information gleaned through voice interactions and using that information to recognize preferences during future engagements. For example, if a Starbucks customer always orders vanilla syrup in her coffee, and then one time she doesn’t ask for the syrup, the company should recognize the change and confirm whether the customer wants the syrup before finalizing the order. Being able to gauge customer preferences and habits based on previous interactions is one of the ways that restaurants can improve the ordering experience and capitalize on what makes voice technology special.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.