In May of last year, Google performed a stunning demo of their new Google Assistant feature, Google Duplex. Using an unparalleled level of human voice realism, Duplex was able to book a hair appointment on its user’s behalf live on stage. Since then, the world has been waiting for a chance to use this new technology themselves. Now, less than a year later, the first iteration of this voice technology is available to the public.
Google announced in early March that 43 US states now support restaurant reservations via Google Assistant. Using the same natural voice conversation technology demonstrated in May, Google will call a restaurant and make bookings on your behalf. All you have to do is ask—”Hey Google, book a table for four people at Don Vito’s tomorrow night”—and Assistant will use Google’s Duplex AI to call the restaurant and attempt to book the table for you. If the booking is successful, you’ll receive a notification on your phone and the appointment time will automatically be added to your calendar.
An effortless experience for restaurant patrons
These capabilities are only available to Pixel phone users initially, but will be expanded to iOS and Android in the coming weeks. Other parts of the US will be added as Google works around state laws that forbid robocalls. Of course, any phone user in America may question the real-world effectiveness of these laws, but Google will comply with them until caveats are added for the Assistant’s genuine booking requests.
Google has also noted that further functionally is currently being tested. In the not-too-distant future, you can expect your Google Assistant to not only check hours of operation but also interface with third-party booking software. So an automated phone call will not always be required; instead, it will be used as a fallback if third-party software doesn’t work or isn’t available.
What does it mean for my restaurant?
For business owners, it is important to note that receiving Google Assistant voice calls is an automatic opt-in. All new and old local listings on Google My Business (GMB) are set to accept voice calls by default, but you can deselect this option in your GMB dashboard or by calling GMB support.
However, making your listing voice-search incompatible will only make it harder for customers to connect with you. In fact, voice search is already critically important to the restaurant business—and with 50% of all searches predicted to be voice by 2020, every restaurant, cafe, and coffee shop must be ready for this shift in user behavior.
Remember that voice search has far less human interaction than its desktop and mobile cousins. There are no screens, voice search algorithms can only work with what they’re given, and the response to a query will usually take the form of a single result. If your online data is less than 100% accurate (and incorrectly formatted for voice), the smallest error will cost you that coveted #1 voice search spot.
The early bird catches the early adopter
The time to optimize your online listings is now. If you wait until voice search becomes ubiquitous, your listings will already be losing out to businesses that proactively catered to voice search’s early adopters. It will only be an uphill battle as their established voice search authority easily outranks your newly compatible listings.
Want to prepare for the future of search, and transform your listings in desktop and mobile? All you have to do is give us a call. (Google Assistant can’t do that for you… Yet.)