Taco Bell "Drop the chalupa" commercial (Screenshot: YouTube)

An interesting new feature turned up on Taco Bell’s official website back in August: a green bubble in the corner that, once clicked, allows visitors to chat with actual human beings and receive real-time responses to questions and comments. In a piece for Nation’s Restaurant News, Ron Ruggless explains why the Irvine, California-based fast food chain implemented this feature and how it works. In its advertisements, Taco Bell presents itself as a company that responds to its customers, so live chatting with them online seems like a natural.

According to the article, there are currently six Taco Bell customer care agents who, working in shifts, staff the live chat button and respond to Facebook and Twitter comments as well. Is it all complaints? Nope. Customer care manager Avery Block says that a lot of people just ask about nutrition facts or about how to get a job at Taco Bell. This requires agents to have a broad knowledge of the company. “Any question that comes through, they are able to get the answer,” Block promises. The internet might take that as a challenge.

So, seeing as how the same basic questions come up over and over again, why isn’t a robot doing this work? A computer could have infinite Taco Bell-based knowledge that it could access at a moment’s notice. Taco Bell did experiment with an artificial intelligence “Tacobot” on the messaging platform Slack in the past, but it opted for human beings on its own site, citing flexibility as a concern. “At the end of the day,” Block explains, “service involves being human.”


The live chat feature is not constantly available, however, and the button “can be instantly removed,” the article warns. So how are people using it so far? According to Taco Bell senior director Lawrence Kim: “People often leverage live chat—as dangerous as it sounds—while they are waiting in the drive-thru.”