3 social customer service lessons from Olive Garden

In just six months the restaurant chain went from providing no customer service on social media to successfully launching a personable engagement strategy. Here’s how.

About a year ago, if you posted a question, complaint or compliment on one of Olive Garden’s social media pages, the company probably would have ignored you.

According to Justin Sikora, director of public relations and social media for Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden’s owner), it’s not that Olive Garden didn’t care—it just wasn’t staffed to care.

An agency created promotions and campaigns for Olive Garden’s social media, and its job was to push messages—not help customers.

In his presentation at SocialMedia.org’s Member Meeting in Chicago, Sikora explained how his team turned around Olive Garden’s social media with a six-month program.

Here are a few ideas from his case study:

1. Take social media from marketing and give it to PR.

Once the public relations team took over social media, it could join tougher conversations, like those about breastfeeding in restaurants, about wages and food preparation—not just promotional details.

2. Bring community management in-house.

Sikora hired two community managers. Instead of just getting briefed on promotions, the community managers joined brand meetings, built relationships with Olive Garden employees and visited test kitchens to become a voice for the brand.

3. Emphasize guest relations.

Sikora says bringing in the guest relations team early helped the social media team understand the nuances of customer service. But Sikora didn’t just ask for the guest relations team’s opinion-he let them know Olive Garden’s social media couldn’t succeed without their skills.

Watch Sikora’s talk in the video below:

A version of this article originally appeared on SmartBlog on Social Media.

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