Major brands have recognized that the key to continued success is putting the customer front and center. For social media managers, this has meant moving beyond marketing, and prioritizing customer service and engagement.

Your customers want social care, and companies have never been better equipped to deliver. However, the strategy you started the year off with has likely evolved based on your performance metrics. So how can you be sure that you’re providing your customers with the highest level of social care?

During a recent #SproutChat, we asked our community what they thought were the most effective ways to provide memorable customer service through social media. We’ve collected the key takeaways from their feedback and suggestions for you below.

Really Listen

Communication is becoming increasingly transparent between companies and their customers. If left unsatisfied, it takes only a keyword search or a well-targeted campaign for one of your competitors to reach a disgruntled customer. Today, it’s more important than ever to incorporate smart, active listening into your strategy.

It’s not enough to just direct confused customers to your FAQ and hope that fixes whatever it is they’re complaining about. You need to really hear what they’re saying and do everything you can to resolve the problem. Even if their question is easily answered by your FAQ, that’s supplemental to the care you can offer them.

Additionally, active listening means that you’re not waiting for customers to come to you. Don’t assume that everyone who has a question regarding your product or service is tagging your brand in their post. Let your customers know that the brand is listening by reaching out to them first.

Respond to Both Good and Bad Feedback

No one likes receiving negative feedback or getting a bad online review, but the easiest way to prevent them is to make sure your customers aren’t unhappy enough to post them in the first place. However, we know that’s not always possible, and sometimes — regardless of everything you do — some customers will still be unhappy. But the worst thing you can do is ignore it.

By choosing to shield your team from negative feedback you’re actually doing more harm than good. When it comes to social customer care ignorance is not bliss, and pretending that bad reviews don’t exist won’t make them go away. If anything, silence from your brand will likely frustrate the customer more while creating an opportunity for competitors to swoop in.

The best thing you can do is learn how to handle negative feedback and turn it into something constructive. Additionally, with help from social media monitoring, you can respond to negative posts more quickly which might help to ease some of the customer’s disappointment — don’t let unhappy customers stew.

Surprise and Delight

As exchanges become automated, consumers have become accustomed to receiving canned responses. That’s not a good thing. Whether it’s a knee-jerk reaction or a justified concern, personalize every response to your customers and ditch the robotic tone. Robotic or canned responses often get overlooked, and when they are noticed, they usually signify that there isn’t a real person on the other end. Even if you get asked the same question every week, treat each response as you would were it the first time.

Good customer service doesn’t stop when you hit “send.” Follow up with your customers to make sure the issue they reported has been resolved. This is a great way to set yourself apart from your competitors while demonstrating personalized customer care. Your follow-up also lets customers know that they have a place to turn to the next time they have a question rather than just broadcasting their frustration.

For more tips on becoming a social business and providing memorable social care, check out the transcript from week 7’s #SproutChat. Additionally, you can join us every Wednesday from 2pm to 3pm central on Twitter. For more topics and follow-up discussions, visit the #SproutChat community on Google+.