Everyone who owns a business or works in a customer-facing role in a company knows that customer service is job one. You can’t start or grow a business without customers, and without providing excellent, even exemplary, customer service, you simply won’t succeed.

So how do you accomplish this? One way is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. This is called developing a sense of empathy. In other words, seeing things from their perspectives, understanding their needs and wants and providing for them as effectively as possible. Remember, it’s all about keeping them satisfied. And why is this important? Because a satisfied custom is often a long-term customer and one who will tell others about you, helping you grow business.

Empathy is a tricky thing.

As human beings, we want what we want. But you can and should find ways to assure your customers that their needs are the most important thing in your professional relationship.

Here are five ways you can accomplish this.

1. Be a good listener.

The most effective interpersonal communicators are those who really and truly listen to what the other person is saying and respond to it, not those who are motivated to talk constantly. This isn’t new advice; you’ll find it in many sales training books, videos and seminars. The key here is to understand what your customers or clients are saying and why they’re saying it.

Being a good listener is absolutely essential if you’re going to serve their needs in an effective manner. For one thing, it enables you to parse what they’re saying so you can get to the root of what they really want. It also enables you to ask follow-up questions to more fully define what they want. One tip is to repeat back to them what they say, so they know that you’re really listening and you can confirm that what you believe you heard actually is what you heard.

2. Let them know that you empathize with what they’re saying.

Sometimes, a customer will have a complaint, either major or minor. When this happens it’s important to let them know that you care about their problem and would want the same resolution if you were them. Too many times, it’s easy to be reactive and even confrontational — and this is human because no one likes to receive criticism. But in the business relationship context, it’s much more effective to thank the customer for his or her comments and respond with phrases like, “I appreciate that you’re calling this to my attention” and “I agree — I wouldn’t appreciate having to deal with this either.”

3. Always keep your promises.

Look, we all have busy business lives. And it can happen that we tell a customer that they’ll have something in a week or 10 days, but we either get sidetracked or another problem occurs and they’re left waiting. You might think that an extra day or two won’t matter, but more than likely your customer is wondering why you’re running late. There’s a great saying in the customer service world — promise less than what’s expected and overdeliver. When you get down to it, your word is your bond. Any business leader who really empathizes with his or her customers will keep that person’s needs top of mind and make sure that every promise is kept, or let them know if there’s a problem that’s preventing it. Reassurance is a powerful tool.

4. Always be respectful.

I would guess that most of us have experienced the occasional disgruntled or highly demanding customer who is being unreasonable. In fact he or she can even be wrong. The key is not to allow people like this to stay angry. It might be that the person is having a bad day, or just needs to get it off his chest. For the business professional, this is an opportunity to show respect. Be polite. Be calm. If there’s a misunderstanding about something on the customer’s part, tactfully explain the problem without accusing or pointing fingers. And most important, offer to help.

5. Reinforce your empathy.

It’s always helpful to check it with customers when they least expect it. to ask how they’re doing without asking for anything in return. Ask if they’re having any issues that need to be addressed, or just ask if they need anything. Simply taking the opportunity to ensure that they’re happy and satisfied, and to express appreciation for their business, let’s them know that you care about them and their well-being.