Networking Tips for Contact Center Management

The art of networking is an acquired skill requiring practice and finesse. Most contact center management associates, along with others, don't know how to effectively network. Attending an event or conference just with business cards in hand is not networking, although it is an opportunity for enrichment. Keep reading for networking tips so participating in a conference has a dual purpose: personal enhancement and the chance to build connections for business with others in your field.

I first and foremost think of how much I enjoy networking. I like meeting new people with the hope of getting to know them better. What is my focus? How can I help them, either with business or personally?

It's important that your attention is not on what another person can do for you but actually, how you can help someone else. What goes around, comes around.

One of my networking contacts shared that his son was hoping to get into MIT, a challenge not only to get accepted but to apply. Because of my expanded network, I was able to connect my new-found friend's son with someone I met through networking, a gentleman who interviews candidates for MIT. It was a perfect match.

Networking is about creating and building lasting relationships. Many times those relationships grow beyond business connections and turn into enduring personal friendships. By the way, my friend's son was accepted to MIT. I felt fulfilled knowing I helped a young man whom I had never even met complete a lifetime dream.

Networking is a golden opportunity to expand your knowledge base. Each individual has different life experiences gained through years of schooling, business management, and personal relationships with others. I often ask people I meet for the first time to recommend a favorite book or movie or a valuable educational program or event I could attend.

When I'm planning to attend a conference, of course I take my business cards; in fact I never leave home without them. Additionally I do my homework and further prepare a comprehensive check-list of action items:

  • Study the conference program in advance for content and decide on which sessions to attend, especially when concurrent sessions are offered. I try to learn as much about the speakers in advance. Generally, at conferences, the speakers have the largest networks and are most often willing to share their experiences. This is not necessarily true of the paid keynote speakers, but those who participate on panels or conduct smaller workshops or sessions.
  • Look up the speaker's bio and LinkedIn profile and send a LinkedIn invite if you are not already connected. Generally, that is the case. On the invite write a message saying that you are looking forward to hearing their comments, etc.
  • Write notes during the sessions so you can refer back and refresh your memory at a later time.
  • Send a message referencing their comments when the speaker connects (and most of the time they do). People greatly appreciate that. This creates a personal interaction, and your new contact quickly learns that you pay attention to detail.
  • Engage with other conference attendees on a personal level. Don't focus on business. No one wants to talk business when they meet someone for the first time; they want to get to know you and visa-versa.
  • Schedule one-on-one follow-up meetings with people that you connected with at the conference. When you meet someone at an event, it's an opportunity to create a relationship; when you have a subsequent call or meeting, it helps to cement the bond. Just telling someone at a conference that you look forward to seeing them at another event is a dead end. It's like a retailer that has a sign on the back of their door, "Please come back." That means nothing. Saying, "I want to see you again, and let's make it happen soon," has a much greater impact.

Remember in many cases you only have one opportunity to turn a first encounter into a successful relationship. Remember, too, that the sole purpose of a business card is to relay contact information, not to initiate a relationship. A conversation makes the best first impression. The goal is to create an environment where the other person thinks, "I want to get to know him/her."

Contact center management is a wonderful career. Running a contact center requires many skill sets that extend outside the company. Learning to successfully network adds valuable perspectives, knowledge, and opportunities from new people you meet who are experts in their fields. Networking creates an opening for growth as a person and the chance to expand career opportunities.

The next time you look at a business card, don't think contact information, think relationship. It will set you on the right path.

Richard Shapiro is founder and president of The Center for Client Retention.