A few years ago, I found myself looking at a stack of business cards collected from a recent conference. I had met so many great people but could never seem to find the time to deepen a relationship beyond colleagues I saw every day. As the leader of the company, relationship building is a large part of my job. However, a strong company depends on thriving networks across the whole team—customer service representatives, field teams, engineers, and of course, our client managers—not just our business development team and me. Each interaction with a member of our team makes an impression and connection that can help or hinder program satisfaction and project sales.

Building and maintaining professional relationships is fundamental to our Evergreen culture. Recently we worked on sharpening our own networking skills to enhance client service. Many of the concepts we explored can have value for other organizations focused on improving customer experience. After all, the core of customer satisfaction is a solid relationship.

Here are a few ways we’ve been learning to energize the professional networks across our team and improve the customer experience:

Start with Three. Challenge yourself to tackle that stack of business cards. Each month connect with one person within your company, one person outside your company, and one friend that you haven’t spoken to in at least six months. You’ll be surprised by how energizing that small effort can be. Once you’ve met this goal, challenge your management team to do the same, and so on.

Branch out. Don’t just stick to your industry network. It’s difficult to predict where the market is headed, or where your business might come from—maybe even outside of your typical network. Some of the best ideas in our industry come from practices that have been applied for years in others.

Put people first. Help your teams take a genuine interest in people and their needs—not just in making a sale or resolving a customer’s question. Focus first on cultivating a relationship that is based on a real human connection and understanding. When everyone gives and gains, solutions generally surface organically.

Build trust. People need time to know they can count on you. Be patient and invest in the relationship first. Whether the connection results in new business, a happy customer, or a friendship, everyone wins.

Relationship-focused networking aligns customers with the resources they need, breeds creativity and builds a stronger internal team. That’s the key to a great customer experience. And maybe that stack of business cards on the desk will start to look like opportunity rather than clutter.