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Communication is key

June 12, 2015
Diana Barthels

Diana Barthels

Customer relationships are key to success – and everybody has a customer.

Members of the NIU Division of University Advancement participated in a customer service training exercise on June 3, when Diana Barthel, senior manager of global training in sales, marketing, and revenue management for Marriott International, strove to drive home the importance of building relationships both inside and outside the office.

“Someone who is really good in sales might be tempted to save that wonderfulness for external customers,” Barthel said. “But we restrict ourselves when we put on that show for external customers and not for internal customers, the people we work with.”

Through a series of exercises, Barthel demonstrated how each person’s job depends on relationships with others. The key to good relationships, she said, is good communication – coming across as likeable and empathetic and validating others.

Even when you are in a bad mood or struggling with personal difficulties, Barthel said, to be a successful communicator, you need to put that aside and “put on a show.”

“How you interact with the people you work with internally and externally is a reflection of your personal brand and a reflection of NIU,” she said. “Every poor interaction is a chink in the armor of NIU.”

Joseph Matty, associate vice president of university advancement, said the training was a result of topics staff mentioned again and again in monthly division meetings as potential areas of improvement.

“We are a division that runs very well,” he said. “We’ve been talking for months about how we can get even better, and it dawned on us that there was an underlying theme of customer service.”

Barthel usually conducts training sessions for internal audiences within Marriott, but as a 1980 graduate of NIU’s art program, she said she was happy to return to NIU and share her expertise. The concepts of customer service and communication are not new to most people, she said, but training sessions are valuable in reminding employees to use the tools they have learned.

“All the departments and groups do a really good job,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for even more positive interactions, and by working toward that, we elevate the entire organization.”

After Barthel’s presentation, Kathy Blair, special assistant to the president of the NIU Foundation, took the floor to talk about how every member fits into the processes of the division. Before coming to NIU, Blair worked in customer relations for Southwest Airlines, a company known for its customer focus, Matty said.

For her presentation, Blair asked each of the approximately 50 people in the training session to describe their job and identify how their role fits with the rest of the division.

“Our mission is amazing. It’s serving our students and serving our donors,” Blair said. “And every one of us plays an important part in that mission.”