“Every time a customer comes in contact with your company, you have an opportunity to create value. Capitalize on that opportunity and you win. Waste it and you lose. It’s as simple as that.” – Tom Connellan, Author, Inside the Magic Kingdom: Seven Keys to Disney’s Success
Make them happy, keep them happy and they will share the joy. It is the real truth for a successful business, but the truth is hard—so is the success.
Katrina Schlouthauer has made caring about her customer the focus of her working life.
“You can’t work in a service industry and not care about what your customer’s problems are,” says Katrina. “You have to think it could be you in their position, so how would you want to be treated? Who is going to be there for you?”
Where Katrina is now is immersed in HOPE—Helping Other People Everyday. That’s the mission of USHEALTH Advisors, a subsidiary of USHEALTH Group—serving the needs of the self-employed, individuals and families with affordable health coverage and supplements. Katrina serves as a Field Training Agent for USHA and it has been service that has been the driving force in her career, even going back to her first “colorful” job.
“My first job, I was 15 years old working at a tanning salon,” says Katrina. “It was fun because we were high school juniors and seniors. It was cool to work at a tanning salon where all your friends wanted to get the discount. The challenge was that my main job was cleaning the tanning beds. I mean, I liked helping and serving by doing it, but there wasn’t much room to grow in a tanning business and I certainly didn’t feel fulfilled.”
Her next opportunity to serve took her to a private golf club, working as a busser, then moving on up to a server and then a bar back.
“I really liked talking with and meeting the members of the golf club,” says Katrina. “It was important to meet their expectations there because that’s what you got paid to do!”
By the time she was 19, Katrina was out on her own, first working at a local auto store stocking parts, but not really understanding much about cars, until she moved to a car dealership, eventually helping to sell them. Again, it was the service she helped create that made the difference.
“I worked at a local dealership near Baltimore and helped them create the internet buying market,” Katrina says. “Internet sales was a numbers game. I started calling the internet leads, seeing how many people we could get in the door to produce the sales needed for the dealership. It was a rat race, but it taught me a lot about the phone calls and about the buying process. I also realized it was a place I could grow.”
Katrina says she has always been looking for growth, even from her early days growing up with her two sisters in southeast Baltimore.
“My childhood was a weird time,” says Katrina. “There were some dark days living in an area where even at an early age we saw heroin addicts and child and animal abuse. We had curfew hours because my parents wanted us inside by the time the sun went down. We were told not to focus on our friends, but instead on our homework, because that is what, as my grandparents would say, “will take you far.”
Nothing works like hard work and it was Katrina’s desire to do even more at the dealership—to grow and to change—that led her to want to move from calling on internet car sales to actually selling them, though the transition was not what she expected.
“It was very scary,” she says. “Now, instead of handing off the internet lead, I was the one bringing the customer in to try and sell them. But it wasn’t me, I wasn’t really a negotiator, I was not that successful. I ended up moving from that dealership and moving out of Baltimore to Silver Spring Maryland and into the service department for another dealer.”
Katrina says the service department is where she experienced the most growth in her career up to that point, but her new role brought an entirely new perspective.
“You went from watching the customer and their excitement in seeing their new car come off the trailer at the dealer, to seeing the customer as they watched their car come into the service department on a tow truck because it had broken down—totally different experience.”
It wasn’t easy to make and keep the customer happy in that department, but this is where Katrina says she truly learned the value of customer service.
“I learned you have to be there for your clients,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many of my clients had my cellphone number and would call me on the weekend, so I could call the car manufacturer’s roadside assistance to get them a tow-truck when their car broke down, no matter where they were. I learned a lot about how people need and want to be treated because they were in crisis, their car had broken down and they wanted it fixed.”
Katrina says before she worked at this dealership, she had read the reviews about the service department and how bad they were doing, but she was determined to turn it around. How? Customer care first.
“I took the dealership from 13th place to 5th place in the reviews in the area in only six months,” Katrina says.
The reviews and the work Katrina was doing to turn it around was getting noticed by happier clients. But the gratitude meant more work for her and having moved to Virginia from Maryland, her cost of living was higher, but her pay was the same, with a lot more work on her shoulders. It’s when a friend of hers who had been working at the dealer started working for USHEALTH Advisors. She told Katrina she should check out the company since her friend believed Katrina was made for it.
“She told me I really think you should sell insurance,” says Katrina, “because you are number one in the dealership in selling extended warranties. After all, what is an extended warranty but an insurance policy for your car when it gets “sick.” It’s just insurance for people instead of cars.”
“I knew what was going on with the dealership had run its course,” she says. “I remember just leaving, I had to. I was talking with a few of my customers before I left, and so I told them, ‘If you need health insurance, let’s sit down and have a conversation.’ I still remember Aiden, who had been my customer at the dealership for years, he became my health client and he introduced me to many more entrepreneurs.”
Katrina is coming up on her second anniversary with USHEALTH Advisors, finally passing her test and getting licensed back in May of 2017. It was not easy at first. Katrina says after a few days of making calls, she got scared and wondered what she got herself into. But she ended up meeting with her property and casualty agent and learning from him what it took to be a good insurance agent in general—how to dress, how to present yourself, how to carry yourself and most importantly how to market yourself.
Katrina says it still wasn’t easy to get going.
“There were times I wanted to give up in this industry, but I had my Field Sales Leader, Dan Dacquisto, who is someone strong and Gary Dahne, my Satellite Division Leader, who also saw more in me than I did when I was starting,” she says. “They wanted more than anything to see me do well and be a story that beat the odds. Eventually, it all started to make sense to me, but I can honestly say I didn’t really put it all together until about January of 2018.
“It was weird. I remember being on my computer and doing research about a health insurance company entering the market in Michigan and I thought, ‘If they are entering the state of Michigan, so should I. I have the ability to do virtual sales in many states, so why not get that license too?’ I was becoming a student of the industry and expanding my market. That spring, I also joined BNI (Business Networking International) to grow my referral base.”
“I would say the drive behind all of this is my customers. It’s when I really started focusing on them and getting good reviews. I feel like the business of sales has been around for so long and we as individuals have let so much of it be acceptable and be ok, and it’s not at all. People need someone helping them with their claims, not someone on the other end of the phone who doesn’t care. I see too much of that with the marketplace plans. I want to grow and change and not have my clients experience that. I tell people you are going to have a different level of service, and seeing is believing. I want to know what is going on with my clients at all times. I want to always focus on customer satisfaction.”
Katrina says it is also about her working not only on helping her clients and working on the business, but things have changed because she has changed. Her inner game is getting better.
“I started listening to audio from motivational speaker Les Brown and to University of Alabama coach Nick Saban. Les Brown has helped me change the way I think, turning my old thinking into new thinking and Nick Saban is all about the consistency—having a repeatable system in place every day. I started applying more and more of my inner work and it has an effect on everyone, especially my clients. When you are coming from an open heart, selling becomes a positive experience and your client feels it too, and then they project that same feeling to others.”
“We are all in the business of serving, no matter what our career path is,” says Katrina. “Just like my clients are in the business of serving, too. If we all can’t come from that good place in our hearts, then what are we doing? I love all of my clients, no matter where they are from or what state they are in. A lot of my clients say I’m a really good friend of theirs. It’s hard not to care about the person and their livelihood when you sell them health coverage—I mean, you know so much about them because of all the questions you ask.
“You learn about them, they learn about you and then a referral happens because we all know each other and feel good and they want to help someone else in their network with health coverage. You may not see this right away, but when your goal is to serve the customer, then the focus is you are doing this for them. They, in turn, will give more referrals because they want to expand their own hearts.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.