My friend and I left the restaurant where we had lunch and he pointed to The Cheese Store of Pasadena. “I wonder how anybody can make a go of a cheese shop?” he asked. “Let’s take a look and find out” I said.

As we entered, I quickly reflected on my heritage, Dutch. They make great cheese, so I asked the smiling clerk behind the counter “Do you have any great Gouda Cheese?” “Oh yes” she said “it is special and I’ll get it out right now.” I nodded to my friend and we both smiled. Right now!

She brought out a big round of Gouda Cheese, shaved off a slice, and handed it to me. “This has been aged for three and a half years with a special procedure that brings out all of its flavor quickly. What do you think?”

I loved it and bought enough for breakfast the next day. Bread and cheese is a Dutch breakfast staple. I can remember having it during my year in Zeist, Netherlands when I was 6. (More on that some other time.)

When I got home, Judy asked me how much it cost … I did not even know. A smile, enthusiasm for her product, and immediate service … What a great combination! Now I know how The Cheese Store stays in business. I know I’ll be back!

Over the last 6 months at Envoy, we’ve increased focus on customer and client service. With so many changes in our industry—and our total systems upgrade—it seemed like a focus on service was in order. Our service comes mainly via phone and email. We learned again that what our clients want is a friendly, caring, quick and accurate answer to their questions … just like the cheese shop! Perhaps there is a lesson there for all of us, regardless of business or ministry.

With all the sophistication in telephone systems these days, it’s often hard to get a live person, let alone an answer to a question, or help with a problem. The other day I searched for 10 minutes just to find a phone number for the company I wanted to call. Bethany Palmer, our President, actually spent some time on the phone answering client questions. “You know” she said, “people would love it if we could make sure they can get their question answered on the first call.” The idea made sense to me.

We instituted a “May I help You?” answer to all phone calls. After making sure we know the issue, we follow with “Let me get the answer to your question or solution to your problem, right now, while you are on the phone. Will that be ok?” Well, the response has been—as you might imagine—surprise! And quite a lot of “Thank you’s.” A cheer for Bethany and the team that has worked with her: Kristen, Jeff, Scott and Tom.

We recently added another service person to the group. She has great experience in our industry helping Plan Sponsors and Plan Participants understand and utilize their retirement plans; helping with their Future Funded Ministry plans; and truly changing lives. I’d love to have her help with the coffee plantation too … but that is truly another story.

What I like best about her (no name to protect the innocent) is she always has a great smile and a positive attitude. Reminds me of the clerk in the Cheese Store!

So to close out this post—which is not in the least bit cheesy—“What do Gouda cheese and Retirement Plan Service have in common?” When either one comes with great service, it makes all the difference in the world.

Living with Trusted Advice together,

P.S. Write a comment if you have had an experience in Zeist … or with Gouda Cheese … or how about great service!

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