Find out more information about  
Fill out this form and a representative will contact you.
Captcha Image
Contact Us
The Brown Couch Principle: A Parable of Great Customer Service
I like to use stories and anecdotes to make a point or explain a business principle. The Brown Couch Principle is one of my favorite parables of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

In the spring of 2007, my wife Tracy and I were getting ready to move into a new home in Nassau County, Long Island. We were shopping in a store on the East End of the Island, and met the owner, Elizabeth Dow. We wound up ordering a brown custom-designed couch. When the couch arrived that summer, it was just not what we expected. The order was absolutely correct, but when we saw it in our new home, it just wasn’t right. Through no fault of Elizabeth’s, we were dissatisfied with our purchase.

Elizabeth took the high road. Although she had no obligation, she took the couch back and gave us a full refund. Not only would this have been superior service for a longstanding customer, this was the first time we were doing business with her! We subsequently visited her store on several occasions. In fact, in the following three months, we probably spent several multiples of what the original couch cost.

When we went on to buy a house out East the following year, Elizabeth not only sold us most of the furniture, but collaborated with Tracy on designing everything for the house. In fact, she became a crucial collaborator on all of our design projects. Time and again, whenever we had a need, Elizabeth was there to help us. We never even considered working with anyone else.

Because of our mutual trust in our relationship, in 2010 we actually went into business together.  Elizabeth, Tracy and I formed a partnership to buy and renovate houses on the East End.

I guess you could say that first encounter with the brown couch turned into a very profitable run for Elizabeth with us. Not only did she end up doing significantly more business with us than our initial couch experience would indicate, but we’ve referred her to two different friends who have both engaged her for their home renovation projects.

This story carries a lesson for us all about how doing the right thing for a customer or client is always the right business decision. Elizabeth didn’t need a business degree or a how-to book to know that taking back the brown couch was the right thing to do. Good customer service is good customer service, and good customer service has predictable results. Had she been shortsighted and focused only on the profit she would be forfeiting on that first order, we may never have visited her store again. But by taking the high road during that first transaction, she turned us into loyal customers, business partners and most important, friends.

It is not always easy to make clients happy, particularly in a regulated industry like ours which requires Marcum to maintain our independence and objectivity at all times. At Marcum, our objective is to treat our clients the way Elizabeth treated Tracy and me in 2007. If you’re one of our clients and we’re not meeting your service expectations, please call or write me. We take client service and satisfaction very seriously and want to meet if not exceed your expectations. It’s a formula for long-term success and relationships that pay dividends for clients, the Firm and everyone on the team.

P.S. While this column is about customer service and satisfaction, you really need to know a little bit more about Elizabeth. Her original, hand-painted wallcoverings are in the permanent collection of The Smithsonian and her wallcoverings were used in the Obama renovation of the Oval Office.

Visit her web sites at:

Go Back

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Jeffrey M. Weiner and do not represent those of Marcum LLP, its partners or its employees.

Meet Jeffrey M. Weiner
View Jeffrey Weiner's Profile View Profile
Download Jeffrey Weiner's Contact Card Download vCard
Connect with Jeffrey Weiner on LinkedIn Connect with Jeffrey Weiner
Follow Jeffrey Weiner on Twitter Follow Jeffrey Weiner
Subscription Preferences
Recent Posts
Change Is In the Air
Tradition of Service
Buckle Up
Because You Count
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013

New York
New Jersey
Rhode Island
Grand Cayman

Get in Touch

Get Connected
Privacy | Legal | Sitemap | Secure Mail