First let's set the scene.

My mother in law Aase asked me to come with her to Lounge Design to look at a new settee she thought to buy. Though she scouted around at the large chains she chose to 'shop' with Lounge Design as it had been highly recommended to her.

Now Aase is 89. She bought her settee set from Danske Mobler 21 years ago and with age some of the material is starting to fray. Thus the desire to reupholster or buy new.

My husband Steve and I went with her, and both didn't care for the new settee she had selected.


Now is the time to introduce the central character of this story. Marshall Rugg. I was utterly charmed by Marshall and being a hard nosed New Yorker - that's not easy to accomplish. The more I dealt with Marshall on Aase's behalf, the more I wished that more people in business - especially retail should be like him.

Going back to the story, we then turned our eye to selecting reupholstery fabrics. The first selection after two days draped over the settee didn't get the approval nod.

On the third visit, Aase cleverly (by herself without prompting - remember she's 89) had taken a smartphone photo of the settee to show Marshall (by the way - point here: never assume your customers are too old to use technology) and brought in a cushion to show the existing fabric.

Read: Debbie Mayo-Smith: Customer experience because people talk

Now let's start with the tips. They aren't from Marshall's mouth; rather they're an example of how a customer feels working with him.

1. Sunny, pleasant disposition
Every single interaction with Marshall was a delight. He gave you his attention. He was charming. He was a pleasure to be around. And this man doesn't even own the business!

2. Making it easy
To save Mog time, he said he'll look through his sample books and email her photos of ones he thinks she'll like. Then she could email him back with the choices and he'd order large swatches in for her to review for a few days.

Note - how many companies do not respond to their incoming emails.


3. Graciousness in adversity
As some of you might have experienced, pricing on some items in New Zealand is gaggingly high on imported items. It is so with upholstery material. The retail price for Aase's material was $195 a metre.

Naturally in the age where Mr G. (my term for Google) answers even the remotest question, you go to see if there are alternatives. I typed in the manufacturer's name and the style number from the side of the fabric into Google Search. The result was that this material was selling in the UK online from between $50 and $109 NZD. Mind you for UK delivery only - but there are ways around that.

When confronted with this information, Marshall was gracious beyond compare. He asked us to give him time to go to his distributor - who by the way refused to budge an iota. We were able to reach a mutually agreeable compromise on price - but it was Lounge Direct that was out of pocket; not the distributor.

Note: In this day and age where ease of access to information anywhere, anytime - I think it is detrimental to have huge disparity in pricing. Add in compensation for freight; storage; use of money and New Zealand pricing has to come into line with countries with larger populations. You might have read a piece in the Herald about the skin care company Dermalogica dropping prices by 23 per cent due to this very fact.

Marshall kept our business by being gracious. Flexible. Utterly lovely to deal with. What is his philosophy?

1. Simply treat clients the way they want to be treated. Try to make buying a memorable experience with common sense, flexibility and problem solving.

2. A satisfied customer who will become a client for life.

3. With today's technology all you need is the electronic device and the desire to work with immediate info and the days of time consuming delay are over.

P.S. I personally called the Botany Downs Danske Mobler. I spoke with one of their sales consultants on a Sunday afternoon, giving quite specific details on the model of Mogs settee, the exact material we wanted and asked for a ballpark quote on working with them. He said he would call on Monday after speaking with their upholsterer.

He never called back.