What is Your Lagniappe?
by Ed Horrell

In my customer service talks, I refer often to a French word which was used commonly among French Creole store owners in Louisiana. It was used like this: a customer would order five pounds of sugar for example. The store owner would fill his customer's bag with the sugar and then add one additional scoop while saying "lagniappe" (which is French for "a little extra".

This, I submit, is the essence of great service. Giving a little more than is expected, a little more than paid for, is lagniappe. It is part of the secret to great customer service.

Think of some of the examples of companies who do a little more than what is normally expected. Who comes to mind?

Doubletree Hotels, for one, offers a warm cookie to guests when they check in. Just a little extra; it is their lagniappe. Infiniti dealers wash their customers' cars when they bring them in for service. In the northwest, a tire company has customers drive for miles just to watch their sales reps literally run to the cars when they pull into the parking lot. It is lagniappe....not expected, but awfully welcome.

It can make a difference in owning and renting your clients. Let me give you an example.

Recently I was asked to speak at a breakfast meeting to a group in Nashville. The meeting was in a part of Nashville that I was not familiar with and I wanted to stay in a hotel as near the meeting as I could find so as to avoid rush hour traffic. The Internet solved that problem and I found the Hotel Preston. The rooms looked nice and reasonable so I made a reservation.

I wasn't necessarily impressed when I pulled into the parking lot, but that was going to change.

I checked into a nicely decorated room with an enormous, comfortable looking bed. On the bed was a card welcoming me and stating that they realize that a good night's sleep is important after a long day and offered a "pillow menu" from which I could select my pillow type for my stay .... firm, soft, medium, or hypoallergenic. A little extra!

Do you think I have told that story? You bet!

What is your lagniappe? What do you offer that is just a little more than your competitor?

Here are some tips:

Lagniappe doesn't have to cost money! It can be something extra that simply gives something to your client. For example, when you find a new restaurant that you like, drop a client or two a note introducing them to your new favorite place. Do the same for a new wine or cheese that you have discovered a good movie, or hotel.

If you want to spend a little money on your client, pick up a gift certificate for a dessert or cocktail at the restaurant you discovered and send it with your note. (Don't be surprised if you get an invitation to join your client for dinner there.) Make sure your visitors feel especially welcome when they come into your offices.

Also, lagniappe is best when little attention is called to it. Try to avoid signing off your note with something like "This extra is brought to you by ABC Companies, where you always get something extra". Don't call attention to the little extra that you give. It will call attention to itself.

Find the little extra that you can give to your clients. Surprise them occasionally. You are going to find that not only will they appreciate what you do for them, but they will tell their colleagues about what you do. This is the best form of advertising and costs you nothing. You'll find a terrific relationship based upon your culture of "a little extra" and you'll own your customer.

Join the "Kindness Revolution" created by Ed Horrell, a Memphis-based author and professional speaker and is the host of the syndicated radio show "Talk About Service." Learn more about his books, keynotes and radio show at http://www.edhorrell.com .

Many more articles in Customer Service in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2007 by Ed Horrell. All rights reserved.

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