Super Bowl XLVII just witnessed by millions took place in New Orleans, Louisiana. While the game and its pageantry were the main attraction the experience of New Orleans itself is a close second. Why, Quite simply because lagniappe is part of their culture. The word Lagniappe (pronounced Lan-Yap) is a creole word that originated in Louisiana which means something extra or a little more. It’s that little something extra someone gives you as their way of saying thank you or expressing appreciation. I can assure you there was a lot of lagniappe going around New Orleans during Super Bowl week; everyone from store owners to street vendors make it a best practice. It isn’t just during Super Bowl week though, “a little more,” is the norm in Louisiana and the exception most other places.
The baker’s dozen (a form of lagniappe) is a dying breed; gifts included in a purchase tend to be as well. With a contracting economy many have reverted to a scarcity mindset as opposed to over delivering, surprising and delighting customers with “a little more.” They take the stance that they don’t need to do this and it’s just “over-servicing” the customer which cuts into the bottom-line. There is a line where exceptional service and profitability meet but I would argue losing customers because you don’t over-deliver is what cuts into the bottom line. To get ahead in today’s competitive marketplace we must eliminate customer satisfaction from our vocabulary. Just meeting their expectations isn’t expected by the customer anymore it is demanded. Meeting expectations is ordinary; exceeding expectations in all areas of the experience is extraordinary. It’s not enough to have a good product, you need to have a great product AND a great service experience to gain and retain loyal clients.
The country music singer Loretta Lynn is famously quoted as saying: “To make it in this business you either have to be first, best or different.” I would argue that holds true in any business but the latter is most realistic for people. Since not everyone can be first to market and not everyone can arrive at best status different is the key to success. After all there’s only one first and only one best at anything. So different is the path and lagniappe can go a long way to differentiating you or your brand.
I recently worked with a client in the hospitality industry on improving their process while bringing a little Lagniappe to the customer experience. They wanted the concept of a little more to manifest itself in all areas of the customer experience. The list is too numerous for this article but it included things like giving crayons coloring books and hand wipes to guests in training (kids) adding flowers to the tables of the dining area and giving guests complimentary mints at the end of the meal and chocolates in their rooms. In my mind this is part of exceeding expectations the key word being part. For example: if you’ve ever stayed at a Hampton Inn or Doubletree hotel you’ve probably received a warm cookie at check-in. That is their lagniappe; however if after you check in you find your room isn’t spotless or the bed is uncomfortable they’ve negated any equity built. Everything matters and the entire experience must exceed expectations flawlessly. Comfortable furniture and a clean room are expected (demanded) and the lagniappe is the act of doing the unexpected a little more. The key is to not deliberately bring attention to this practice; trust me the very act will call attention to itself. Why? Because “a little more” is the exception, not the rule.
I continue to be amazed by companies who do not make lagniappe a best practice across all levels of the organization. In 2002 I bought a new car and was choosing between Honda and Toyota. When I walked in the local Honda dealership no one greeted me and I had to go find a salesperson. The Honda salesman wanted to sell me a vehicle I already told him I wasn’t interested in brought me to a cubicle to haggle over price and made me wait while he pulled the “For a price that low I have to check with my manager” tactic. I was “gone in 60 seconds” as the saying goes. When I went down the street, the general manager at the Toyota dealership held the front door open and greeted me when I walked in. Then as I explained what I was looking for he told me
And they did. Starbucks coffee was even delivered to me as I met with my sales person Albert in a private office with plush furniture. To top it off at contract time (after I got my price without a hassle) I was offered free tires for the life of my vehicle. Talk about Lagniappe! Since that time it’s no wonder I’ve bought my last three cars from Albert.
More recently when I told him I wanted to trade my vehicle in much to my surprise he offered me a loaner vehicle so he could borrow my car for the afternoon before his manager assessed the value of it. When I asked why he explained that he wanted to wash and wax it during his break so I would get a better trade in price from his manager when he assessed it. Who do you think I recommend people contact when they’re in the market for a new car? I didn’t just tell them about Albert; I actually kept a stack of his business cards to hand out to friends clients and colleagues. Fast forward several years when the dealership became a client of mine I made sure to return the gesture and show them lagniappe in my work with them as well.
Regardless of your industry, your clients and prospects have a lot of choices. The goodwill and loyalty your organization can create by over delivering creates incredible satisfaction and the kind of word of mouth advertising money can’t. Please share any examples of lagniappe you practice or have received.