Giving Clie

A Lesson

nts A Little

in Lagniappe

by Craig Harrison       

    WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF DIMINISHING RETURNS. Our customers often feel they pay more and get less than promised. Sadly, they often receive less than stellar customer service too. On those occasions when they�re treated well, they come to regard it as an exception rather than the rule. Yet ironically, in a competitive marketplace where prices and products are largely the same, customer service can be the differentiator. Given a choice between where to buy products or services, customers will frequent vendors who most appreciate their patronage, and show it. Wouldn�t you?
    As sales professionals you may already be familiar with the Cajun concept of Lagniappe, which translates as �a little something extra.� The southern hospitality of Louisiana and Texas often saw store owners giving customers an extra little gift as a gesture of goodwill to keep them happy and inclined to return. Lagniappe was a token of appreciation which was above and beyond the expected. It�s similar to See�s Candy�s policy of offering free samples with their service and smiles. I ask you, who wouldn�t like to give your customers a little something extra?
    Often when dining at posh restaurants a complimentary �sampler� between courses will arrive unannounced. These pallet cleansers often aren�t even found on the menu. It�s an unexpected pleasure to be savored and appreciated. Upon arriving you may be served a demitasse of bisque. Perhaps an amuse bouche arrives as an hors d�oeuvre to set the tone for an evening of delicious dining; la petite surprise might arrive before desert, or a mignardisse could follow your ordered desert. Whichever you experience, the aftertaste it leaves is sweet; its affect is on the heart as much as the stomach. On however small a level, we find a customer�s experience has outweighed expectations, and customers remember it. They�ve received a bonus, above and beyond what they sought. It�s akin to their prize in the Cracker Jacks we reveled in as children. In the adult world of commerce lagniappe may take many forms and will no doubt be commensurate with the event or theme of one�s business/service environment.
    This practice of giving a little something extra can be found around the world. It goes by different names in different countries. It also transcends industries. Just the other day I entered a newspaper stand which offers, as lagniappe, free dog biscuits to its patrons (for their dogs)! Down the street a new age bookstore offers honeysuckle incense sticks with each purchase made. Other proprietors offer pocket calendars and complimentary pens with contact information on them to walk-in customers. There are businesses that even offer a different surprise each month. Customers enter the new month with anticipation as they find out what new lagniappe awaits them.
    In service situations we also have the opportunity to offer a little something special for our clients. I encourage you to practice this concept of lagniappe, on whatever scale you find appropriate. It�s one more way of strengthening the bond with your customers and remind them of your appreciation of their patronage. In a competitive environment it�s good to remember that little things make the difference�but the difference is no little thing!

Craig Harrison is a speaker, trainer and consultant who helps businesses make communication and customer service fun and easy.
To contact Craig Harrison, phone 888.450-0664, or visit his website at