Lagniappe LAN-yap)1. A small gift presented to a customer with his purchase by a store owner. 2. Informal. An extra or unexpected gift; a gratuity. [Louisiana French"?¦]
–American Heritage Dictionary of the English LanguageYesterday my wife and I ate lunch at Johnny Carinos, an Italian restaurant that is part of a chain. It was the first time we´d eaten there in several years but Gene, a friend of ours, had told us about a salad special for $5.99 each. It turned out to be all the soup, salad (dinner or Caesar), and bread you could eat. Service was prompt, efficient, and friendly and when we were done, we asked the waitress if we could have a bag to take the left over bread home. She offered instead to bring us a fresh loaf of the very good bread as well as a little container of the olive oil with roasted garlic in it.
We did not expect to receive a fresh loaf of bread to take home. She caught us off guard and in doing so exceeded our expectations. That´s lagniappe. Thirty-six hours later, having consumed the loaf with tonight´s dinner, I´m still thinking good thoughts about Johnny Carinos. (And the bread.)
Notice that the first definition above mentions a "small" gift. The second mentions "unexpected". You don´t have to go bankrupt giving out gifts to your customers; they should be in proportion to the purchase. It helps if they´re unexpected.
What can you do to provide lagniappe to your customers? Focus on both small, as in inexpensive, and unexpected. I´m not suggesting that every customer be presented with a loaf of bread when they finish. A busy waitress or waiter may only be presented with the above opportunity once a shift. But the important thing is that you, the employer, empower your staff to notice and use initiative to take advantage of these opportunities to present an unexpected gift to your customers when the opportunity presents itself. This makes it more enjoyable for your employees as well.
By the way, the dictionary I used for the definition was copyrighted in 1972. I was a freshman at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State-San Marcos) and mentioned over the phone to my mom that I needed a dictionary. Three or four days later I received it in the mail. I was very surprised; I had expected perhaps a paperback, certainly one less expensive than this hardback top of the line tome. I know I thanked her for it in my next call, but thanks again, Mom. Thirty-three years later I´m still using it and so are my sons.
As Lt. Columbo would say, “Ah, one more thing.” Paul Chaney, a fellow allbusiness.com blogger is looking for small businesses who blog. Check out his idea, and if you use a blog to reach your customers, let him know. Perhaps you’ll pick up some new customers. Consider it a little lagniappe from Paul.
God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.