What’s your lagniappe?

My good friend Paul Chaney recently introduced me to the joys of lagniappe, a term popular in Louisiana where Paul lives. As Paul explained, a lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap) is a “something extra” you give to another person in order to surprise and delight — for instance, you plan a dinner with your wife to celebrate her birthday, and then during dinner you surprise her with tickets to a play. I believe a lagniappe can also create a happy customer, too, as a recent experience of my own shows.

My family and I were in southern Illinois last weekend to explore the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. After driving for more than four hours from the Chicago area, we arrived at the Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville (just northeast of St. Louis) on an unseasonably warm October afternoon. The hotel lobby looked clean and was attractively appointed, but I expect cleanliness from a Doubletree. When I checked in at the front desk, a smiling clerk named Ricardo asked me how many people were in my party.

“Three,” I replied. “Just me, my wife, and my daughter.”

Ricardo then presented me with three warm chocolate chip walnut cookies, each tucked into tiny paper bags.

Thank you for the lagniappe moment, Ricardo.

You don’t need to spend much money or effort to give someone a lagniappe, but surprise and delight are essential. When Cinderella signs your daughter’s autograph book during your family visit to the Magic Kingdom, Disney has certainly brightened your day — but I would not categorize the experience as a lagniappe because the possibility of an encounter with Cinderella is understood to be part of the price of admission. But if Cinderella also gave you and your daughter an invitation for a free dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant when she signed your daughter’s autograph book, well, then, Cinderella would be giving your family one heck of a lagniappe. And consider this extraordinary Disney moment as told by customer relations consultant Chris Anthony in Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment:

We were on our honeymoon at Walt Disney World in 2007, staying at a non-Disney hotel. The previous night, a member of the hotel staff attempted to break into our room. The management’s response was, “You should have deadbolted the door.” We were both shaken and scared all day; we barely saw the park we went to. Then we went to dinner at Jiko, at the [Disney] Animal Kingdom Lodge.

While we waited, we told Sarah, the restaurant manager on duty, about what had happened. She asked us to wait and disappeared through a staff-only door. When she came back, she had room keys and said, “Cancel your rooms at the other hotel. We’ll match its price for you here at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. That was unacceptable.”

Our honeymoon could have been ruined by the offending staff member. Instead, Sarah, on behalf of Walt Disney World, turned it into something amazing. We’ve never forgotten — and we’re never staying anywhere else.

Chris and his wife went to Jiko for a dinner and got an incredible lodging upgrade for dessert. I think Disney delivered a bona fide lagniappe to Chris Anthony.

The beauty of a lagniappe is that you can gain a loyal customer for life with one small, inexpensive gesture (note Chris’s comment “we’re never staying anywhere else”). We are so conditioned for indifferent service by airlines, banks, telephony providers, and high-tech firms that it doesn’t take much to surprise and delight — just a little humanity.

What’s a lagniappe you’ve experienced? What’s a lagniappe you’ve given to someone else?

9 thoughts on “What’s your lagniappe?

    • Thank you for commenting! And it\’s really not that difficult to surprise and delight, is it? Looking at my anecdote about checking into the Doubletree: How hard was it for that clerk at the Doubletree to offer me those cookies when I checked in? Doubletree makes those cookies and sells them to people already. It was not a stretch to hand out some for free when I least expected it (at check-in, not at an on-property restaurant). Smart.

  1. What I find surprising are the reactions you get from these little things. I told a client about a wonderful book I am currently reading called \”The Singularity is Near\” .. and told him to pick it up (because I knew he would love it given the subject matter and my relationship with him).

    But then I thought, \’what the heck\’ .. I went on amazon … dropped it my shopping cart with his address … click, click .. I was done. So easy. So cheap. That client just went nuts on me when it showed up. He also re-newed his contract; not because of that of course, but hey…it didn\’t hurt. The relationship to BRAND is what is important. What is brand awareness after all? It\’s about creating a MEMORY .. and that\’s what this does … it creates memories. And stories of course, that customers will delight in retelling for years.

    • Richard, thank you for sharing your example! And as you say, it was so easy to surprise and delight your client — just a few clicks on Amazon for you created a very happy client. And I\’ll bet that the experience did contribute to the contract renewal, too. I also like your comment about creating a memory. Years from now, we don\’t remember every project we worked on or customer experience we had, but we do carry a general impression of people we\’ve encountered, and moments like the one you created for your client form that enduring impression. And I agree with your comment about the potential lifetime value of the lagniappe — would make a great research note, indeed.

  2. David, thanks for the mention in your post. I appreciate it. Lagniappe is a way of life in south Louisiana, which is one reason people love this area. But, it\’s also a good business practice. Do what\’s expected, plus a \”little extra\” and people will remember you for taking the effort. As you say, it doesn\’t have to cost much or take loads of effort. But, it\’s certainly worth it.

    • Paul, thank you for introducing me to the wonderful world of the lagniappe — now I just need to get down to Louisiana to see you and experience lagniappe the way it was meant to be!

  3. David,

    Great post. Doubletree is an absolute favorite. They\’ve given out over 200 million cookies. I’m a huge proponent of ‘marketing lagniappe’ or what I call a ‘Purple Goldfish’.

    I’m currently on a quest to crowdsource 1,001 examples. I\’m looking for brands that ‘give little unexpected extras’ or GLUE. We’re currently at 905 examples in the Purple Goldfish Project at http://marketinglagniappe.com/blog/1001-examples-of-lagniappe

    Best,
    Stan

    @9INCHmarketing

    ‘the longest and hardest nine inches in marketing is the average distance between the brain and the heart of your customer’

    • Stan, you should put the Purple Goldfish Project on your list of 1,001 examples — because you are giving an unexpected extra back to anyone who is in the marketing and customer service industries. Well done. Love it.

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