What a French Creole Cooking Term Can Teach Us About Customer Loyalty

After finishing an incredible meal in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the best part of the experience may very well be the lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap). While it sounds like a fancy seafood dish, a lagniappe is actually an unexpected gift.

That special dessert, complements of the chef. The small box of chocolates for you to take home. The ice-cold sorbet to cleanse your palate between courses. The fact that it comes as a complementary surprise makes it all the more special.

In my own businesses, we have a cruder mantra: “Don’t forget the dinner mint.” It’s a persistent reminder to always deliver that little extra something. We strive to constantly deliver lagniappes on every project and with every stakeholder, internal or external.

Obviously, a lagniappe can be a physical gift such as the 13th doughnut free when buying a dozen. But it can also represent unexpected over-delivery in any context. If you’ve been asked to research four competitors for a big meeting, think how delighted your boss will feel when you deliver five. If your client is expecting eight new ideas for a new marketing campaign, showing up with eleven will blow them away.

Jack Welch, the famous former CEO of General Electric often said the way to get ahead in business is to deliver what’s asked of you – to a tee – but then always show up with something more. That additional, unexpected slice of value on a consistent basis is a surefire way to drive career advancement, according to Welch.

In today’s highly competitive environment, meeting client expectations is merely the ante to play. But tossing in a lagniappe can be the difference-maker to driving customer loyalty and growth.

Fortunately, these little extras need not break the bank. DoubleTree Hotels became wildly successful by offering warm chocolate chip cookies upon check in. Just a few pennies of cost drove millions in shareholder value as customers savored treats while booking up hotel rooms. The prize inside CrackerJack, the iconic popcorn brand, drove far more customer loyalty and growth than the core product itself.

As you serve your customers, colleagues, and partners, consider adding lagniappes of your own. A tiny over-delivery can drive a tremendous boost in satisfaction and loyalty. Sprinkle in that unexpected dose of extra value, and your stock will rise at an unprecedented rate.

The next time you’re about to deliver work product – internally or externally – pause briefly to ensure you’ve topped it off with a lagniappe. Simply put, don’t forget the dinner mint.