I grew up in New Orleans, and there’s a word in use there that isn’t known anywhere else. Mark Twain said it was “a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get”. It’s a French word based on a Spanish phrase, the type of co-mingling of language only possible in such a place as New Orleans. So, what does it mean, and why is it so powerful?
Everyone in New Orleans will define lagniappe the same way, as “a little something extra”. The real meaning’s a bit more complicated than that. For example, the other day I ordered from Leona’s on GrubHub. Every time you order, no matter what you order, they add in at least one of these mini-cupcakes they make for free. First off, they are delicious. Secondly, there’s no message about it, and you didn’t have to pay anything for it. It’s just there for your enjoyment. That’s lagniappe, that little something given to you for free that you weren’t expecting but is such a treat to find. This type of practice is common in New Orleans, but you rarely see it elsewhere outside of the extremely common baker’s dozen or the fortune cookie in Chinese restaurants, which, because they’re so common, are expected and therefore no longer really lagniappe.
This type of practice creates such an overwhelmingly positive impact on the experience, I don’t understand why the practice in business seems to stay limited to small shops in New Orleans and bakeries. A small gesture can go a long way in creating a memorable experience with your customer, and whether you deliver food, make doughnuts, or do management consulting, there is always a way to give lagniappe. So, what little something extra are you providing your customers? How can you give lagniappe?