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A little “extra” can leave a BIG impression

Providing pleasant surprises presents a treasure trove of possibilities for companies and their employees to attract the attention of customers, pique their interest and curiosity, and stand out in a noisy and crowded marketplace. Surprise is an emotion, the function of which is to increase alertness and narrow focus. By challenging customers’ assumptions and expectations, powerful, indelible memories are formed. And in a competitive marketplace, where customers have many options, it’s better to be remembered.

Earlier this month, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal by Charles Passy titled, You Paid $500 for Dinner, but Blue Eggs Are on Us. It featured a number of restaurants that offer a lagniappe or “little extra.” The term lagniappe is derived from the American Spanish phrase la ñapa (something that is added). The featured New York City restaurant, Tocqueville, charges $175 for an eight-course meal and, as a pleasant surprise, may send guests home with a complimentary half-dozen pale blue eggs from heritage breed hens favored by the restaurant. The chef owner, Marco Moreira, noted the impact of the unexpected blue eggs: “you just made the experience magical.” Not only that, you’ve given guests a remarkable story to share.

Another restaurant cited in the article, Harold’s in the Arlo SoHo, a boutique hotel in New York City, offers mini ice cream cones at the end of a meal. Jungsik, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tribeca, serves complimentary “choco pie.” At Aquavit, offering Nordic cuisine in Midtown Manhattan, patrons take home a sample of the smoked sea salt used at the restaurant. And at Essex Pearl, a seafood restaurant in Lower Manhattan, guests are offered an end-of-meal saltwater taffy from Dolle’s, a Maryland candy company with a 110-year history.

While there is a cost to offer complimentary eggs, sea salt, and other delectables, that expense is often neutralized by the behavior of customers who are delighted by the gesture. These customers – fans and promoters – are less price resistant, have higher repurchase rates, and are responsible for 80-90 percent of the positive word of mouth (including online reviews that multiply and extend their reach) about the business in question.

Regardless of industry, if you currently serve customers, then you can serve those customers better by providing something unexpected that is hard to forget and easy to share with others, creating a legion of unpaid marketers to help grow your business. But you must be intentional about it. Take action today by posing the following question to members of your staff: What lagniappe or “little extra” can we offer to our customers that will surprise and delight them, add value, and enhance their experience?

Illustration by Aaron McKissen.

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