beignetA lagniappe may sound like a French pastry, but this word that flows trippingly off the tongue like a gently meandering stream can help businesses retain customers.

I fell in love with the word years ago when reading the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which always ended a column of this ‘n’ that with a lagniappe: an unexpected extra; a little gift to the reader.

In business parlance, a lagniappe is a value-added benefit. Trader Joe’s staff will carry the groceries of a mom with three kids in tow to her car, and even place them (the groceries, not the children!) in the trunk. A Nordstrom salesperson once offered to meet me on her way home to deliver a sweater I’d ordered, so I didn’t have to trek back to the store.

I enjoy giving my clients unanticipated extras. I’ll pick up edits at someone’s house on a weekend. Send a newsletter article to local media to garner added exposure. Toss in added publicity beyond the client’s expectations at no cost.

What lagniappes can your organization provide?

Providing value-added benefits sets you apart from the competition, and the personalized touch makes both the giver and receiver feel good. Lagniappes endear you to customers, who will appreciate the small but not trivial extras.

And the next time you’re in New Orleans, order 12 beignets and maybe you’ll get a 13th – now that would be a delicious lagniappe!