Lagniappe Lives!

Posted by jlubans on October 07, 2011

I am scheduled to do a repeat customer services workshop in Riga, Latvia at the end of the year, so I have been keeping my eyes open for fresh experiences to help illustrate the concept. As we all know, customer service suffers from its clichéd and cynical use in both the for-profit arena and the so-called service sector. The Riga workshop will be for retail shops and vendors, especially museum stores.

My article’s title comes from New Orleans. While there last week, I got to re-experience “lagniappe”, a word and practice unique to Louisiana. Mark Twain said it was pronounced lanny-yap, and that it was “a word worth travelling to New Orleans to get; a nice, limber, expressive, handy word.”

When I first went to New Orleans 40 years ago, the little gift or bonus from a merchant, was much more frequent than it is now. So, how wonderful to encounter lanny-yap once again and to see how it can transform a so-so hotel experience into something charmingly hospitable, courteous and giving of the human spirit.

I stayed, with four friends, at the Quality Inn on O’Keefe.
TripAdvisor, the travel reputation site, helped us find this inconspicuous hotel. Its favorable reviews halted us from flitting past; we paused and decided to give it a try. I have stayed in plush multi star hotels in New Orleans and I have stayed in some of the most dismal. Because I am a frugal traveler, finding a good deal (cost and hospitality) in New Orleans has not been easy.

As of today, this Quality Inn with its unimpressive façade and kitschy lobby is rated as the number 1 place to stay according to over 280 traveler reviews. It competes with 146 other hotels, some among the best in the industry.

Why is the Quality Inn on O’Keefe at the top of the rankings? I listed out several reasons. While there were a few things they could have done better, here is what they did right:
The basics (lights, plumbing, AC, electrical outlets - worked in my room; there were clothes hangers aplenty; Free Wi-Fi; a nice breakfast on the house; clean, etc,) were all covered:
Now for the difference makers, the lagniappe:
- I was greeted by name not only at check in, but during my stay. I became “Mr. John.”
- While sitting in the lobby, one of the bellmen offered to bring me a coffee or tea or juice. He was sincere – he was reaching out, offering me hospitality, not just insinuating a tip
- Lobby staff, at the desk and in the lounge area, were always AWARE of my presence. They were not intrusive, they were responsive.
- On check out, the staffer knew the airport shuttle schedule better than I did. I had checked out an hour early by mistake! The staffer asked me if I would like to wait in my room instead of the lobby. I said yes and she rekeyed my card so that could happen!
- One day, my friends and I were gathering in the lobby heading out for a hike to Audubon Park. The manager offered each of us a bottle of water for our hike!

Lagniappe was overflowing.

Does what I experienced at the Quality Inn transfer to the work place? Of course, we only have to have that intuitive response of being kind, of being helpful. It need not be innate. It can be acquired. It can become a part of the organization’s DNA.

Ultimately, anything that reduces the quality of lagniappe reduces the sense of value and appreciation of and by the customer.

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