Sunday, October 28, 2007
How’s your store at passing out the lagniappes? The word is pronounced “lan-YAP” and comes from the 19th century Cajun French word “la napa” which means “the gift”. Its original meaning was a small gift, or token of appreciation, that was given to loyal customers by New Orleans merchants. The meaning isn’t that much different today.
Those early New Orleans merchants had the right idea. It is the lagniappes, the unexpected little things, that make such a difference between your store and the guy down the street. In our travels we’ve encountered many. Here are some of our favorites:
Your Own Personal Shopper: Many stores now offer customer’s personal shopping services – it’s like having your own personal assistant! All you have to do is telephone the store, tell your personal shopper what you are looking for, and she handles the rest. Want to come at 2:00 and find a fitting room filled with clothes in your size? Easy. Need to choose and send a gift to your sister six states way? No problem, your personal shopper has it under control.
This easy-to-implement lagniappe would be a great sales-builder for your time-starved and stressed-out customers.
Curb Service: We discovered Curb Service years ago at a store that serviced a large number of elderly and disabled customers. Curb Service allows the customer to call the store, and place their order over the telephone. The associate asks when to expect the customer, and meets him at the curb. The customer never has to leave his/her car.
In addition to elderly and disabled shoppers, we think this predecessor to drive-up pharmacies would also be a welcome perk for frazzled customers’ who trek from store to store with a car load of kids.
Welcome! How May I Help You Today?: We love the greeters at AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia. We saw them at every single entrance, and frequently encountered them throughout each of the three AmericasMart buildings. These greeters were tireless as they answered questions and helped buyers find their way through the mart. We especially loved the gentleman who graciously offered to carry rolling carts up and down the escalators. And we love that AmericasMart allows buyers to have rolling carts.
Do your associates greet customers? If you’re a craft or scrapbook retailer, do your associates offer to help scrappers pull those heavy totes over the curb and into the store? Do they help load the car while Mom fastens car seats?
(On a personal note, shame on those trade show rules that ban rolling carts. You want attendees to buy from the exhibitors? Then let them use a wheeled cart to haul around all those the catalogs and sell sheets!)
First Class Greetings: While speaking at a AAA conference we were lucky enough to stay at the historic Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. When we pulled up to the hotel entrance we were greeted by a gentleman in a golf cart, who introduced himself, welcomed us, and summoned a bellman. When we walked into the lobby were met by the desk clerk who said, “Mrs. Bender! Mr. Kizer! Welcome to the Breakers! We’re so glad you are here!”
Now, how did he know our names? Easy! The gentleman on the golf cart radioed the front desk, described us, and told the desk clerk our names. We felt like a million bucks. You would, too.
Are customer’s addressed by name in your store? Do associates offer their hand and introduce themselves to new customers? Make it a goal to have every associate introduce themselves to at least five new customers each day.
“It would be my pleasure.”: Request something at a Ritz Carlton Hotel and you’ll hear, “It would be my pleasure.” It sure beats the monotone “Yeah” we usually hear at other hotels. The Ritz Carlton is known for its Empowerment Program. If a guest asks a Ritz Carlton Lady or Gentleman (that’s Ritz speak for hotel associates) for something, he or she “owns” it until the guest is satisfied. Every, single person, from the general manager to the maid who cleans your room, is authorized to spend up to $2000 to make a guest happy.
Are your associates empowered to take care of customer requests or do they have to ask your permission first? Trust them to do the right thing. Explain your empowerment guidelines and they’ll do you proud.
We could fill a hundred posts with the lagniappes we’ve received in our years of travel. We’re grateful for each one of those unexpected gifts. Send us your favorites and we’ll share them in future posts. Until then, as they say in New Orleans: “Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler” – Let the good times roll!
Copyright KIZER & BENDER 2004 . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED