Oct 11, 201209:27 AMThe Gray Area
with Donna Gray
Caring about our customers
How many of us love to get surprises? I’ll admit that finding a surprise in a shopping bag is like finding the surprise in a Cracker Jack box. It’s lagniappe. The word “lagniappe” is derived from the Louisiana French. It means “something that is added, a little something extra” in the form of a small thank-you gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase – like the 13th doughnut you get when you buy a dozen. This little gesture has traditionally told customers they are appreciated.
Nowadays, customer appreciation can be shown in different ways. In today’s busy, instant-gratification world, customers, no matter where they’re shopping, want to be acknowledged quickly, in a friendly, respectful, and polite way, even if they have to wait for service. Like Norm when he walked into Cheers, we all find it nice to shop where we are remembered. Even today, when much business is transacted in impersonal ways, it’s good to be known. I think most of us like this kind of personal acknowledgement.
In his book Seven Power Strategies for Building Customer Loyalty, Paul R. Timm, Ph.D., writes, “Time drags when you’re being ignored, and the customer will soon think about going elsewhere.” His suggestion is to “get the customer doing something as soon as possible.” Especially today in our hurry-up society:
- Don’t keep customers waiting. Immediately acknowledge people, and let them know that you, or someone, will be with them shortly.
- At a small business, it may be possible to offer a cup of coffee, and a chair, while they wait.
- If there’s a long delay, apologize for the wait.
- Frontline team members should “act as if” they really like being there. No customer wants to feel as though he or she is interrupting the workers. (I can imagine we all have stories about this kind of treatment.)
Dr. Timm also says in his book that there is no substitute for “thank you.” We may not be able to give out lagniappe with each sale, but we can connect with our customers by sending thank-you notes, calling to make sure everything went well with their purchases, and sending them new product information.
We don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving Day rolls around to remember to say “thank you!” Some companies hold annual customer appreciation events/days/weeks. Some companies regularly take their best clients out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I think it’s important to thank all customers, all the time. I’m even happy when a clerk at a big-box store remembers that my purchase pays part of his or her paycheck, and remembers to say “thank you.”
Giving superior service, going beyond what the customer expects, and finishing it all off with that “little something extra” that says “thank you” is the perfect way to show our customers that we care.
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