thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Beyond Lagniappes

By on May 30, 2012

Present_lrgLagniappes are token gifts given to a customer by the seller at the time of a purchase. The word is from the Spanish phrase for “something that is added.” Think of a 13th bagel added for free as an extra when you purchase a dozen. At my office complex, for example, our landlord has an ice cream truck deliver free ice cream every two weeks during the summer months, and the tenants look forward to the delivery days.

I refer to lagniappes as "unexpected thank-you's". They are certainly pleasing, but they can become commonplace and they can gradually go from unexpected to expected. If our landlord ever decided to eliminate the ice cream truck, a lot of happy tenants would suddenly wonder whether this was the end of the world as we know it.

Extra thank-you’s are not wrong, of course. Unfortunately, many consultants want us to believe that this is the essence of delighting customers. The reality, however, is that this kind of delight is short-term and easily copyable. A customer strategy built around lagniappes is not sufficient for long-term success. More is needed.

Roger C. Schank in “Are We Going to Get Smarter?” (The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-first Century) observed that, "As answers become devalued, questions become more valued." His point is that as Google and others make searches so accessible, that the answer-based society we have lived in for a long time will change.

Instead of believing that we know the answers, what if we thought about what is still missing and how each process can improve? What if we asked ourselves tough questions about the service that the customer sees?  We need a portal, such as Customer 3D, which unifies our information and provides a consistent approach to thinking like a customer—one that empowers employees to develop ideas that customers will value.

Lagniappes are fine, but we can't stop there. Truly customer-centered organizations operate in a different dimension: one in which unexpected thank-you’s are a given. These organizations are treating their customers as equals and proactively designing new services that anticipate customer needs in addition to token gifts.

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