Business Greatness Requires Something ‘Extra’ – Here’s How to Do It

pasta e fagioliWhen I’m in New York there’s a restaurant that’s almost like my kitchen, I eat there so often. Once I casually mentioned how much I enjoy the Italian soup, pasta e fagioli. The next time I came in to eat, the owner stopped by my table to tell me they had made the soup for me.

Do you know how special I felt and how impressed I was with the level of customer service at this restaurant? It was off the chart.

There’s an old Creole word they use in New Orleans, “lagniappe.” It’s that special extra that a business owner throws in without your asking. You’ve probably experienced it and if you have, you know that sometimes we remember the lagniappe better than we remember the actual item we were originally shopping for.

Rise above expectations

The special batch of soup and the New Orleans lagniappe are both examples of business owners going “above and beyond” the minimum requirement to satisfy a commercial transaction. When I walked into the restaurant that evening, I wasn’t expecting my favorite soup and that made my dining experience go beyond expectations – literally in this case.

What is your company’s lagniappe? How do you exceed expectations?

Let’s quickly unpack the simple things the restaurant owner does right. It may help you find ways to go beyond your customer’s routine expectations.

First, the restaurant owner engaged me. We had a conversation, a dialog. It went beyond the standard pleasantries of “How are you this evening?” or “Is everything fine here?” A real dialog took place.

Second, the owner heard what I said and acted on it. Knowing how overworked restaurant owners are, I suspect that he quickly got pasta e fagioli scheduled for the next day’s menu; the probability of forgetting or becoming distracted is huge. In any case, he saw a way to please a customer and he didn’t let it slip away.

Separating good from great

Other good – but not great – owners would have heard my remark, replied with some comment and then moved on to the next thing. I suppose we should be glad that most business owners are satisfied with being good; it opens up greatness for the rest of us. However, we need to seize the opportunities that allow us to demonstrate why we are great and show our customers what makes us better than the folks who are satisfied with good.

Finally, the owner “closed the loop” with me by telling me that they had made the soup with me in mind. Heck, maybe my next visit just happened to be on the day when they usually make a pot of pasta e fagioli! The important thing is that the owner remembered and took the time to engage me again.

Recalling details about your customers is critically important, they let you develop a relationship that is deeper than the typical business relationship. That quality can often be the deciding factor when people are making choices about who they want to work with or who they recommend to their friends and business associates.

“Ask for Mary, she’ll treat you right.”

Are there any sweeter words in business?

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Image: Pasta e fagioli, © 2012 Wapster, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.