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  • Writer's pictureKelly E. Middleton

The Importance of Lagniappe, or, Giving A Little Bit Extra

Updated: Oct 18, 2018

In J.D. Power and Associates' book Satisfaction, a study on what makes a consumer rave about a company asked participants what quality made them excited enough to tell other people about the company. The study found that giving a little bit extra (47%) trumps great product quality (11%) and low prices (9%). In my experience this is true.

I mention Chick-fil-A many times in my book Competing for Kids: 21 Customer Service Concepts Public Schools Can Use to Retain and Attract Students. I've always received great service at the Chick-fil-A restaurants in my area in Kentucky. However, recently I was all the way out in Sonoma California and had an experience that showed me just how institutionalized their customer service training and philosophy go. I was sitting down to a lunch and saw a lady walking around handing out stuffed animals. At first, I thought she was some sort of solicitor brash enough to sell toys inside a fast food restaurant. It turns out that she was a Chick-fil-A employee giving away stuffed cows with their catch phrase “Eat mor chikin” on them. She handed them out to all the diners who had kids with them. I was watching one mom who was looking pretty tired, struggling to get her son and daughter settled and sitting still. Once this employee came over and handed each child a stuffed cow, the kids instantly calmed down and started playing with their new toys. The mother looked so thankful and relieved to have this little unexpected positive intervention. This was a great example of lagniappe – the restaurant giving something extra to their customers for no other reason than wanting to give the best possible customer service.

Lagniappe is not just for the business world. In the current educational climate, it is important to give a little bit extra in public schools. Competition for students is at an all time high and viable alternatives to public education are available to more and more students and families each day. If we use the above example from J.D. Power and Associates, utilizing the lagniappe principle can make current public school students and teachers rave about their school and possibly keep them from leaving for other educational alternatives.

So how can we practice giving a little bit extra in public schools? One way is to have teachers give their students' parents their personal cell phone number or business card so if there are any issues, parents can feel free to contact the teacher anytime: day or night. Now this may seem like too much responsibility to ask of a teacher, but I've found that the simple act of receiving a direct line to a teacher is all most parents need. In fact, most never end up using it and certainly not in the middle of the night, like many teachers would fear. Whether we are talking about schools or companies, it is frustratingly difficult to get the person you want on the phone, so for many parents getting a direct line to a teacher is like striking gold.

Another way schools can give a little bit extra is by giving students cold water bottles on their bus rides home to make their rides more comfortable on those days when the temperatures soar into the 90s and above. In my school this is a rule that we strictly enforce. Sometimes we even give out popsicles to keep students cool. Custodians work together with administrators and teachers to hand out bottles to students when they leave the school doors and board the buses. It takes a little coordination, but after a few times, you figure out a strategy that works and our students appreciate it.

All bus drivers and students receive a cold water bottle when temperatures exceed 90 degrees for bus rides home.

These are just a few strategies we use in my school district to give a little bit extra, but there are many, many more. In the end, it's these little things that truly make a difference. Try taking some time to think of ways your school can give a little bit extra to students and families. It may lead to them raving about your school, but even if not, you'll be going the extra mile for your customers and practicing a great customer service concept.

If you have any great ways your school gives a little bit extra, I'd love to hear about them! Please share in the comments section.

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