Are you giving extra? Amica Insurance understands the power of lagniappe

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The importance of taking care of both customers and employees

#765 in the Project is taken from a post by Michael Stallard:

amica insurance lagniappeMichael talks about Vince Burks and Amica Insurance.  In his words:

On Wednesday I’ll be leading a panel at The Conference Board’s Customer Experience Management Conference. One of my panel participants is Vince Burks, a Senior Vice President at Amica Mutual Insurance Company. With Vince’s permission, here is an piece he wrote about what I describe in my work as the “Chain of Connection” that runs from the CEO to Customers. It is necessary to maximize strategic alignment, employee engagement and achieve sustainable superior performance in every organization, especially now when according to Gallup Research only 18 percent of people trust business leaders.

Lagniappe.

Its origin is Spanish. Its meaning is special. And for companies striving to make a difference – or merely to survive – its value is enormous. As Mark Twain explained during his travels to New Orleans, “It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen’ … something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.”

In other words, lagniappe (pronounced “LAN– yap”) is about making an extra effort … about going the extra mile … about doing something extra special. It is a gift. It is a courtesy. It is a way to stand out in a positive way.

And for companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Zales, Starbucks and Sodexho … it is a way of life.

Successful companies know how to run successful businesses. They know how to win over and keep customers. They know how to hire and inspire their workforces. They know the importance of giving 110 percent. They know lagniappe.

For their clients, this means an added emphasis on customer service. Extra courteous. Extra responsive. Always available. They proactively reach out to our clients. They listen to them carefully, patiently, and thoroughly. They treat them well. They build trust.

Like all successful companies, they place a premium on customer relations and recognize that it is not just about the extra “roll” but also the extra call, the extra time, the extra attention.

But that’s not the full story.

At companies like the ones above – as well as my own, Amica Insurance – the concept of lagniappe is not just a part of our brand ethos; it is ingrained in everything we do. It therefore extends to our most valued resource – our employees. In fact, that is the secret to our success.

Excellent benefits. Advancement opportunities. The latest technology. A real work/life balance. And an open and regular line of communication with each other and with senior management. Taken together, we give our employees all that they need to succeed … and more.

This is absolutely essential. Satisfied employees lead to satisfied customers. Long term employees lead to long term relationships with customers. And pride, trust, and morale are all contagious.

Further, well-trained, long-term employees know how to get the job done quickly, efficiently, and effectively. They know their customers. They know their colleagues. They know their company. And they therefore know how to “get to yes” with ease and a sense of grace.

This is good for the customer. This is good for the company.

And while all of this is true during “normal” times, it is especially true and especially important now – during this time of profound economic duress.

Granted, this might seem counterintuitive. There can be an inclination to place disproportionate emphasis on gaining and retaining the “external” customer without appropriate focus on the “internal” one, the one with whom you’ve entrusted your product and brand.

This disconnect can be felt by the consumer resulting in the loss of that which was meant to be gained. Loss of customers can ultimately lead to less revenue, less salary, less staff, longer hours and greater demands. In other words, a perfect storm for companies expanding a lot of energy to stay afloat.

But successful employers will find a way to navigate through this storm. Whatever it is, good managers will find a creative way to meet the needs of their employees … and then some … because they know that good customer relations depend on good employee relations. They know that giving a little extra can go a long way, particularly for an employee who is also expected to go that extra mile. And they know that it’s often the little things that matter most.

Simply stated, they know lagniappe.

Marketing Lagniappe Takeaway: Amica understands that lagniappe can not just be lip service.  It need to be ingrained in everything they do.  They understand the power of exceeding expectations by giving little unexpected extra.  It all starts with taking care of employees.  Happy employees leads to happy customers.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra for good measure) – Amica has a tradition of sending Thanksgiving cards.  The 2010 edition was the 40th year of the tradition.  Why send holiday  ‘thank you’ cards when you can first with Thanksgiving.

Lagniappe defined: A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish,  is any time a business goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure.

How do you stand out in the sea of sameness? How do you win repeat customers and influence word of mouth?

Are you Giving Little Unexpected Extras? What’s Your GLUE?

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