Lisa and I spent the first part of last week at the NATP National Conference in New Orleans. We’ve gotten a lot from our partnership with the group, and we always enjoy meeting new people and visiting with longtime members at the event.

New Orleans is perhaps my favorite city in America, even in July when the thermometer climbs nearly all the way to 100. (And it’s not a dry heat, thankyouverymuch.) You just can’t beat the combination of food, drink, and music. Although it’s located in “the South,” it’s not a southern city so much as a Caribbean city. 

Thursday morning after the exhibit hall closed down, my girlfriend and I asked the desk clerk at my hotel where we could go for a casual, hearty breakfast. (The bananas foster French toast at Stanley, right across Jackson Square, is my favorite breakfast in all the world, but that just wasn’t what we were looking for.) He suggested a place called Commerce, just a couple blocks away.  And it was exactly as promised – a hearty three-egg bacon and cheese omelet, fried potatoes, and a fluffy biscuit for me, and a thick, satisfying breakfast sandwich for her.

We also saw our server deliver something that surely hit the spot for a fellow diner – a Tylenol, from a very prominent display right behind the cash register. Those of you who have been to New Orleans probably know that visitors have sometimes been known to overindulge – and if you’re a restaurant in the business of serving hangover food, why not attack the problem head on?

In New Orleans, they call that a “lagniappe.” defines it broadly as “something given as a bonus or extra gift.” Wikipedia identifies it more precisely as a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at a time of purchase, like a 13th doughnut when buying a dozen. I can’t think of a better lagniappe for a greasy-spoon diner to serve at breakfast.

Of course, the whole thing got me to wondering what all of us can offer as a lagniappe to our own customers. (And, yeah, aspirin isn’t a bad idea for when your clients bring you tough tax headaches.)

Here at TaxCoach, we’ve added lagniappes over the years that have grown to become important parts of our service. For example, I used to get email after email asking technical tax questions, marketing questions, and practice-management questions. I wanted to answer them, but keeping up with the volume got harder and harder. So we decided to host a weekly member call-in to “batch” that work. We attracted members to the call who had no idea we would be willing to answer those specific questions, and we began creating what has become an active TaxCoach community. Several members have told me they keep their membership specifically to take advantage of those calls.

What about you? What’s your lagniappe? What can you give your customers, on top of what they’re explicitly engaging you to provide, to delight them and keep them under your tent?

Are you sending Wire Service emails to keep them entertained and informed between appointments and calls?

Are you recognizing and properly thanking clients who refer you to their family, friends, and colleagues? (I say “properly” very deliberately – high-end clients aren’t nearly as motivated as you might think by a “$50 off” coupon, and may even be offended.)

Are you hosting client appreciation events, office anniversaries, or “grand openings” when you change office space? You can turn almost anything into an excuse for a celebration. (That’s another lesson I learned in New Orleans as I watched a funeral parade pass by me on Royal Street with marchers singing and dancing while holding up pictures of their deceased friend.)

Let us know about the “little extras” you give your clients and we’ll let you know about anything noteworthy we find. If you’re not offering anything at all, try it – we bet you’ll find it helps laissez les bons temps roulez!