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This time of year, the time between Mardi Gras and Easter, I’m reminded of the Louisiana French concept of lagniappe – a small, unexpected gift given to a customer when they purchase something. Lagniappe is intended to build repeat business, and it doesn’t have to cost much, if anything.

The Residence Inn in Duluth, where I’ve stayed for the last six months while working on a consulting engagement, is the poster child of lagniappe.

It starts at the top with Michael Stanton, the General Manager. On Tuesday’s he personally grills a complementary dinner for his guests. This is all the more impressive when you realize he does this even when it is 18 degrees below zero, and snowing, because, to quote him, “The meat just tastes better from the grill.”

Christina, the catering manager, has been out and convinced the local restaurants to do complementary tastings at the hotel which is a special treat, not only for the goodies, but because it introduces the guests to local restaurants we might have otherwise missed.

Sarah, Pat, and Jan, who prepare breakfast and a snack in the evenings several days a week, always make time to great the guests and shoot the breeze while they hustle about.

The front desk managers, Jessie, Tyler, Jason, and Toni always have a smile and are genuinely interested in making certain everything is perfect.

Amanda, the housekeeper, takes insuring each room is perfect to heart. We write notes back and forth with good wishes.

There are another twenty people working at this hotel who make it run like a well-oiled machine, and each goes out of their way to give everyone something special.

They have mastered the art of giving small, unexpected gifts of service to their guests. Why would I shop for another alternative?

Can your clients and customers say the same about your business?