Give ‘Em A Little Something Extra

This post was originally published on September 4, 2015 on the FCR blog.  Click here to read the original.

I recently wrote a post about the crazy things contact center agents value most.  In the midst of polling my colleagues, I found a few fellow customer service fanatics in the bunch.  One of them kindly told me about Bob Farrell and his “Give ‘em the pickle” philosophy.

Give ‘Em The Pickle

To summarize, Farrell owned a series of shops that served ice cream, burgers, and pickles.  One day a long time customer wanted an extra pickle and the employee tried to charge them an extra $0.50.  When Farrell received a disappointed letter from the customer about being charged for the pickle, he was horrified.  It was customary at Farrell’s give customers an extra pickle for free.  From then on, he made sure that “Give ‘em the pickle” was the policy in his restaurants.


In a great article on CustomerThink, customer service expert Teresa Allen teaches us the word Lagniappe.  It’s a creole word defined as “the art of giving a little something extra.”  It’s such a simple yet powerful concept.  Now that you know lagniappe, go back to Bob Farrell’s story and you can see that in his case, the little something extra was a pickle.  The difference between delight and almost losing a customer was– A PICKLE!!!

Lagniappe might mean something different to different companies.  For example, Adam Toporek talks about how Ritz Carlton employees are empowered to use up to $2,000 solve problems for customers.  Chances are, you can delight a customer for a whole lot less.  It seems that more and more companies are taking this philosophy to heart and empowering their staff.  

Ask yourself,  Do you find yourself enforcing a policy, like charging an extra dollar for something?  Do you find that customers are constantly push back or leaving because of it?  If something immediately comes to mind, it might be time to talk with the powers that be and find out if you are empowered to give a little extra.  If there’s resistance from your boss, that will likely change when you tell them that a $10 per month customer walked out the door over $1.

A classic sundae from Farrell’s. Photo Credit: Angry Julie Monday via Creative Commons

Remembering Bob Farrell

As I was learning about the customer service legend that is Bob Farrell, I discovered that he recently passed away.  To honor him, take a moment to recognize his legendary ice cream sundaes.  But more importantly, let’s all say together:

Give ‘em the pickle!

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  • Love this one, again it is print out worthy. I call it the “Going the extra penny” moment. A true test of great service is see how a cashier responds when you hand her two one dollar bills when the register reads $1.01. If he/she provides great service and cares about the customer, they will hand back one of the dollars and forgive the extra penny owed. Who wants to walk around with $0.99 in their pocket.

    Keep writing great stuff!

    • It’s a nice example, though a tough one for many cashiers.

      Cashier drawers are typically audited at the end of every shift. Every under or over amount is recorded. Too many, or too high and under/overage, and the cashier faces sanctions.

      The desire to maintain a correctly balanced drawer thus overrides the desire to spare a customer the $.99.

    • Great point, Doug. I totally had that experience when I paid cash for gas. The guy rounded down in my favor. Love the effortless customer service approach.

  • Great piece Jeremy! These extras always start with empowerment. As Jeff pointed out, there are often controls that frontline staff are accountable to. If you don’t make “give em the pickle” part of the culture and part of policy, teams will not feel empowered to make those small decisions that have a big impact.

    I love the lagniappe tie-in. If you haven’t had the chance, check out Stan Phelps’ book What’s Your Purple Goldfish. Stan was the first person I ever heard use lagniappe in a customer service context, and the book is actually a collection of crowdsourced stories about those little extras.

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