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“I am not going to sign it.”

“What? You have to.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do, it’s the company policy.”

I was buying lunch at Taco Bell when I found myself grappling with the kid at the counter. He was demanding that I sign the Visa card slip for $2.39. I didn’t see the need for my signature.

He continued to state his case; that it was a requirement that all customers need to sign the credit card slip to complete the transaction.

I pointed to the drive through window.

“How come when I drove through there last week I didn’t have to sign anything?”

“The drive through is different.”

“Why is it different? I don’t think my Visa card knows the difference.”

“I don’t know. That’s just our policy.”

“Well your policy doesn’t make sense. I assumed you guys got smart enough to not require signatures at the drive through so that you can move more customers through faster. Right? More customers per hour equal more revenue. So why don’t you apply that same logic here at the counter?”

“Listen Mister, I just work here.”

I started to tear into him about how he should take some initiative and question management on the policy. I was getting ready to tell him that speaking up might lead to a promotion when the Harley biker behind me said something about five seconds and sticking that card slip where the sun doesn’t shine if I didn’t move along.

I shut up, but my point was valid. The credit card slip was a perfect example of the principle of Partial or Excessive Actions.

Technically speaking, the lens of Partial or Excessive Actions is defined as follows:

If 100 percent of an object is hard to achieve using a given solution method, then by using “slightly less” or “slightly more” of the same method, the problem may be considerably easy to solve.

For instance, you “top off” your tank when you fill up at the gas station.

By doing slightly more or less, you can solve your problem more easily and efficiently.

Think about a stencil mat for a moment. When you are spray painting a design using the stencil, you’re going to use more paint than you would have if you’d just painted on the designs. Even though you’re over spraying, the process is much faster with the mat.

Exceeding Expectations

Many companies apply this lens to their customer service process. Word-of-mouth marketing is a “free” marketing tool that companies can employ to spread the word about their businesses reputation, but beware, because word of mouth marketing can backfire.

Customers are far more likely to share a bad experience with their friends than to speak highly of their experience. If customers have a bad experience with your company, they will tell everyone they know. If they have an average or expected experience, they are unlikely to mention your business at all.

However, if you can greatly exceed the customer’s expectations and go above and beyond to make their experience with your company positive, they will share their good experience with their friends.

Companies have to go far beyond what their customers expect to make word-of-mouth marketing a viable resource. An average experience will generate zero results. Only by adding more to the customer service process can companies achieve stellar results, but you have to go far beyond what is expected.

Less Can Be More

The Taco Bell story at the beginning of the chapter is a great example of a time when less is more. It took retail years to figure out that speeding up the transaction for smaller purchases makes way more sense. Sure, the risk goes up slightly for the merchant in the event of a dispute because the customer didn’t sign the stupid little piece of paper, but how many people are going to dispute 2 bucks anyway?

Eliminating the signature process for small purchases is the simplest case of risk management I can think of, balancing the risk versus the reward. Micromanaging, or adding more to the process, doesn’t do anything to improve efficiency or satisfaction in most cases.

Less is more. If you have to create rough illustrations for a project, sketching the images is much quicker and easier than drawing each picture in detail. Sketching uses less effort, and for a preliminary draft, accomplishes basically the same result.

What can you add or subtract from your product or service to improve the end result? How could you improve operations in your business by using a little less or a little more?

TRIZ – Partial or Excessive Actions

TRIZ - Partial or Excessive Actions