Minimizing ‘Red Tape’ to Deliver Better Experiences

Minimizing ‘Red Tape’ to Deliver Better Experiences

Doing CX Right podcast show on Spotify with host Stacy Sherman
Doing Customer Experience (CX) Right Podcast - Hosted by Stacy Sherman
Doing CX Right podcast show on iHeart Radio with host Stacy Sherman

Podcast Summary About Reducing “Red Tape”

Have you heard of the term “red tape”? “Friction, sludge, no redeeming value” are some of the words associated with red tape in scholarly literature. Most people think of red tape pertaining just to government, yet also impacts business results.

For example, as a customer, have you ever had to decipher a bill you knew was incorrect and then try to get it fixed? It is difficult because organizations have dysfunctional and outdated rules, processes, redundant paperwork, wastefulness, and unnecessarily long wait times. The keyword is unnecessary.

Red tape is avoidable, which is the theme of my podcast episode featuring Stephanie Thum. She has spent the last year studying bureaucratic red tape from a customer experience perspective. While Red Tape is a customer problem, it has a tremendous impact on employee engagement and their ability to deliver customer excellence.

 Topics include:

  • What is bureaucratic ‘Red Tape?’ 
  • Why it’s a customer problem and obliterate employee experiences?
  • What are the root causes?
  • Is it all bad? How can change happen whereby leaders stop looking the other way to improve customer and employee loyalty?

There is one irrefutable fact.

The onus is on leaders to lead change, create high-performing efficient organizations and make decisions that contribute to employee satisfaction and retention. Red Tape stands in the way of reaching that goal.

Stephanie Thum


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It has been argued that red tape is hardest on customers. But bureaucratic red tape has a compounded impact on employees. Most employees usually must administer red tape of some kind to customers. It’s their job to know the rules, communicate them, and enforce customer service policies or rules, for example. But then employees have rules, procedures, and processes of their own to deal with at work. Things like:

  • Rigid hierarchy.

  • Piles of paperwork to get reimbursed for travel expenses.

  • More piles of paperwork to get approval for a training seminar.

  • Rules that make it hard to get a promotion.

  • Rules about communicating with colleagues in other departments.

  • Unnecessarily long processes to hire and fire.

  • Long requisition processes to get the materials to do a job.

Why Red Tape Is A Big Deal

Research has shown red tape can:

  • Create cognitive uncertainty for employees.

  • Send employees into rule-bending mode.

  • Lead to cheating or gaming performance data.

  • Make employees want to leave their jobs.

  • Lead to employees deliberately working against leadership.

  • Create job stress.

  • Cause mistakes from being overburdened.

  • Inhibit innovation and employee motivation.

  • Make employees feel powerless and alienated.

  • Slow down productivity.

  • Cause job dissatisfaction.

  • Impact performance.

  • Stand in the way of employee participation in organizational change.

Unfortunately, few leaders seem to want to do anything about the red tape that causes poor employee experiences. In fact, most seem to be looking the other way while the rules pile up.

Why Leaders Are Looking The Other Way

You might think that since red tape is a problem for employees, it’s a problem for leadership. But red tape is usually so deeply embedded in organizational culture that it isn’t on the radar as a trouble spot.

And there’s easy debate—too easy—about how red tape isn’t really a problem. Some people argue that red tape rules and burdensome processes are needed because they:

  • Reduce risk.

  • Create structure.

  • Create certainty.

  • Create a level playing field.

  • Preserve program integrity.

  • Repel cheaters.

  • Prevent fraud.

And they’re not necessarily wrong.

Structure can be a good thing. For example, a study of workers in Ghana showed that 50.3% found red tape to be a negative for job satisfaction while 49.7% said it was positive. So, some people do indeed prefer the structure of bureaucratic red tape in their work.

What Leaders Can Do To Reduce Red Tape

  • Measure employee perceptions of red tape. Scholars have developed and validated a scale that can help leaders to measure red tape perceptions among employees.

  • Conduct a sludge audit. Sludge audits help you to evaluate the time and related expenses of filling out forms, waiting for decisions, and repeating processes.

  • Streamline and automate processes. The streamlining work you do may have a ripple impact on customer experience, as well.

  • Apply rules consistently. Advocating for consistency in how rules are applied can reduce the cognitive uncertainty that causes employee job stress.

  • Be mindful of when, where, and how you’re creating rules. Are they really necessary? Are the rules created on top of more rules?

On The Upside

Leaders have many good reasons to consider the impact of administrative red tape on citizens, customers, and employees.

Some red tape may be good for reducing organizational risks and protecting stakeholder interests. However, there’s no denying what is in the research. Red tape can also have a detrimental impact on employees who are responsible for delivering services to customers.

In your quest to lead change, create great employee experiences, perhaps it is best to think of it like this: 
Red tape may not be a bad thing if it motivates you to innovate your processes.

So when you say employee experiences lead to great customer experiences, make sure you clearly express what the problems are and what can be done.

Back To Specifics

As customer experience professionals, we can’t be vague. Otherwise, it’s too easy to be viewed as part of the organization’s problems, instead of being viewed as part of the solution.


About Stephanie Thum

Consultant, writer, speaker, evangelist, researcher, a former practitioner in B2B and government. Recently published in the scholarly world. My Dictionary of U.S. Federal Government Customer Experience Terms, Phrases, and Acronyms: A Guide for Practitioners and Consultants, is listed as a top CX book of 2021 by Book Authority.

Stepanie’s website

Twitter  LinkedIn

About Stacy Sherman: Founder of Doing CX Right®‬

An award-winning certified marketing and customer experience (CX) corporate executive, speaker, author, and podcaster, known for DoingCXRight®. She created a Heart & Science™ framework that accelerates customer loyalty, referrals, and revenue, fueled by engaged employees and customer service representatives. Stacy’s been in the trenches improving experiences as a brand differentiator for 20+ years, working at companies of all sizes and industries, like Liveops, Schindler elevator, Verizon, Martha Steward Craft, AT&T++.   Stacy is on a mission to help people DOING, not just TALKING about CX, so real human connections & happiness exist. Continue reading bio >here.

10 Impactful Ways To Authentically Thank Employees

10 Impactful Ways To Authentically Thank Employees

It’s no secret that happy employees yield better business results. There’s a lot of research indicating customer satisfaction and loyalty rise when employees enjoy their jobs and workplace. They go hand-in-hand. As leadership expert Simon Sinek says, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

Research shows (

“69% of employees work harder when they feel appreciated.
79% feel motivated when recognized.”
“51% of workers are recognized once a quarter.” I’ve been in organizations where it’s more like once per year. 

I know that creating a great company culture does not happen automatically or overnight. It requires intentional design and ongoing focus. As Thanksgiving approaches (and beyond), take time to express gratitude. It’s in your control!   


10 Authentic Ways To Thank Employees:

  1. Send personalized thank-you notes. Recognize your staff for delighting customers.
  2. Do something that shows your team they matter. If you don’t know what that is, simply ask.
  3. Invite teams to an Executive meal (virtual works) based on results & positive customer feedback. 
  4. Publicize awesome work. Compliment individuals & teams on the company website.
  5. Enable people to recognize each other. Gamify experiences. Tie prizes to customer value.
  6. Send small gift or balloons to top performers & those with Y/Y improvements.
  7. Buy lunch for people resolving customer issues daily i.ecustomer service reps. survey team, etc. 
  8. Create a CEO video message thanking employees for creating customer promoters.
  9. Offer a bonus or day off to those who routinely demonstrate customer excellence.
  10. Feed employees and show up. I’ve seen Executives literally serve happiness at employee Thanksgiving lunch.

For more inspiration and actionable ideas, watch my interview with Ryan Estis. His true stories will touch the core of your heart as he beautifully portrays a Starbuck barista, Lily, who “pours happiness” every day.

You’ll appreciate my interview even more by watching I’ll never forget that cup of coffee. Play it at your workplace and discuss it as a team as you’ll get people engaged and motivated to show up as their best selves.

Doing CX Right Reminders:

  • Small acts of kindness go a long way. “People may forget what you said or did, but never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
  • Employees are your heroes. If they don’t feel important, your customers will feel it.
  • Don’t wait for formal end of year reviews. If you’re not appreciating employees throughout the year, your competitors will. They’re searching for great talent.
  • Don’t overthink it. Thank people everywhere i.e. meetings, LinkedIn “kudos” posts, etc.
  • Be empathetic and sincere. Employees know when managers are “checking a box.” 

Employee Satisfaction and DoingCXRight Source: Ashley Johnson


What do YOU do show appreciation in authentic and meaningful ways?  

Check out >Doing CX Right®‬ podcasts for more inspiration and actionable tips about Doing Customer & Employee Experiences Right.

Doing CX Right podcast show on Spotify with host Stacy Sherman
Doing Customer Experience (CX) Right Podcast - Hosted by Stacy Sherman
Doing CX Right podcast show on iHeart Radio with host Stacy Sherman

Is customer experience replacing advertising at biggest brands?

Is customer experience replacing advertising at biggest brands?

Is product experience becoming more important than advertising? Many business leaders are saying yes, as we’re now living in an experience or expectation-based economy where the quality of experiences delivered to customers determines company performance. 

My featured article guest, Jack Ashdown, shares throught-provoking views about the role of advertising and shifts in approach to acquire new customers and drive loyalty. I encourage you to read and share your perspective.

Is CX Replacing Advertising?

When was the last time you saw an ad for Tesla? That’s right, you haven’t, because Elon Musk believes the brand’s cash should be continually invested in innovation, not creative marketing.

Apart from Musk’s idiosyncratic and highly personal approach to marketing, Tesla has thrived in large part due to the UX experience of its cars. In some models, dials and levers have been reduced down to a steering wheel and iPad-style screen integrating displayed driving, navigation, and external internet access.

Digital disruptors like Uber, Airbnb, and Deliveroo have also chosen this route, making the decision to invest relatively little in advertising – particularly in the early growth stages of the business. Instead, ground-breaking concepts and elegant service design enabled them to transform entire markets.

This approach concentrates on the power of word-of-mouth backed by repeated positive customer interactions at all touchpoints. Brands such as Trainline harnessed this model, relying on organic growth through an excellent CX strategy.

It can be seen everywhere, even in the previously niche world of the stock market investment. Robinhood provides a cheap, easy-to-use trading alternative and reached 18 million accounts in March 2021, a year-on-year increase of 151%. It achieved such stellar growth by creating an app that took many design cues from social platforms and essentially gamified stock trading – enabling activist private traders to take direct action to support companies such as GameStop and AMC in the process.

By 2023 businesses worldwide are predicted to be investing almost two trillion dollars in digital transformation projects. In comparison, they’ll be spending a relatively humble $600 billion on advertising.

A big slice of the money spent on digital transformation will be focussed on digital services and consumer engagement or interaction. The global customer experience management (CXM) market’s CAGR is estimated to be around 12%, which should result in the market being worth around 14.5 billion by 2025.

This begs the question; if the brands that succeed in shaping or outperforming markets are those that step ahead of the pack with unique experiences and products rather than those investing heavily in advertising, will the center of the creative universe shift from advertising towards CX-orientated creativity leveraging data, UX and service innovation over the coming decade?

The CX medium is the advertising message

This huge predicted investment in digital transformation speaks to the emergence of fundamental changes in the way that organizations and businesses, new and old, are thinking about how to either generate sales or achieve long-term brand loyalty.

The digital economy is creating an ever more powerful cycle of digitization with, on one hand, ever better and faster digital products, services, and devices, and on the other the huge pressure on organizations to use technology to transform their operations.


Stacy’s advice for advertising & branding leaders: 

*Infuse the customer voice in EVERY business decision. No exceptions.
*Focus on creating better experiences. You don’t have to be  Tesla to gain a competitive edge.
*Hire and collaborate with customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX)  experts. It must be intentional.  

Read more about CX trends and expert views on debatable topics. 

*Should the Chief Experience Officer Oversee Marketing?

*What’s The Fate Of A Customer Experience Officer (CXO)

*Is Customer Experience The New Marketing? Is Marketing the New CX?

The Effects of A Pandemic on Customer Experience

The Effects of A Pandemic on Customer Experience

Every business has been impacted by Covid-19 in some way. Many companies thrived and others had to pivot for survival. Samespace interviewed me and several customer experience leaders including Nate Brown, Shep Hyken, Katie StablerJo Boswell, and Jim Tincher. I encourage you to listen to our inspirational video. I’m interested to hear your views. Let’s keep the conversations going to improve human experiences during and post-challenging times.

Transcript of Customer Experience Converations:

Kate Stabler 0:02
Effects of the pandemic have really placed customer experience under the spotlight. Everything changed. Our customer’s situations change. Their financial situations changed. Their home situations changed.

Shep Hyken 0:15
What happened in a really short period of time, the customer’s expectations turned a little bit

Stacy Sherman 0:21
Now, the conversation is how do we support the mental safety.

Nate Brown 0:25
So, what the CX leaders had to do is to come in and comfort and provide a place of safety.

Jim Tincher 0:31
And when that emotion gets better, so does your business.

Shep Hyken 0:35
You know, I used to come and see you personally. Now, I’m not going to do that. So you better make doing business remotely just as easy as it was before. And so we had to shift and come up with ways to do that

Kate Stabler 0:46
The need to be able to join up different channels end to end is now more important than ever before.

Nate Brown 0:54
We’re doing digital transformation, as an example.

Stacy Sherman 0:57
As long as it doesn’t remove the human interaction. So it has to compliment

Jim Tincher 1:03
When you have customers feeling more confident. Well, they order from you again.

Kate Stabler 1:07
And, we’ve learned as we’ve gone along, it’s about how do you as a customer experience leader, ensure that you are influencing your organization.

Check out my full interview about customer experience topics including:

  • Three components of CX that apply to every organization
  • Importance of Empathy in CX
  • The merge of customer experience and Diversity and Inclusion
  • Importance of mental safety of agents in such crisis
  • How to focus on getting the voice of the customer?
  • Leveraging technology to enable communications and complement agents
  • Tips for CX professionals to counter such crisis