Do You Have a Funny Bone? The 3 Vital “Bones” Required by All Customer Experience Leaders!


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It is with great pleasure that I enter my second calendar year as a CustomerThink Advisor. This year the focus of my exclusive column is evolving – from a generic view of the importance of doing the right thing, for customers and employees to a more specific focus on skills. In 2016, this column will feature thoughts, guidance and inspiration on how to build skills for Customer Experience LEADERSHIP – I very much hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I will enjoy writing them!

My first column of the year starts with the very foundation of what I now recognise as being absolutely necessary for someone to be a GREAT Customer Experience Leader. Whilst it is I that has the honour of sharing this with you, it is important that I give credit to a prominent CX leader in Ireland for inspiring me to want to do so – Graham Fagan is as passionate a leader as you will ever come across. As a result, he is the epitome of what I am about to describe.

Before I do, let me just stress the critical importance of leadership in influencing an organisation to either start or sustain its journey towards Customer Centricity. Change; transformation; evolution; whatever term you prefer; it cannot happen without strong, committed and competent leadership. In reality, too many businesses are finding it incredibly challenging to change the mindset of their companies – there are a number of reasons for this – but one of the most prominent is the lack of competence displayed by business leaders.

So when Graham and I met earlier in January, he told me something that at the highest possible level seemed to bring to life what a Customer Experience Leader needs to possess – the fundamental foundation on which to build and develop more specific competencies and skills. Our bodies would not be able to stand up without the bones that construct our very being – so how apt it is to explore the THREE most vital bones that a CX Leaders body MUST possess:

1. The WISH bone

Every GREAT CX Leader must have a dream – a vision – a mission – a wish of how the organisation should ultimately deliver the end to end Customer Experience. Essentially, this is built through the creation and adoption of a customer STRATEGY. If the customer is NOT linked to business strategy – which is still far too often the case, then it is very difficult (if not impossible) for an organisation to have the ability to drive a focus on Customer Experience. A CX leader with strong WISH bone will not relent until that strategy is not just conceived, but living and breathing in the minds of every person in the organisation.

2. The BACK bone

To be able to grow a strong WISH bone, a GREAT CX leader must also have as strong a BACK bone. Enabling a business to become more customer centric – now and continuously into the future – is not easy! You only need to meet an experienced CX Leader to see how incredibly focused and committed they are. The CX Leader must have a strong enough BACK bone to make some very difficult decisions – sometimes which make them extremely unpopular with their superiors and peers. Often, GREAT CX Leaders will make decisions that are to the detriment of their own career – if the decision benefits the customer, the employee and the shareholder – then that is what they will do. It is not that a CX Leader is a martyr – far from it – a CX Leader has the courage; the backbone to keep doing what is the RIGHT THING TO DO – however hard that may be.

3. The FUNNY bone

That brings me to the third bone – the one you may not necessarily expect. It is essential that a GREAT CX leader has a well developed FUNNY bone. At the end of the day, human beings are far more effective in everything they do if they are having fun – if they are enjoying what they do. If a leader creates a culture that is ‘all work and no play’ – all task with no emotion – then it is very unlikely that your business will be delivering Customer Experiences that consistently meet and sometimes exceed both customer AND employee expectation. The very best CX Leaders are those who know how to make people – customers AND employees feel good – feel that someone cares. Having a GREAT sense of humour is definitely a valuable trait in a CX leader.

So there you have it. Undoubtedly, a CX leader will need the other bones present in the body to function, but considering the importance of the WISH bone, the BACK bone and the FUNNY bone as the three most important makes a lot of sense to me.

Now we have this bone structure as the foundation of the CX leader, next month I will start to describe the skills and competencies that a CX leader needs to build and develop – both in them and others.

Ian Golding, CCXP
A highly influential freelance CX consultant, Ian advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement and employee advocacy techniques and solutions. Ian has worked globally across multiple industries including retail, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, telecoms and pharmaceuticals deploying CX tools and methodologies. An internationally renowned speaker and blogger on the subject of CX, Ian was also the first to become a CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) Authorised Resource & Training Provider.


  1. The bone metaphors work pretty well for customer experience optimization. Would suggest, perhaps, a fourth bone – The LEG Bone. Every customer-centric culture needs a stable foundation, that is an operating structure built around proactive and contributory employees, teamwork and communication, flexible processes, ongoing insight generation, and a strong product and/or service value proposition. With this added bone, you have what amounts to a customer-centric management model, similar to the McKinsey (Peters and Waterman) Seven S Framework, which can be thought of as the skeleton around which outstanding CX can be constructed.

  2. Great stuff, Ian. I was trying to decide which of these was most important, but they are equally vital. I’ve seen many customer experience leaders who have too much of one (usually WISH) and not enough of the others! It’s easy to wish for the best, but inspiring and executing it is not easy. Thanks for making me smile today! Cheers!

  3. Thank you Jeannie and thank you Michael – it is always a pleasure to make other CX pros smile!!! I also love the LEG bone – I will use that going forward Michael!!! Would you be happy for me to add your wording to the blog post proper?


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