Our expert spotlight series showcases the great minds of SMG—those who keep us innovating, growing, and driving meaningful change for clients. We sat down with Shad Foos—SMG’s first Chief Experience Officer—to learn more about the driving force behind this new role and how he’s helping shape SMG’s customer-centric culture.
Gartner and other industry sources report a surge in the presence of the CXO role in organizations. As SMG’s first CXO, what do you feel is the push for creating this position?
Across different industries, we’re seeing the CXO title emerge. And it looks very different from one organization to the next. Sometimes it’s a re-imagined CMO or CCO role. Other times it’s bubbling up through technology departments with a heavy focus on digital transformation and UX. It’s rare that we’re seeing it as a dedicated, stand-alone position that’s laser-focused on improving the customer (and buyer) experience. That’s the investment we’ve made here.
My role is twofold. First, to help the entire organization better understand what it feels like to be a client or prospective client. Second, to help us better leverage those insights to improve our experience, products, and services. Just like our clients, we’re leveraging experience to drive business.
And what role will you play in leveraging those experiences?
I’m spending a lot more time with clients, potential buyers, and the SMG sales and delivery teams. I’m hearing (and seeing) firsthand what’s working and what’s not—across a broad range of stakeholders. And I’m helping ensure that those insights are shared across teams and functions in a more efficient and effective manner. Honestly, I’m learning a lot about our business. It’s been a very powerful experience.
With Sales, we’re looking at how we create an elevated buying experience. I’m engaging with senior sellers to make sure that our collective key account pipeline is where it needs to be, so we’re best positioned for growth. Also, we’re mapping the buyer journey to understand how we can exceed buyer expectations—again leveraging experience to drive business.
I’ll also support the Client Operations and Client Insights teams, and I’ll help innovate our listening channels. We’ll make it easier for clients to give us feedback—and ultimately make it easier for clients to do business with us—which will improve our business and theirs.
Though you’re new to this role, you’re not new to SMG. You spent 6 years as our Chief Marketing Officer. How did that help prep you for this next venture?
Leading the Marketing function gave me the opportunity to learn about our industry, our business, and the competitive landscape (which is rapidly changing). I’ve helped evolve our strategy and reframe our unique selling proposition. We’ve tested and learned. And through all of it we’ve stayed true to who we are, which is more than a software company. Clients who experience our professional services appreciate our differentiated model. Understanding that, inside and out, has really given me a jump start in this new role.
How does SMG embrace + execute its mission to be a catalyst for change?
The one thing we say consistently to our clients is “let’s change the way you do business.” It’s the notion of disrupting yourself before someone else disrupts you. And that’s exactly why our unique model works. The smg360® platform is designed to inspire smart changes. And our Client Insights team works in lockstep with our clients to drive outcomes. That combination means we maximize program results.
We authentically live that mantra internally, too. This new role is a perfect example. Also in 2019 we restructured our executive leadership team, promoting our Chief Sales Officer to President, and our Chief Client Officer to Chief Operating Officer. Those were high-impact moves to help the entire organization become more customer-centric and growth-oriented, and to help our Product and Technology teams really understand what’s most important to clients.
In 2020 we centralized our implementation team and our customer support team to more consistently implement best practices—which makes these processes faster and easier for clients. Those are just a few examples of how we’re changing the way we do business—all designed to create more ongoing value for our clients.
How do you see the XM space evolving in the next 5 years?
We’ll continue to see more connection between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). That’s the Service Profit Chain that SMG is founded on. The more companies focus on CX, the more they understand the relationship between loyal employees and loyal customers to drive performance.
The industry will supplement program scores more often with unsolicited and unstructured feedback. Brands are understanding that their frontlines can’t be so focused on success metrics, that we’re actually losing sight of the customer. We’ll also see an explosion of integrations that drive new invitation methodologies. And there will be more of an emphasis on text analytics and reputation management. These technology and channel innovations will help brands answer questions they’ve not thought to ask.
What’s the most stand-out customer experience you’ve had?
First, let’s talk about food. We were at a local, high-end restaurant the other night. We don’t go often, and it had been a while since our last visit. The host, manager, and bartender all remembered our names and our last drink order. It really struck me. On the flip side, there is a very casual local restaurant that we visit frequently. The host knows our table, and all the servers bring our standing drink order to the table at first greeting. It’s two similar examples of great service from two very different business models.
From a retail perspective, there is nothing easier than shopping Bonobos online. A range of custom fits means no tailoring. They offer fast delivery and free returns. They even go so far as to include a self-adhesive return label, so you don’t have to go to their site, print a label, and tape it to the box—it’s just peel and stick. They’re definitely winning share of closet right now.
Want to join our team? Go here for more on what it’s like to work at SMG and to view a list of current opportunities.