White Clay: Interview with Ziggy Zubric, Customer Experience Evangelist

Overview: White Clay is a privately owned company, headquartered in Louisville, KY. It was co-founded in 2006, by Mac Thompson and Mike Wright. White Clay offers Information Solutions, Management Consulting and Customer Experience services. The business enjoys an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

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MSM talks with Ziggy Zubric, Customer Experience Evangelist:


MSM: Please discuss your company’s history and progression, as it looks like there have been several name changes over the years.


Ziggy: Like everything, business is an evolution. My training is in social research, so after graduate school I worked at two marketing research companies.

My big takeaway from both jobs was: I want to do this sort of work my own way, by my own rules, and with my own standards.

So my wife and I started our own research company. Our original brand was Reflective Projects, and we worked with several clients I had met through my previous positions.

As chance would have it, our second office was located across the hall from a new mystery shopping company. We merged with –and eventually acquired– that company, and we were then known as Marketing Endeavors.

Marketing Endeavors was extremely successful, but we worried that it had become somewhat pigeon-holed as a mystery shopping provider only. We love mystery shopping and believe in it deeply, but it’s only one of the tools we use to collect customer feedback and help clients grow.

So in 2009 we launched a second brand, The Magnetic Group, aimed at selling our other services, such as focus groups, surveys, interviews, etc.

This is also when we started moving heavily into training. (We used all of this great feedback we collected and created internal training solutions to help our clients stay responsive to customer needs and desires.)

One of our clients was a firm called White Clay, which provides consulting and software solutions to large banks. White Clay contracted us to execute several customer experience and mystery shopping initiatives for their banking clients.

It was a terrific collaborative relationship, and it was obvious that there was true synergy between the companies. Like us, White Clay focuses entirely on creating high-quality client solutions, believing that other factors (such as growing the client base and increasing revenue) will be the natural consequences of a total focus on quality.

A joint venture just made too much sense.

So in January of 2014, we became the Customer Experience team at White Clay, and it has been terrific.

Our only reservation was the possibility of losing the outstanding reputation we had earned among mystery shoppers as Marketing Endeavors. So we put a premium on communication and keeping our same great team in place, and ultimately, it has been an amazingly smooth transition.

MSM: Members of the Mystery Shop Forum are unanimous in their praise for White Clay. How have you been able to maintain this unparalleled record of shopper satisfaction?

Ziggy: When you do things the right way, you create a cycle of excellence.

Here’s the perfect example:

  • We pay shoppers more money than other companies.
  • Because of that, shoppers deliver superior write-ups for us.
  • Because of that, we deliver extremely insightful reports to our clients.
  • Because of that, clients compensate us well.
  • Because of that, we pay shoppers more money than other companies…

And it’s the same process for interacting with mystery shoppers. We believe in treating them like friends. And when you treat them like friends, they produce better work, which helps us make more money, which allows us to hire talented schedulers who treat shoppers like friends, and on and on.

Again, it’s about creating cycles of excellence. Make an investment in doing things the right way, and more good things will keep happening.


MSM: As a Customer Experience Evangelist, what does your job entail?


Ziggy: We are in the business of helping clients make more money. We do that by improving the customer experience, because happy customers spend more money.

My role is to do all I can to inject customer perspectives into the business operations of our clients, helping clients be more responsive and attuned to their customers.

So the first step is to acquire customer perspectives. We do this through mystery shopping, interviews, focus groups, surveys, and other feedback-generating activities. I love this work. I get to design and validate assessment instruments, structure interview questions, and figure out the best ways to get insightful customer feedback. And then I get to talk to people. I listen to their stories and anecdotes, and try to understand their relationship to the client so that I can find ways to make that relationship even stronger and more productive for everyone.

The second step is to analyze all that feedback and identify the most effective ways for clients to improve the customer experience and make sure that their customers keep spending money with them. This is where we rethink sales processes, enhance sales training, redesign physical or virtual environments, and do whatever it takes to improve the customer experience.


MSM: You seem like a very positive and highly enthusiastic person. Surely, there are times, due to the nature of your job, which cause your enthusiasm to wane and make you shake your head. What do shoppers do to cause this reaction?


Ziggy: We love helping companies grow and improve, and our success depends largely on our shoppers providing detailed insights from the field.

When shoppers do outstanding work and write excellent reports full of useful feedback, we high-five at the office and put notes in their file like, “Incredible shopper! Give her/him any assignment they want!”

But not all shoppers understand our passion for improving the customer experience. To some of them, the shopping experience is just an assignment that they need to complete to get paid.

So rather than give it their all, they mindlessly check boxes and type just enough characters to move on to the next comment box. That’s definitely a downer.

But then you get to the next shopper who is giving it their all, and you get that spark back.

MSM: Ziggy, now we understand why shoppers love working with you and your company. White Clay is a perfect model of the cycles of excellence concept, in action!

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