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I recently sat down with Columbia University’s Dave Lerner to talk about how and why John and I started STELLAService. We also touched on life as an entrepreneur in New York City, raising venture capital and what it really takes to evaluate the customer service quality of thousands of online retailers.
Check it out on the Huffington Post, or just watch below:
As we’re all aware by now, advertisements don’t exist to tell the full story about the quality or “real value” of a product – they exist to sell. The lack of transparency in this case is known as asymmetric information. Simply put, people make purchases without knowing everything about the product or the company that sells it – advertisements help us justify our purchases in a world of asymmetric information.
Enter Michael Spence, a world-renowned economist and recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He was one of the first to formalize the argument for signaling, a common solution to the problem of asymmetric information. In economic terms, signaling is defined as the idea that one party (termed the agent) conveys some meaningful information about itself to another party (the principal). When you combine this idea with the notion that people don’t have time to do much of their own research, you can understand why a signal has to be just that – a mark that encodes a deeper, more meaningful message about something. People need to see it and immediately get it.
What comes to mind when you see these signals?
All of these organizations provide a clear signal that help you (the consumer) deal with information asymmetries. Specifically, these signals enhance the transparency around energy efficiency, environmental protection, and Web security. Ultimately these signals give you confidence that the company or product displaying it has been validated by a third-party which has done the research for you about a potential consumer question or concern. Consequently, these signals have proven to increase trust, comfort, and most importantly sales for businesses in situation where they need or want to convey something important…so important that it requires an independent third-party to verify it.
STELLAService solves one of the longest-standing and most painful and frustrating information asymmetries – customer service quality. How can you know anything about the customer service you’re likely to receive from a company if you’ve never purchased from it before? STELLAService is THE SIGNAL that puts this issue to rest. When you see the STELLA’ seal on the Web, you can rest assured that you will be taken care of as a valued customer by the company displaying the seal.
While the Web sometimes increases information asymmetries by widening the physical gap between consumers and merchants, it’s also an amazing tool for the pursuit of something seemingly impossible…perfect information. We’re thrilled to do our part in providing more transparency in the online marketplace, and who knows, STELLA might just be that signal that gives you the confidence to buy those sweet new kicks you’ve been eyeing!
As promised, you will now be able to leverage our customer service ratings and seals when you really, really need them: on comparison shopping sites. STELLAService announced today that its STELLA Ratings and STELLAService seals will soon be displayed next to listed retailers on the #3 comparison shopping engine TheFind.com, enabling its base of 23 million monthly shoppers to quickly and completely assess the quality of online stores right upfront within search results.
This is a major enhancement to the five-star, community-driven rating system traditionally used by many shopping engines, which provide little differentiation between stores and allow for biased, unreliable reviews of a seller’s service quality to influence a merchant’s overall score. STELLAService, on the other hand, takes a consistent, independent and completely exhaustive approach to evaluating every possible aspect of the online customer experience.
The STELLAService seal, which has become the Web’s most meaningful and substantive signal of service quality, will now help identify those stores with the highest levels of customer service in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace. While this is obviously a win for consumers, it also enables merchants who earn and display the seal to differentiate themselves and benefit from higher quality traffic and better conversion rates.
I think our Advisor and ecommerce expert Marsha Collier said it best:
Seeing the STELLAService rating/seal next to a retailer takes the guesswork out of online shopping. Everyone has product, but customer service is where the rubber meets the road.
Next time you’re cruising the Web for that must-have item, discard the uncertainty of receiving bad service – look first to see if the store achieved the STELLAService seal on TheFind.com
Last Thursday, March 18th, we released our STELLA Ratings for the 150 largest Internet retailers and the feedback has been fantastic. It is no surprise that the top rated business, Zappos.com, loves what we’re up to, and we feel the same way about the excellent service they provide their customers.
As Zappos.com discovered, being #1 has its benefits. Not only does it provide them with an opportunity to boast their top STELLA Rating and display the ELITE STELLAService seal on their site, but it also allows them to enjoy an afternoon of complimentary massages!
Yes, that’s right! On behalf of consumers everywhere, we wanted to thank Zappos for their commitment to outstanding customer service by treating their Customer Loyalty Team (the real folks on the other end of the phone when you call) to an afternoon of
massages. Why massages? Well, frankly, we couldn’t think of a better way to extend our thanks than a blissful few minutes of rest and relaxation in the middle of the work day. Wouldn’t you love a massage right now?! So would we.
Members of Zappos’ customer loyalty team were thrilled to be recognized for their hard work and dedication to pleasing customers: “I truly enjoyed it! The masseuse was really nice and very focused on the targeted areas for me. I asked for her card and will use her services again. Just imagine what 60 minutes could do? WOW! Thanks STELLAService!” said Tammie Calamaco, one of the lucky Zappos employees.
It’s the least we could do! Congrats Zappos!