Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the StellaService seal?
- Which companies get to display the StellaService seal?
- How is your seal different from other Web seals?
- How do I know if an online store has been awarded your seal?
- How does StellaService evaluate retailers?
- Has your evaluation process been audited?
- How do you evaluate each store's usability, features and policies?
- How do you evaluate each store's shipping, delivery and returns?
- Where do you ship products?
- How do you evaluate each store's customer support?
- How often does StellaService evaluate each store?
- How does StellaService determine which retailers to evaluate?
- Which types of online businesses do you evaluate?
- How do you score each online retailer's service performance?
- Are user ratings and reviews included in the scoring calculations?
- Do online stores pay StellaService to rate them?
- Can online retailers “game” your process by finding out exactly when you're going to evaluate them?
Look for the StellaService seal as a signal of great customer service. Online retailers can be awarded either the ELITE seal or the EXCELLENT seal. The ELITE rated stores are very rare and represent only those few internet retailers with outstanding customer service across each phase of the online buying process. You can trust that your experience as a customer is of the upmost importance to these "customer-obsessed" companies. The stores awarded the EXCELLENT seal generally provide a high level of customer service throughout the shopping experience and can be trusted to be there for you in the event of a problem.
Our rating process is rigorous. So much so, that more than 50% of the companies we rate are NOT eligible to display the StellaService seal. Only those online stores that make the customer experience a top priority across key service metrics are awarded the StellaService seal. Stores that have been rated NOT APPROVED were found to generally offer a level of service that you may not be satisfied with.
The StellaService seal is the only independent trustmark that recognizes online businesses for the quality of their customer service. Other Web seals may suggest a company's adherence to basic business practices or validate a site's privacy or security policies, but only the StellaService seal identifies the best in online service.
Look for the StellaService seal on the store's homepage, product pages, customer service pages or checkout. You can also search the StellaService site to learn which online retailers have been awarded the seal. Additionally, you can keep an eye out for top-rated stores when visiting certain comparison shopping sites like TheFind.com. Shopping comparison engines are now leveraging the StellaService seal to provide more transparency to users around merchants' service quality, and as a result they're providing a more transparent view into the shopping experience.
Our evaluation process applies consistent, thorough and objective standards to each online store we rate. We look at more than 200 unique customer service metrics for each online retailer over multiple engagements and across multiple geographies to generate measurements of service performance that have high reliability and construct validity. Our trained customer service analysts stress-test each store through random sampling, which removes any potential biases in our data and allows us to obtain the information that most accurately represents each company's policies, practices and performance.
Our process undergoes an annual evaluation by KPMG. Click here to learn more.
This part of our evaluation is focused mostly on the technological, or “system” components that make up the online customer experience. We examine Web site features, policies and tools in order to measure the overall ease-of-use, convenience, logic and effectiveness of the online shopping experience. From navigation to social tools to product detail and display features, we assess the helpfulness and effectiveness of nearly every element on the site.
This part of the evaluation measures the actual experience of ordering, receiving and returning an item purchased online. For each store, we order products to numerous locations across the country and subsequently return those items through each retailer's standard returns process. This process allows us to evaluate, among other things, the following attributes:
- Shipping policy
- Shipping options and speeds
- Product tracking and status updates
- Package contents and packing slip information
- Return policy
- Return process and correspondence
- Refund speed, methods and alerts
Currently, StellaService has shipping hubs in east coast, midwest and west coast locations. Our analysts receive products in these locations to uncover specific fulfillment details of the retailers we evaluate.
This part of the evaluation measures the quality and effectiveness of the various human touch points of the online customer experience. Our numerous engagements with each online retailer take place across different days, time periods, communication channels (phone, email, live chat) and phases of the online shopping experience. Across each communication channel and shopping phase, we evaluate, among other things, the following attributes:
- Availability and responsiveness
- Issue resolution
- Customer service representative demeanor
The largest – or enterprise – businesses are monitored every day across multiple service areas. For medium and smaller businesses, we monitor their service over a two to three month window every year.
While we wish we could cover every online store in the U.S., we're not quite there yet (although we are evaluating thousands of stores now). Since the largest online stores get the most shoppers, they will always be on our list to be evaluated. To be considered for a StellaService rating, please send us a note here.
Currently, we evaluate online retailers in the following customer categories:
Art / Photography
Books / Physical Media
Clothing / Shoes / Accessories
Crafts / Party Supplies
Food / Drink
Gifts / Novelty
Hardware / Home Improvement
Household Items / Drug
Housewares / Home Furnishings
Music / Instruments
Plants / Garden
Sporting Goods / Outdoor Gear
Toys / Hobbies
Vitamins / Supplements
The scoring of each online retailer is achieved through a weighted calculation, which assigns more significance to certain service-oriented metrics and features than others. Our weightings are designed to shed light on the areas of the online customer experience that are most important to shoppers.
In order to account for the different types of shopping experiences in different product categories, our weightings vary by industry category (apparel/accessories, electronics, jewelry, etc.). Certain services or features are more highly demanded by online shoppers in certain categories, so our scoring reflects that.
No. While we solicit ratings and customer service data from users, we do not include those assessments in the calculation of our scores. The data used to calculate a retailer's rating is collected through our primary research and shopping techniques. This ensures complete objectivity in the data.
We do, however, leverage user ratings and data for determining if and when we should re-rate medium and smaller online stores during the course of a year. We rely partially on the ongoing feedback from consumers to determine if a company's service offering has materially changed since the last time it was evaluated by StellaService.
No. We do not accept payment from companies for ratings, and we purchase products using our own funds.
No. We keep the specific timing of each evaluation confidential. The only way for online stores to ensure they perform well in our evaluations is by providing top-rate service all day, every day.