How do you define online customer service?
We define online customer service as the sum of all interactions between shoppers and online retailers that contribute to the overall customer experience. We assess the performance of both "service" and "system" components for each site we rate, with service components emphasizing the human elements of a company's interaction with customers and system components stressing the technological and policy elements. All service-oriented attributes fall into one of three main areas:
- Usability / Features & Policy
- Shipping, delivery and returns
- Customer support
How does STELLAService evaluate online retailers?
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.
Has your evaluation process been audited?
Our process undergoes an annual evaluation by KPMG. Click here
to learn more.
How do you evaluate each store's usability, features and policies?
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.
How do you evaluate each store's shipping, delivery and returns?
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 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
Where do you ship products?
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.
How do you evaluate each store's customer support?
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
How often does STELLAService evaluate each store?
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.
How does STELLAService determine which retailers to rate?
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
How do you score each online retailer's service performance?
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.
Are user ratings and reviews included in the scoring calculations?
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 shoppers to determine if a company’s service offering has materially changed since the last time it was evaluated by STELLAService.
Which types of online businesses do you rate?
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
Do online stores pay you to rate them?
No. We do not accept payment from companies for ratings, and we purchase products using our own funds.
Can online retailers "game" your process by finding out exactly when you're going to evaluate them?
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.
When does my next rating come out?
Every store that we cover is rated at least once per year. For the largest – or enterprise – stores that are evaluated every day, we publish ratings two times per year, on May 1st and November 1st. For smaller and medium size businesses that we rate in a two to three month snapshot, we will publish their ratings upon the conclusion of their evaluation process, one time per year. That said, a company's service proposition can change throughout the year, so in order to account for that the timing of those changes, we look to shoppers to tell us (and the merchants) if the service performance of the company has recently gone up or down. If enough people suggest a company's performance has drastically improved or declined since the last STELLAService evaluation, we will enter that store back into the queue to be evaluated regardless of how long it has been since our last evaluation.
What is the STELLAService seal?
The STELLAService seal is the Web's most trusted signal of top-tier customer service.
What STELLAService seals are available?
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 utmost 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.
Which companies get to display the STELLAService seal?
Currently, stores that are rated ELITE and EXCELLENT are eligible to display the seal. 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 demonstrate a consistent track record of great service are awarded the STELLAService seal.
How is your seal different from other Web seals?
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.
How do I know if an online store has been awarded your seal?
Look for the STELLAService seal on the store's homepage, product pages, customer service pages or checkout. You can also search the STELLAService website 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 Pronto.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.
Will my rating ever change?
Yes. If your business is being covered by STELLAService that means a new rating will be published at least once every year.
If my store currently displays the seal and our new ratings comes out and reflects seal ineligibility, what happens?
We hope that your rating will remain consistent or improve, but ultimately your performance determines your rating and seal eligibility. If your store's new rating reflects seal ineligibility, the team at STELLAService will contact you and notify you of these changes first. You will have 30 days from date of notification to remove the seal from your site and any other marketing materials before your profile page is updated to reflect the most recent change.
How can I improve my rating?
Customer service is a relative concept because a shopper's experience elsewhere affects the perception of your store's performance. Aside from learning more about the metrics we evaluate, our team is working on opening up our complete data set to better understand your rating. Please contact us here
if you'd like to learn more.
Do consumers know who STELLAService is?
The STELLAService brand is quickly building awareness. Our seal is uniquely loaded in excess of 100 million times every month on hundreds of retailer and distribution partner sites. In addition, the brand is frequently mentioned in the press (see our press page here
). Ultimately, our awareness is reflected in the increase of key performance indicators of our partner sites (click here
to read our case studies).
Will the STELLAService seal impact the performance of my site?
The seal will not affect the bandwidth or performance of your site. Our seal is loaded on some of today's most popular shopping destinations and its performance is a core piece of our business.
Can the seal be customized in size, shape and color?
We are always striving to create the best product for our partners. If you have concerns about the current seal, we would gladly welcome your feedback. Contact us here