Service with an Actual Smile
Stella Connect lets customers “see” and reward customer service representatives
It seems as though society has become ratings-obsessed. Consumers grade the movies they watch on Netflix. Online shoppers rank the products they’ve purchased, and political candidates are preoccupied with their standing among a diverse swath of voters.
It’s becoming increasingly common to use ratings as a measure of customer experience. Uber riders rate their drivers — and the drivers, in turn, rate passengers.
Stella Connect is a new platform for retailers that taps into the concept of rating customer experience. While many consumers are accustomed to being asked to “hold for a brief survey,” Stella Connect hopes to transform the way companies collect and activate customer feedback by providing customers with the chance to not only rate front-line staff, but reward them directly with physical products. The goals are to drive employee engagement and motivation and make online shopping more transparent and efficient.
Created by StellaService, a company that cut its teeth developing hundreds of metrics to measure the usability of online stores, Stella Connect lifts the evaluation of customer service interactions to a new level.
Immediately after a service interaction occurs, a feedback request is triggered by email. The bid includes a photo and a brief bio of the customer service representative; customers are prompted to grade the experience using a five-star rating system. They’re also encouraged to share qualitative feedback and can even choose to reward the representative with a cup of coffee, lunch — even a gift card.
“Including a picture of the agent helps to humanize the customer service process, and the gamified nature of the ratings system has resulted in high engagement rates,” says Alex Vlasto, vice president of marketing, noting that Stella Connect works across multiple service platforms — phone, iChat or email.
Vlasto says response rates among participating retailers are in the 40 to 50 percent range, particularly high when compared to the typical 20-25 percent open rates for follow-up emails.
Crushing the ratings
One of the earliest adopters of Stella Connect was UncommonGoods, a Brooklyn-based catalog and online retailer that sells creatively designed, sustainable goods produced by a community of artists, designers and creative thinkers.
“We were really surprised at how quickly the team embraced Stella Connect,” says Jennifer Grim, director of customer service for UncommonGoods. “We noticed right away that feedback coming directly from a customer was far more effective and immediate than feedback coming from a quality assurance coach several days after the interaction with the customer.”
While most of the comments are positive, the constructive feedback that customers provide “really hit home and the CSR receiving the criticism directly from the customer works incredibly hard to not make the same mistake again,” she says.
“A bonus is that our quality assurance team is able to spend more time coaching CSRs on their emails and chats since the customers do most of the phone call [quality assurance] work for them.”
Early results found that around half of all shoppers responded to the feedback requests. Agents received an average star rating of 4.8 out of 5, 70 percent of the responses included a comment and 69 percent included a vote for a reward.
Jet.com adopted Stella Connect as the company launched last summer. The primary objectives: optimize service performance, drive service improvement and motivate front-line staff through public recognition. The New Jersey-based company reports response rates three to five times higher than those for other types of customer feedback, and executives describe the positive feedback agents receive as creating a virtuous cycle — continually motivating them to deliver the best possible service during every interaction.
A teaching moment
Vlasto reports that Stella Connect users are tapping into the statistics and granular data captured to profile their top performers and inform custom training and development programs — then applying that knowledge as they hire future representatives. “Is it the outgoing agent who’s consistently winning kudos or someone who tends to be quieter and more reserved?” he asks. “Choosing the right CSRs can positively impact sales.”
Grim says that before adopting Stella Connect, UncommonGoods relied solely on is quality assurance team to review phone calls, emails and chats for each representative. During the team members’ weekly quality assurance session, they would review their contacts and provide coaching.
The Stella Connect dashboard “allows the CSR to see all of the customer feedback that comes in and decide what to work on next,” she says. “Because we read each comment that comes in, we can gain a bit of insight into what customers want, what they expect and what would make them really happy. We can also see what irritates them.”
Among team members, “There’s a lot of excitement when someone gets a particularly great comment or earns that next free lunch,” Grim says, “and the team is more unified in our goal of providing great customer service. Several folks here expected customers to only share their thoughts about bad interactions, but we’re finding that they want to celebrate and reward the team far more often than any of us would have expected.”
Share the experience
While powering employee motivation and improving training are at the heart of Stella Connect, at least some early adopters have rolled out a marketing component that seems to be resonating with consumers, too. Once a consumer has given a representative a top rating, they’re encouraged to share that positive experience across Twitter or Facebook — an added step that requires simply pressing a button. The retailer can elect to add a special promotional code to the message, which then becomes a tool to drive customer acquisition.
Jet.com reports that thousands of customers have responded to requests to share their upbeat experience via social media. Executives describe the added marketing as driving “a valuable stream of earned media impressions.”
NRF members come from more than 45 countries and all sectors of retail, from Main Street merchants to online retailers.