Google has reached a deal with customer service ratings vendor STELLAservice to provide buyer satisfaction data to online customers who want to buy items from Google Trusted Stores merchants and other Google partners. The program is aimed at boosting the confidence of buyers before making their online purchases from companies that they haven't dealt with in the past.
Under the deal, Google will obtain STELLAservice's customer service data about online retailers and make it available to Google customers, according to a May 29 statement from STELLAservice.
"Starting today, Google will license data from STELLAService Inc., an independent provider of customer service ratings and analytics for online retailers, to help shoppers better understand the service quality of online merchants big and small," the statement said. "STELLAService customer service performance data will be used within Google offerings, including Google Trusted Stores, a selective certification program that helps shoppers identify the best online stores."
By providing this information to online customers, Google's customer service "will emerge as the differentiator for many online retailers," STELLAService Chief Executive Jordy Leiser said in the statement. "This collaboration supports the shared goals of STELLAService and Google to provide a better and more informed online shopping experience to users around the world. By sharing customer service performance data with Google, we're able to not only help consumers quickly identify companies with helpful service and fast delivery speeds, but we're also able to provide a new opportunity for the best online retailers to stand out from the pack with their great service."
STELLAservice uses a nationwide network of full-time mystery shoppers who evaluate retail Websites and their customer service using unbiased methods, according to the company.
That information will be used by Google to empower its customers, Brian Marquardt, group product manager for Google Shopping, said in a statement. "Google is dedicated to building a better shopping experience. We're focused on making it easy for people to find exactly what they want at the best online stores. The data we receive from STELLAService will help give shoppers the confidence that they're buying from a store that provides a consistently excellent shopping experience."
A Google spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous told eWEEK that the STELLAservice ratings will also help online retailers by giving them more credibility, which will attract more shoppers to make purchases.
The STELLAservice ratings incorporate feedback from shoppers based on their overall customer service experiences, product shipping experiences and related experiences with an online retailer, according to the Google spokesperson. Shoppers can see these metrics by hovering over the Google Trusted Store badge on a merchant's Website.
Two IT analysts said they think that the partnership could help Google as it works to attract more buyers to its online retailer partners.
"This strengthens Google's presence online," Dan Maycock, an analyst with Slalom Consulting, told eWEEK. "Google is getting more serious around retailing, consumer trends, and purchase histories of users, and if they can entice shoppers using services like this one, it makes them look more legitimate."
The efforts will also give Google more information about what people are buying and what retailers are selling online, said Maycock. "They're just going to use that to drive up their ad revenue. Google is by far number one in ad revenue, but I think this helps them keep ahead of the pack. Yahoo certainly wants to go after what Google is doing in terms of driving up their ad revenue."
Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, said he sees the Google/STELLAservice deal as a boon to Google because "the more information you can bring to any retail transaction the better."
For Google's customers, that will be helpful, Gardner said. "So Google is saying we're not only going to help you find something, but we're also going to help ensure that the customer service you will get afterward is good, too."
By moving to STELLAservice, Google is acknowledging that traditional community-driven comments and reviews aren't really working out on Websites such as Amazon.com, where purchasers post reviews of their experiences, he added.
"No one really trusts them," said Gardner of such reviews. "They are easy to game. So we are going to more credible data. It's an Angie's List filled not just on testimonials but on data. That's a higher order data than just user-volunteered input."
The STELLAservice data could help Google do better than Amazon in that area, said Gardner. "Google is raising the bar and saying we are going to do it. For several years now, Google has tried to come up with a retail selling alternative to Amazon, and they have only made modest inroads. They are trying to up the ante and be more competitive. I think this could help."
Such an approach represents true strategizing in the online retail market, he said. "What we're starting to see now is that data becomes a differentiator in business activity. What Google is saying is 'we have data of our own and we try to use that to make our experiences for our customers better, but we also realize that other data can be brought in to also improve those experiences.' This is really a data-sharing transaction, maybe even a cloud-based sharing transaction. That to me is a fairly big deal, and it starts to give more credence that we're entering into a data-driven economy."