StellaService, a customer service feedback platform for companies, announced it has raised $11 million in a round of funding from a number of notable investors, including customer relationship management (CRM) giant Zendesk, Comcast Ventures, Battery Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Gotham Ventures, Toba Capital, RRE Ventures, Forte Ventures, Green D Ventures, and Harbert Growth Partners.
Founded out of New York in 2009, StellaService has hitherto offered two core products: Stella Connect, a platform that solicits feedback from customers about their personal dealings with a service agent, and Stella Pulse (formerly Stella Metrics), a “mystery shopping” service that measures the customer service performances of myriad companies and then licences this data to other online merchants and aggregators. Google has actually used Stella Pulse for its own online shopping platform since 2013.
StellaService had previously raised nearly $40 million, and with another $11 million in the bank it’s planning to refocus its efforts around the growth trajectory of Stella Connect, which launched back in 2016. To that end, StellaService said it has sold Stella Pulse to a Chicago-based company called PowerReviews.
“Stella Connect has always outperformed our expectations, so we can now exclusively focus on scaling the service as companies across all industries seek new approaches to motivating, managing, and improving the performance of their customer service agents,” said StellaService cofounder and CEO Jordy Leiser.
The ultimate problem Stella Connect is looking to fix is the sizable customer service staff turnover rate, which is particularly high relative to other industries. This may be in part due to the stress of dealing with in-bound customer complaints, or it might simply be a failure to adapt to the role. But replacing each staff member can cost up to $15,000, according to StellaService.
Stella Connect captures feedback after customer interactions and places this data into a dashboard for the agent and their manager to see. This is used for real-time “micro-coaching” and to let customer support staff see specific feedback on how they can improve.
There are also leaderboards to “drive friendly competition,” according to the company, though some might argue that such visible comparisons with peers could be demotivating.
The Zendesk factor
Stella Connect already counts some big-name clients, including Walmart-owned Jet, Mercedes-Benz, Postmates, and Warby Parker. This is likely among the reasons NYSE-listed Zendesk has now made a rare strategic investment in the startup realm.
Zendesk offers a suite of customer support products, from ticket-tracking and analytics to live chat, and it already has an integration with Stella Connect, so it’s clear that Zendesk sees direct synergies between their respective services.
“Zendesk always strives to continue innovating in customer experience, and the exciting thing is that we’re not the only software provider trying out new ways of approaching old problems,” said Zendesk executive Ben Barclay. “Stella Connect is a fantastic example of a company that shares our mission to help businesses build better relationships with their customers, and we are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with them.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) is permeating every nook and cranny of customer service, and Zendesk itself leverages a range of AI and machine-learning tools. But StellaService says that it fills an “AI blindspot,” and it’s betting that humans will still have a big part to play in helping customers long into the future.
“While AI can play a role in creating more efficiencies in contact centers, it will never completely replace human interactions,” Leiser told VentureBeat. “This means each agent interaction with a customer will be even more impactful, as well as being more complex in nature. With Stella Connect, brands can fill this AI blindspot and turn frontline teams into true brand ambassadors.”