ValueStar Revs Up Its Rating System

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As it prepares for a major consumer push in November, local-services ratings company is rolling out its Rating Rewards loyalty program.

ValueStar is a destination where consumers rate local businesses, helping other customers choose the right company when they're looking to do anything from leasing automobiles to moving furniture. The site has 6,500 businesses in its database.

The ValueStar Real-Time Ratings transaction engine allows consumers to rate companies within the $2 trillion local-services market after online or offline purchases. If a consumer makes a purchase online from a verified supplier, he is automatically presented with a three-question survey that quizzes him about his experience.

If he makes the purchase offline, he is mailed or e-mailed the survey. Offline purchases are tracked through a consumer's credit card. Members are asked to register their cards when they join the service.

A ValueStar-verified company has had its license, insurance, legal and financial statuses checked. It is also assigned a rating according to consumer experiences.

To encourage consumers to fill out the surveys and to make purchases from ValueStar-authorized companies, the company partnered with Netcentives, San Francisco, to create its awards program.

"We think points are good because consumers like something extra," said Jim Stein, founder and CEO of ValueStar Corp., Oakland, CA. "Consumers like to give their opinions if they feel a company did them right. However, there's a gray area sometimes when the experience is mediocre. Then they don't even care. Generally, when it's really good or really bad, that's what gets the noise."

When a consumer fills out a survey, he automatically activates his ValueStar benefits, including a $500 money-back guarantee for purchases made at ValueStar-authorized companies as well as mediation services if there's a problem.

The site targets homeowners with incomes of more than $50,000. By year-end ValueStar anticipates it will have 10 million consumers using its service. The site, which relaunched last month, has raised more than $20 million to date.

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