Fast shipping helps an e-tailer find an edge


Electronics company improves customer experience with UPS.

E-tailer Crutchfield, which ships thousands of orders a day, began as a mail-order company selling car stereos in 1974. Since then, the company, based in Charlottesville, Va., has experienced tremendous growth.

Learn how this online retailer has won over customers with fast shipping.

"Our business certainly has benefited from the consumer shift to online retail," says Kurt Goodwin, senior director of sales and operations for Crutchfield. "Our background as a catalog retailer means we have years of experience successfully interacting with customers without a physical storefront. It also means we understand the importance of a positive customer experience on the shipping side."

Crutchfield ships most products from the company's two distribution centers in Charlottesville. This became problematic when it began receiving customer complaints about the shipping of large televisions.

"As an online retailer, it's incredibly important to satisfy our customers' needs as quickly as possible," Goodwin says. "The worst thing in our business is having a customer excited about receiving a product, like a large television, and then having the experience tarnished by shipping delays or uncertainty."

Better freight service

At the time, Crutchfield used UPS package services for shipments weighing up to 150 pounds, but worked with other freight providers for heavier shipments. This resulted in slow shipping speeds and limited shipment visibility.

"Prior to working with UPS Air Freight®, the total time in transit for our larger televisions ranged from six to seven days," Goodwin says. "Also, our customers couldn't track these freight shipments online the same way they could track our products shipped via UPS."

That meant the company received customer service calls inquiring about the status of these orders, tying up staff.

"It was clear that Crutchfield was looking for a freight solution that offered the same customer experience as… UPS," says Keith Mattson, director, UPS enterprise accounts for retail and consumer goods.

UPS worked with Crutchfield to conduct extensive testing of the UPS 3 Day Freight® service.

When testing was complete, Crutchfield found that the UPS 3 Day Freight solution cut transit time in half.

"We were pleasantly surprised with the results of the testing and the rather painless integration process that followed," Goodwin says. "We started integrating the UPS 3 Day Freight solution at the end of 2011 with five to 10 shipments a day. By the third quarter of 2012, we'd completely switched over."

The timing of the integration was particularly beneficial given Crutchfield's peak season, which begins right before Thanksgiving and goes through the end of the year. "We do about a third of our business in the fourth quarter, so it was very important to have the new service integrated by this time," Goodwin says.

New freight service offers internal and external benefits

Crutchfield's customers appreciate the new shipping speed and have even expressed surprise about how quickly some products are delivered.

"Speed is one of our biggest differentiators," Goodwin says. "We ship very quickly, often the same day, and about 80 percent of our customers receive their shipment in three days or less."

Customers and customer service operators also benefit from the tracking and visibility technologies, available for UPS Air Freight shipments, which have reduced the number of where-is-my-package calls.

"With fewer customer calls of this nature, our customer service department can devote more attention to other service issues," says Aleta Childress, director of customer service for Crutchfield.

Quantum View® helps the company manage its shipping information. "It would be harder to conduct the shipping portion of my job without… Quantum View," Childress says. "The program includes a number of useful functions, such as pull-down files, and sorting and limitation features. The program is extremely helpful in the event we have to follow up with customers on the status of their shipments."

Crutchfield continues to grow

With no ceiling in sight for online retail, Crutchfield is well-positioned for continued growth, especially given its understanding of the online format and the importance of the entire customer experience. Looking ahead, Crutchfield has opportunities for new markets, including an increased presence on the West Coast and in Canada.

"One of the greatest benefits we can offer our customers is the ability to tap into our large global network," UPS's Mattson says. "While our freight and supply chain services can help customers address their existing operational or logistical challenges, our ability to take their business to the next level by expanding into new markets is truly a competitive advantage for their business and ours."


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