July 24, 2003, 12:00 AM

Free returns shipping pays off, Crutchfield says

At consumer electronics retailer Crutchfield.com, a policy of offering free shipping on returns results in a cost benefit as well as happier customers.

 

At consumer electronics retailer Crutchfield.com, a policy of offering free shipping on returns helps to contain costs as well as increase sales, Dave Dierolf, vice president of information technology, says. By working with United Parcel Service of America`s pre-printed label program for processing returns, Crutchfield pays a flat fee for shipping that compares favorably with a former system under which the retailer covered the shipping costs only for some returns.

"We pay a flat fee regardless of weight or location," Dierolf says. With the flat fee, Crutchfield avoids paying the higher individual shipping rates for certain items returned under its old system, such as when it refunded to customers the cost of shipping back products that didn`t match the specifications of the original order.

Dierolf says the free-returns policy has helped to increase sales as part of a focus on customer service intended to make shoppers feel more comfortable with buying online. "The cost-savings is an added benefit, since in the past we sometimes refunded to customers the return shipping charges anyway," he says.

Crutchfield ships out each order with a pre-paid UPS shipping label for returns. It requires customers seeking to return an item to contact Crutchfield for a return authorization number, which they write on the pre-paid shipping label. Affixed with the return shipping label, the original package can then be dropped off at any UPS location.

 

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