Shepler’s Sets Aggressive Goals, Meets 2012 Operational Challenges

Oct 30, 2012 10:58 PM  By

Doug Smith, vice president of operations at Shepler’s, shared the western apparel merchant’s aggressive 2012 improvements with Parcel Forum attendees last week at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare.

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At the end of 2011, Shepler’s did an operational review and created their 2012 goals. Shepler’s needed to be ready to handle an increase in volume, while decreasing costs, while improving customer experience – an all-too-familiar scenario for many merchants.

They created a lengthy, specific, to-do list including:

· Replace legacy systems facing end of life support
· Centralize logistics management
· Achieve faster fulfillment of all customer orders
· Relieve at-capacity DC (storage and throughput)
· Move from a reactive customer service model
· Improve their limited access to data and performance

In 2012, in accordance with its aggressive technology plan, Shepler’s implemented a new web platform, order management system, warehouse management system and shipping systems.

This has helped Shepler’s meet many of its goals, including real time visibility to operations including inventory levels, order volumes, and order status. Shepler’s also achieved same day ship, proactive customer service through exception based reporting, and online order tracking.

With a renewed commitment to better logistics and freight management and best practices, Shepler’s also managed to reduce costs, create a web -based on -demand reporting and enterprise solution, and practice exception-based management. Its improvements also resulted in better reverse logistics and customer experience.

Smith also relayed how through better fulfillment execution, Shepler’s increased picking efficiencies, improved capacity, and reduced replenishment needs. Shepler’s created 30% more space for new products coming in, and created new work areas based on order profile, such as creating a “single pair of boots or jeans” station resulting in fewer touchpoints and faster shipping.

In addition to improving the company’s internal performance, Shepler’s customer experience was improved as well. Customer communication became more proactive by introducing real-time order update emails and online account history and order status. The call center initiated contact for product delays, and reduced the “WISMO” (where is my order?) calls dramatically.

Smith said Shepler’s is a customer-focused organization, and in 2012 they continued to make certain that customer concerns were addressed. Shepler’s uses Bazaarvoice and Net Promoter score analysis, and they began to contact customers about negative product reviews, or when customers were rated lower than a promoter.

Shepler’s customer base is very loyal, Smith said, so there is usually a specific reason when they are angry, and it’s important to find out why. Shepler’s contact center now monitors its Facebook page 24 hours a day, considering the need to be available for their growing international customer base, and has a 30 minute response time to social media.

Smith shared several tips from their busy year, including the importance to continue with reporting and analysis even in the middle of new technology implementations. He also recommended increasing transparency and communication across the organization, and says that he sits down with marketing management all the time.

And lastly, Smith suggested merchants empower their partners during implementations and have regular update meetings.

Not one to rest on his successes, Smith starting outlining 2013 challenges and goals including:

· Building international sales, especially in Australia
· Aggressive expansion
· Converting to free shipping
· Better inventory visibility
· Leveraging OH at drop ship vendors
· Real time single inventory for all channels
· Individual productivity and incentive programs in the distribution center

Clearly, a year-end operational review helped Shepler’s set and meet aggressive goals. Many merchants at the Parcel Forum indicated that they conduct a year-end operational review.

Shepler’s has been in business since 1899, and sells cowboy western wear for kids, men and women through retail stores and a digital commerce platform, and ships an average of 2300 packages per day, which triples at peak.