When Mark Murrell was contacted by a friend about the business of shipping live lobsters back in 2010, the Maine native was intrigued. Although his friend eventually opted out of the opportunity, Murrell's research led him to discover that the market was potentially fruitful. Fast-forward a few years and Black Point Seafood – a company that ships live lobsters from Scarborough, Maine, in one to two days – was born.
Of course, a business like Black Point (selling via Getmainelobster.com) comes with caveats. Sending fresh, pulsing packages thousands of miles across the continent requires a strong sense of accuracy and small margin of error. To help ensure Black Point's shipments were expedited to meet – or arrive before – expectations, the company relies on UPS to get the job done.
In 2014, torrential winter weather kept 500 of his deliveries from reaching their destinations, and Murrell was forced to evaluate his two shipping companies: UPS® and a competitor. "That cost our small business a lot of money," he recalls.
That delivery delay turned into a defining moment in Black Point's business relationship with UPS. "The response from UPS was just amazing. I thought, 'All right, you earned 100 percent of our volume," Murrell says.
In its early days, Black Point might ship 70 boxes on a busy day, manually entering the shipping information for each one. Now, a busy day can mean 1,400 or more shipments. But by integrating Black Point's internal systems with UPS, processes are better expedited and human error substantially reduced.
The company coordinates its 20,000 to 30,000 annual shipments with just seven to eight people. However, because its wholesalers do the shipping, different processes in place for each distributor meant that backlogs in data tracking and processing could sometimes creep in.
With the UPS technology integration, the company cut processing time by 10 hours a week and saved $5 per unit. In addition to the time and cost savings, the integrated system automates customer communication and verifies addresses.
"We don't have many [address] exceptions, and those we do, get fixed on the fly. If we see an issue, we email UPS and forget about it. They're on it," Murrell says.
Partnering with UPS helps Black Point manage summer weather issues as well. "Shipping perishable food is difficult in and of itself. When we get into the summer months and we're trying to deliver frozen lobster tails it can be difficult to do with two-day shipping," Murrell says.
UPS helped the company beat the summer heat in two major ways. The first, better packing guidelines, helps shipments stay cold longer. The second, good shipping rates, gives the company flexibility to upgrade shipments to next-day shipping during the hottest summer months.
Additionally, UPS helps the company run reports to analyze and evaluate data. "I need all the data at my fingertips to give the customer a great offer and deliver a great value. We can reverse engineer our offers to get the most value inside the box at the lowest cost possible," Murrell says.
Murrell also notes that the way UPS treats his business is reflective of the way his company treats its own customers. "We don't want negative experiences, but we're very good at turning them around. Whenever there's a problem the first thing we do is apologize, then we make it right. Philosophically UPS and Black Point are in alignment there."
Murrell chalks up his company's success to a top-notch customer experience. "We happen to sell lobster, but it's not so much what we sell, it's how we treat the customer, and UPS plays a role in that. We're trying to deliver to our customers and UPS delivers for us. It's a great partnership."
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