What Crutchfield Can Teach Us about Technical Support Skills


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If you have pur­chased a car or home stereo or are a fan of elec­tron­ics, you have prob­a­bly heard of Crutch­field. It is an audio spe­cialty com­pany, and they’ve built their busi­ness around their cat­a­log shop­ping, and more impor­tantly, their tech­ni­cal cus­tomer sup­port. The com­pany has been in busi­ness since 1974, and even with big box retail­ers such as Best Buy and online behe­moths like Ama­zon, Crutch­field still sells a lot of elec­tron­ics — $250 mil­lion worth annu­ally. So how does Crutch­field remain com­pet­i­tive in today’s mar­ket­place? Their secret hasn’t changed much since 1974 – the com­pany, and the founder, Bill Crutch­field, still drive the busi­ness pri­mar­ily through their tech­ni­cal sup­port skills.

A recent pro­file in Inc. Mag­a­zine detailed Crutchfield’s busi­ness model and secrets to suc­cess. If you work in cus­tomer ser­vice, and par­tic­u­larly with prod­ucts that require tech­ni­cal sup­port skills, it’s worth not­ing some of Crutchfield’s tips for success.

When Bill Crutch­field was attempt­ing to get his fledg­ling mail-order elec­tron­ics busi­ness off and run­ning in the 1970s, he ini­tially had a dif­fi­cult time expand­ing the busi­ness. In an almost des­per­ate attempt to keep the com­pany afloat, Mr. Crutch­field sent cus­tomers a one-page ques­tion­naire. What he learned was not that his pric­ing or selec­tion was lack­ing, but rather, his cus­tomers were sim­ply intim­i­dated by the prospect of installing their own stereo sys­tems. This cus­tomer insight caused Mr. Crutch­field to re-frame his com­pany into one that pro­vided detailed instruc­tions on not only every prod­uct sold, but also on how to self-install the prod­ucts. He staffed his team with peo­ple who had great tech­ni­cal sup­port skills and could guide cus­tomers with spe­cific answers. Busi­ness took off.

Crutchfield’s detailed knowl­edge of their prod­ucts sets them apart in the elec­tron­ics indus­try. If you pur­chase a car stereo from Crutch­field, for exam­ple, you can call their cus­tomer sup­port team and expect to get spe­cific instruc­tions on how to install the stereo. Impres­sively, the cus­tomer sup­port team knows the prod­ucts not sim­ply from man­u­fac­tur­ers’ spec sheets, but from Crutchfield’s own employ­ees, whom are tasked with per­son­ally tak­ing apart and putting together equip­ment so that they under­stand how it works, allow­ing them to guide cus­tomers through the process. This in-depth tech­ni­cal sup­port knowl­edge is a key to Crutchfield’s brand and business.

When Bill Crutch­field founded his com­pany, he was a one-man show, and his prin­ci­ples were sim­ple: exceed cus­tomers’ expec­ta­tions, seek to always improve, and treat work­ers with dig­nity and respect. As his com­pany grew, he real­ized that he had so many lay­ers between man­age­ment and employ­ees, he was los­ing sight of his core beliefs, and with that, he wasn’t able to ser­vice his cus­tomers the way he wanted to. When he re-framed the busi­ness, he went back to his found­ing prin­ci­ples, employee-by-employee. His main con­cern? Do peo­ple truly enjoy help­ing other peo­ple? To Bill Crutch­field, the desire to truly help oth­ers is more impor­tant than straight tech­ni­cal skills. As a result, his cus­tomer ser­vice rep­u­ta­tion remains excel­lent, and he has extremely low employee turnover.

It’s an incred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive tech mar­ket­place out there, and if you offer tech­ni­cal prod­ucts or ser­vices, you are undoubt­edly com­pet­ing in a crowded mar­ket­place where there is not a lot of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. To help your busi­ness stand out, take some tips on cus­tomer sup­port from Bill Crutch­field and his team – it’s been a win­ning for­mula since the com­pany was founded, in 1974.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joanna Jones
Joanna Jones is a professional copywriter and marketing strategist who has partnered with Impact Learning Systems for two years. As a marketing professional, Joanna works closely with customer service teams and helps companies improve their B2B and B2C communications and strategy.


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