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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Kenco Chief Executive Officer Denis Reilly speaks before a tour of the Innovation Labs at Kenco Logistics on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

While shoppers at one time wouldn't consider buying goods online such as appliances, a shift in attitudes is leading to a need for more delivery options, according to a Chattanooga-based company.

Logistics giant Kenco has started offering so-called "White Glove" home delivery of merchandise for some of its business customers in five areas of the country, including Chattanooga, with plans to expand the service.

"Because of our warehousing and logistics footprint, it was a great natural extension to move into this space," said Mike McClelland, Kenco's senior vice president of transportation. "Kenco's culture is being an innovator in the marketplace."

The White Glove service is built on Kenco's years of business customer relationships, according to the company that calls itself the largest woman-owned third-party logistics venture in the United States.

McClelland said the service already has staffed up to between 225 to 250 people working in facilities and as managers and drivers.

"We've just now begun to invest in it and build infrastructure around it," he said.

The move is part of an expansion of the company's transportation services to meet demands of its business customers, according to Kenco. Plans are to add more employees for such services as transportation management, freight audit and payment, and brokerage, officials said.

Denis Reilly, Kenco's chief executive, said that expanding in the transportation area is a key element of delivering a suite of solutions to customers.

"With a customer-oriented teams of industry experts, best-in-class technology and a strong infrastructure, Kenco works with our customers to optimize their supply chains through our transportation management team as well as helping with day-to-day capacity," said Reilly about privately held Kenco, which employs 5,000 people companywide and about 700 in Chattanooga.

The White Glove service centers are operating, in addition to Chattanooga, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Portland, Oregon, Denver, Colorado, and Orlando, Florida.

Expansion to other cities depends on where its customers need the service, McClelland said.

He said that the Kenco team is an extension of the businesses it serves. For example, McClelland said, its delivery people wear shirts with the logo of its customers, which Kenco declined to identify.

"The driver will be wearing logo shirts and have the customer's logo on the trucks," he said.

In addition to delivery, the Kenco service will often provide setup, McClelland said, noting that oftentimes goods are part of a home- and Wi-Fi-enabled ecosystem.

"They need to have the mechanical ability and technological ability to test it and make it functioning in the home Wi-Fi system," the Kenco official said.

Also, if there's a problem with an item, Kenco will swap out products and return the original to its processing center and then to its customer's facility, McClelland said.

In addition, he said, Kenco teams carry tablets on which they take photos during the installation process. They have the ability to communicate with the customer service center if questions arise.

"They can talk to a technician and show them," McClelland said.

Additionally, the team surveys those to whom it makes deliveries, including a question on whether delivery was made on time, he said.

McClelland said Kenco has a 98.7 on-time rate so far.

He said the company also makes deliveries to businesses as well as to the home.

"It's the same approach," McClelland said. "It's that whole concept of a dedicated and highly trained customer-focused team."

Debra Phillips, Kenco's marketing content manager, said the company is able to bring a lot to the service.

"In our warehousing and transportation system and services, we're able to bring more to customers," he said.

Kenco, McClelland said, also is inserting its history of innovation into the service, such as providing a motorized dolly that can take goods up stairs.

"We test it out in our innovation lab," McClelland said.

Kenco was started in 1950 by Jim Kennedy Jr. and his brother-in-law, Sam Smartt Sr. Kennedy's daughter, Jane Kennedy Greene, is the company's chairwoman.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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