Earlier this week, Unilever announced it was buying Dollar Shave Club, with Fortune reporting the sale price for the California-based company as $1 billion in cash, making it one of the largest acquisitions in the e-commerce and subscription markets in recent years.
Dollar Shave Club founder and CEO Michael Dubin will continue to run the company's razor subscription business as an independent entity. The company, which has raised $160 million from Silicon Valley investors, is not yet profitable since it has been reportedly pouring revenue into its product lines with a focus on growth. The acquisition should help Dollar Shave Club expand into new markets (it's currently available in three countries), and improve its distribution systems.
But the question remains whether Dollar Shave Club will be able to maintain its irreverent personality--its tagline is "Our blades are f**king great"--and emphasis on customer service. Founded in 2011, Dollar Shave Club quickly grew into a business with more than 3 million members.
Los Angeles Times reports that the company employs about three dozen member service agents who respond to customer queries in a largely unscripted manner. Examples abound of "authentic" customer interactions, such as the employee who accepted a customer's challenge to solve a Rubik's Cube in less than two minutes in exchange for the customer ordering a one-month subscription of razors (the employee won).
But providing a high-touch and personable customer service isn't easy. Hiring the right people and training them takes time. And while Dollar Shave Club already works with an outsourcing customer service firm to complement its in-house team, it's easy to see the company increasingly leaning on that model as it expands.
At the same time, keeping the lights on as a scrappy startup is difficult. As Forrester Research notes, great customer experience doesn't always correlate with revenue growth. Birchbox, one of the first companies to launch a beauty sample subscription service, is experiencing these challenges firsthand. Copycats quickly followed in the wake of Birchbox's success, and now there are subscription box services for everything from meals to dog toys. Squeezed by competitors, Birchbox announced a second round of layoffs last month. A $1 billion sale is certainly a win for Dollar Shave Club's investors, but customers will have to see whether the company's best product and service days are still ahead.
And here's a throwback to the video that cemented Dollar Shave Club's cheeky personality: