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Nail polish retailer Julep vows to polish up customer service

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Looks like I'm not the only one unhappy.

 

By Connie Thompson Sep 19, 2014

 

The CEO of Seattle-based nail polish and beauty product company Julep says she had no idea her customers had taken their complaints to the Better Business Bureau until the bureau issued a news release this week.

Jane Park insists Julep is not a company that would intentionally ignore its customers and the issues that prompted the complaints have been addressed.

 

"I think what happened is they just advertised very heavily and didn't expect the response they got," said Mia Cooledge. 

Last June, Cooledge decided to add Julep nail colors to her collection by joining a Julep membership program called Maven. Maven subscribers automatically receive monthly boxes of Julep products -- for a monthly fee that's added to their credit card account. But after receiving her first box this summer- Cooledge decided to cancel her membership.

 

"It took a while," Cooledge said, explaining the cancellation process was supposed to be simple, but wasn't.  She says she tried repeatedly to stop the monthly deliveries, and the monthly charges on her credit card but no one would respond.

 

"By the time it was finally cancelled, I'd sent about seven emails, I'd called five times, left three messages,  sent a Facebook message, which was what finally got it cancelled," Coolege added.

 

Cooledge says she also ordered a stop payment with her credit card company and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau before finally getting a refund.  The BBB's David Quinlan says his organization got 173 complaints, with 113 customers claiming they'd gotten no response from Julep.

 

"It's an alarming amount," said Quinlan.  "I mean, think about it, 113 people have complained abut this company to us and not one of them has received a response back. When a consumer complains to us about a company we let the company know, we send them letters, we try to contact them."

 

But Quinlan says the staff at the BBB got no response either, which is why they finally issued a news release and gave Julep the lowest possible rating of "F".

 

Julep CEO Jane Parks, known for her high online visibility and social media engagment with her customer base-  told me she never knew about the BBB complaints until this week. She says Cooledge and other customers got caught in a perfect storm of events that started in July.  The company was heavily promoting the Maven program and also launched a new Julep product, sparking what she called a "crazy growth spurt".  At the same time, she says a shipping technicality with USPS triggered 2 months of shipping delays.

 

"We were not prepared for the customer service calls and questions that came out of all of the orders," Park told me by phone. 

Park acknowledged the customer service staff was not large enough to handle all the inquiries and requests coming in simultaneiously online and on the phone.

    

"We are dedicated to our customers,"  Park said, adding that most customers problems are resolved at this point, and she's hired new managers to improve the customer service response.

She specifically mentioned her new Chief Delivery Officer, Dwight Gaston- who later sent me the following statement by email."

 

 

STATEMENT FROM JULEP - 9/19/14

 

Julep has been in business in Seattle more than seven years and has a large, loyal customer base. We experienced a surge in demand this summer due to the popularity of several new products. At the same time, new policies from one of our shipping partners caused a delay in some deliveries. These issues impacted our customer service.

 

Recently, we've taken steps to ensure customers have a positive experience as the company grows. I was recently hired as Chief Delivery Officer and am committed to improving logistics and shipping for the long term. We've also doubled the size of our customer service team, adding weekend and extended hours to our call center, and hired a seasoned senior director of customer service.

 

At this time, we are working with the Better Business Bureau to identify all customers who were negatively impacted and will do whatever it takes to rectify these situations. We have also changed our shipping procedures to expedite delivery times.

 

We urge any customers with unresolved issues to contact us at [email protected]

 

Dwight Gaston, Chief Delivery Officer, Julep Beauty

 

The Better Business Bureau says it looks forward to working with the company and helping consumers resolve any outstanding complaints.

"If Julep wants to clean things up, we're more than happy to work with them, re-open the complaints, try to get this cleared up and settled.  We're more than happy to do that,"  Quinlan said.

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I call SO MUCH bullshit on the whole "We were so so *surprised*!" thing.  One more thing that they didn't mention:  They took the skips away from new subscribers, and I believe this was right around the time they introduced the choose-your-own-adventure customize-your-entire-box concept.  These two things combined dramatically changed the game, and any time there's *a* change, customer service gets *bombarded* with calls.  They were doing too many things at once.  And there is no way that Julep didn't know about any of this because, hello, oceans of Facebook posts detailing all of this.  If the higher-ups truly did not know, their social media person needs to be fired immediately because reporting back to the company about the complaints on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc. is a vital function of that role.  If it's not already part of the official job description, whoever wrote *that* description should be written up if not fired.

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Did you read the comments on that post Zadi? Makes for some interesting reading.

 

Wasn't there an email from them regarding this several weeks ago from Jane? That doesn't jive with the whole "they didn't know about BBB complaints until last week" line they're saying. If they were working to improve CS, then someone would be googling for negative feedback and work on those. I call BS on their part.

 

Just found the blog article that was written a month ago. http://www.julep.com/blog/a-note-from-jane/

 

This reminds me that I still haven't received a response to my reply regarding their vague "it's fine, the blog refers to when it's opened how long it'll last" comment. Did I mention that I filled out their "how did we do" survey saying that my issue was not resolved in an appropriate fashion? Not that I expect a response at all. *shrugs*

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Jane definitely made a statement like a month ago about the crappy CS, so this statement confuses me badly.

 

I think Julep's problem is they've gotten too corporate/commercial for their own good. One could argue that birchbox has taken the same turn, but I feel like they're still trying to make their customers feel like not another number with the pick your sample initiative, and other things.

 

I wonder if Julep doesn't have the manpower to deal with the amount of CS issues they have. BB has had their fair share of CS issues, but I think they've always been able to address them, even when they got a massive influx of customers. One time birchbox CS actually responded to me at like 1:00 in the morning. When I was subbed to Julep WAYY before they got big, getting them to respond to me took some effort.

 

Honestly I think at this point Julep just caters to women who aren't picky (and are just building their makeup/polish collection) and maybe don't have a lot of places to go shopping for prestige makeup. Their nail polish is overpriced for what you get and I really have no desire to ever try their PLM products when I can usually find better products at a better price elsewhere. This is why Julep and I broke up after a few months.

 

Also, I just want to add how obnoxious it was that they took away the skip option after having it for at least several years. I really hope more people stop putting up with their antics and start supporting the kick ass indie brands that are out there.

Edited by kawaiimeows

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I agree with you- complete BS that she didn't know about all of the negative feedback until last week.  They've had an "F " with the BBB since at least February of this year, and their Facebook page has been 90% complaints about CS for as long as I can remember. Even if things have only been bad since May (according to Jane Park), that's 5 months! 5 months of the phones in your CS department ringing non-stop and so bad that your staff can't keep up. Let's say that the combination of surge in membership and shipping issues really did take them by surprise... CS director would know about this by the end of May, early June (at the latest!), let's say 1 week to get approval to hire more staff, 2 weeks to interview/hire, another 2 weeks to start and train them. If they were serious about their customers, their CS support should have been almost up-to-snuff by the end of July.  But no, it takes news articles and a public calling-out by the BBB for them to put on their "who? us?" surprise face. Completely unbelievable coming from a company that touts how proud they are to be so small and tight-knit.

 

A side note, re: the Birchbox comparison.... While Julep has taken away more and more privileges and made things more and more expensive and CS has taken a downturn, I think that Birchbox has done the complete opposite. They've added the ACES program, have stayed the same price, and their CS (in my own experiences with them) have really been excellent, going above and beyond to make me happy. You can't hardly wring a sorry Jule out of Julep even if your last box hasn't arrived at your door when the next selection window has opened. Birchbox had the hiccup with the warehouse transition, but I feel that they were very forthcoming about it and did their best to work through it and apologize for lost/late orders.

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Here's a comment that was on the Komo News article:

 

Chocolate Panda 19 hours ago
 
 

I worked at Julep in corporate and they absolutely knew about this. Every week the customer service team reported the most common complaints, not to mention the number of incoming, resolved and unresolved issues. Julep knowingly made it hard for users to quit their subscription - users could only get out of the subscription if they called during the hours CS was open (work days 9-5 and a couple hours on Saturday) and answered a bunch of questions about why they didn't want their service. Think Comcast. People could get their problem taken care of a lot more easily if they posted on Facebook because then in became a PR issue. These customer service inquiries aren't a result of the new product or surge in growth, they have been happening for years because the business model was created to make it too easy to get in and too hard to get out. 

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Speaking of Birchbox's customer service. Over a week ago I placed an order that was over $110 and used my points but I forgot the conversion and was going to lose point (about $5) on my order. I contacted Birchbox and they gave me the difference back. When my package arrived my Caldera hand soap was open and leaking so I contacted them and they replaced the hand soap. The hand soap arrived today and I literally was pulling out of my driveway when the UPS guy pulled up. He handed my eldest the package from Birchbox and she said she could smell the soap. I groaned because I knew that meant the bottle was also open and sure enough I opened the bubble mailer up to find an open soap. So I closed the top and placed it on the passenger seat and went on to my appointment. As I was driving I decided to call Birchbox so I pulled over and called them. I talked to one of the CS reps and told her what happened explaining that I did not need another bottle (since between the two bottles I had a full bottle) or points since a BB CS issued me points last week for the same issue but I wanted to let them know what happened since their warehouse shipped a liquid item in a bottle in a bubble mailer. She still awarded me points and asked if I was sure I didn't want another replacement, I thanked her but turned her down for the replacement item since she was going to award me the 100 points regardless if I said yes or not. So big, BIG props to Birchbox's CS because the company has grown beyond my ability to calculate how many subscribers or customers they now have and yet maintain EXCELLENT customer service.

 

As for Julep, just heard back from Shawn Brady. I'm sorry but his name makes me chuckle because Shawn Brady is a character on Days of Our Lives. Granted it's also a common name but still I can't help but think of DOOL when I see his name.

 

 

We do sincerely apologize for any frustration you can experienced with the products you received in the Jewel Heist Mystery Box. We have reached out to your Product Development team to provide further information regarding the Peony Lip Gloss you received. This product has been in production since 2012 and has been produced additionally since then. We're sorry if it is not evident from the product received if yours is has been produced since. We did confirm with our Product Development team that "the customer should dispose of the lip gloss 24 months after the product has been opened (exposed to air)." We're sorry if the previously quoted shelf life caused any confusion. The life of this product is referenced from the time of opening.

 

As stated previously, the value of the Mystery Boxes is based on the retail value of the products before any discounts. We're sorry that it was not clear that this could include full price or discounted items from our website.

 

We do understand your frustration and want to make sure you can get something that is perfect for you for the two boxes you received. If you would like to pick two lip glosses of your choice from julep.com, we would be happy to send them out to you as replacements.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Until then, have a wonderful day.

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I really hate it when they put out those publicity lies. I never had any issues with Julep other than slow shipping for which they randomly gave me Jules ... but I'm certainly aware of other people having those issues.

So, if the whole management of the company including the CEO/founder had no idea of what was going on, that screams mismanagement to me. Not that I believe it since Jane is actually present on FB. I'm sure she doesn't know about every single phone conversation or the one employee being rude etc .. but the gist?

 

Anyways, I think they just wanted too much and didn't want to risk hiring and enlarging facilities before knowing that the expansion was working out. And, they probably miscalculated the effects of taking away the skips and introducing customization shortly afterwards .. which includes predicting every month which polishes will be more popular than others.

 

As long as they let me skip easily, I'm going to just to that and only take a box if I really want it. I am certainly not even going to consider further mystery boxes or other deals. I think the whole concept of Julep is based on people wanting things they don't really need. Like a little twist on a nail color that comes in a super sweet deal with 5 other polishes that one really doesn't like all that much, but they are such a good package etc.

 

And the thing is that the solution to the problem would be so simple: add an online cancel feature. Customer service lines would be free again and unsatisfied customers would simply go away without fuss. Of course, that makes it way too easy to get the free box and leave which is what the majority of the complainers were intending to do ...

You can simply not entice people with free stuff and then make it so incredibly hard for them to simply cancel. That is certainly mismanagement bordering on criminal intent. Personally, I do think that there is some intent behind making it hard to cancel .. they want to sell at least 1-2 boxes to make up for the free one ...

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Well, obviously they have Fedex problems also. Taking a week for delivery with Fedex which is unheard of. And the odds are that the date that changed once will change once again. My delivery date is usually 3 differnent dates..

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SmartPost isn't regular FedEx.  They have to hand it off to the US Post Office.  While I don't like it, it always adds at least a couple of days to shipment.  (And it will only get worse from Black Friday until the holidays are over.)

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