Article

Using TikTok for customer service: 4 brand examples + takeaways

TikTok has catapulted from home dance routines to a medium for just about everything—including customer support. Take a look at how four prominent brands are using TikTok to boost their CX.

By Princie Kim, Staff Writer

Published February 1, 2022
Last updated February 1, 2022

Backordered for months, the couch Sasha ordered had finally come for delivery. Her doorway was narrow, but she had a plan. Which involved, well, a gymnastics routine of flipping and squeezing the boxed couch. Doorway conquered, she gazed down her mile-long hallway. Deep breath, she thought, and hauled. Sure, she lost two fingernails in the process, but this was a big day. The new couch was here! The one she’d pined for, the one that had taken practically the length of a pregnancy term to arrive. Exhausted but excited, Sasha tore open the packaging, over the moon to see her new jade-green couch baby. Except, it wasn’t. After all that, Sasha found herself staring not at muted, sophisticated jade, but at another green entirely. It was a lime green disaster, an electric green billboard of a couch. Sasha quickly turned another color. Red. With fury. And then, she took to TikTok.

TikTok and CX

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has quickly outgrown its reputation as a hub for lip-syncing, dancing teens. The young social media platform is now a cultural force—one that’s growing faster than any other. Unsurprisingly, it’s also now a place where brands can connect with their customers and attract new business. Recent reports suggest TikTok will surpass 1.5 billion users in 2022, and companies have been quick to jump on the TikTok train as a marketing tool to spread brand awareness and increase engagement. However, less talked about are the customer service opportunities the app offers. Wherever there is an audience, there is room for customer support. TikTok’s algorithm, in particular, offers explosive growth and engagement for any creator, no matter how small their following may be.

The TikTok Algorithm

TikTok’s unique algorithm gives it an advantage over other social media platforms. Its ability to curate an endless stream of videos that is hyper-specific to a user’s personal interests not only makes TikTok addictive but also allows any creator to go viral. A new study by SEMRush analysed 300 of the most popular TikTok clips and found that 83% of viral TikToks came from non-verified accounts. Unlike Instagram or Twitter where accounts without large followings are unlikely to reach fame, TikTok’s algorithm allows the videos of average joes to pop up on any user’s “For You” page, as long as the content aligns with their interests.

This means that for brands of any size, TikTok can be a useful platform to connect with a large audience and directly interact with them. An additional element to consider is the app’s unique culture of light-hearted and extremely casual “behind the scenes” type of content. This informal tone may not fit every business, but for those interested, TikTok provides an opportunity to humanise their brand. Some brands have already recognized the app’s customer service potential and have taken the leap into the TikTok universe. We’ve identified four TikTok brand accounts that have been effectively using the platform to boost their customer experience to help inspire your TikTok strategy.

4 brands using TikTok for customer service + takeaways

  1. Starbucks

    At first glance, you may think that Starbucks’ TikTok feed is all about traditional marketing with new product and drink promotions. However, a closer look reveals videos of heartfelt, real-life customer interactions with baristas.

    @starbucks You’re not alone. @cecilybauchmann ♬ original sound - Starbucks

    These posts highlight individual Starbucks baristas going the extra mile to provide customers with more than their coffee order. One TikTok shows a barista giving emotional support to a mother after hearing her kids crying in the car. Another video shows a barista throwing her customer a mini celebration at the drive through by surprising them with a “customer of the week” sign and making their favorite drink. What’s important is that these TikToks were filmed and shared by customers—not Starbucks or its employees— so viewers know that the customer service interactions were not scripted.

    Takeaway: Starbucks emphasises the human side of its company by showing how its employees take extra steps to please customers in real life.

  2. Ryanair

    Ryanair’s value proposition is affordability. The key element of the airline’s TikTok feed is its ability to flip jokes and criticisms of low-cost airlines into funny content.

    @ryanair This you ? #ryanair #entrepreneur ♬ Follow my Instagram Jason_m_100 - JAY2GOATED

    Ryanair shamelessly owns the fact it does not offer luxury service and is not nearly as comfortable as flying first-class with AirFrance. For example, Ryanair posted a TikTok highlighting the tight legroom and lack of inflight entertainment on their planes, but they did it in a humorous way. Their willingness to get in on jokes about themselves shows self-awareness and builds trust with customers. By turning criticisms into jokes, Ryanair demonstrates that they are actively listening to their customers.

    Takeaway: Ryanair gets in on the joke as a way to show self-awareness and build trust with customers.

  3. Sweetgreen

    Sweetgreen leans into the popular “FoodTok” subculture of TikTok where creators develop and share recipes with their audience. Most of Sweetgreen’s TikTok feed is made up of videos that show how to make their spicy cashew dressing or how to make their sesame tofu at home.

    @sweetgreen Reply to @esunshiney ♬ original sound - Just brad

    Every recipe is prompted by a customer request, which Sweetgreen makes sure to show in every video they post. At the top of each TikTok, viewers can see that the recipe video is a reply to a customer’s comment. By giving customers ownership of its TikTok content, Sweetgreen shows that it is highly attuned and responsive to its customers’ needs.

    Takeaway: Sweetgreen hands the microphone to customers for TikTok content ideas to show that it prioritises its customers’ needs and interests.

  4. Starface

    Starface is a skincare brand best known for its star-shaped acne stickers. The brand uses TikTok like a live-action FAQ page. In its TikTok videos, Starface addresses common product questions and concerns such as “How many stars are in a pack?” or “Should I apply after my moisturizer?” through Q+As and tutorials.

    @starface drop ur other Qs in the comments? ✍️ #starface #skincare #pimplepatch #romanticizeyourlife ♬ nobody but theres no body in nobody - pitbull

    While some TikToks feature Starface employees using the stickers, many of the brand’s TikToks show customers using the products to solve their skincare problems. This allows Starface to troubleshoot and answer product-related FAQs while also engaging with followers on a personal level.

    Takeaway: Starface builds human connections with customers by using TikTok as an alternative customer support platform.

TikTok features useful for customer service

  1. Q&A

    Available to Creator accounts only, the Q&A feature allows users to label any comment as a Q&A question, making questions in the comments section easily identifiable. The creator can reply with either a comment or a video with a Q&A sticker.

  2. Stitch

    Stitch lets any user integrate a clip from another user's video into their own. With this feature, users can build off or directly respond to others’ posts. For brands, this presents an opportunity to build deeper connections with customers by spotlighting their posts in outreach efforts or attracting interest through the brand’s own TikTok material.

  3. Duet

    Similar to Stitch, the Duet feature allows users to build on another creator’s video but puts the two videos side-by-side. Duet lets brands share the stage with customers on the same screen as a different way of content interaction. For example, the Canadian shoe company Vessi launched a successful Duet giveaway campaign where they played customer videos showing their love for Vessis next to a clip from the company giving those customers a free pair of shoes.

  4. TikTok Live

    With TikTok Live, creators can livestream and interact with their audience in real time. The only drawback is that livestreams are not saveable, so once the Live ends, customers can’t go back to watch it.

All four of these accounts don’t take themselves too seriously, and that rough-cut approach is what thrives on TikTok. The app’s affinity for raw content allows businesses to show a more personable side of their brand. TikTok is a young platform, constantly changing and experimenting with new features. As it continues to evolve and grow in influence, even more customer service opportunities seem likely to emerge.

Send a message that matters

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