TikTok’s Format Breeds Sassy Customer Service
IN LATE OCTOBER, Jack Remmington left a swimming session at a London pool and emerged into “what can only be described as a deluge.” Luckily, the 28-year-old presenter and content creator had spent £20 ($23) on a brand new Uniqlo umbrella earlier that day. He popped it up and got out his phone to document the downpour. As he was filming, the umbrella snapped.
When he was safe and dry, Remmington uploaded a clip of himself screaming and struggling in the rain to TikTok, where he has almost 66,000 followers who enjoy his hyperbolic humor. He didn’t tag Uniqlo, but he did tag the brand on Twitter, a space where social media managers tend to respond to customer complaints. A day or so later, the brand hadn’t responded to his tweet—but Remmington did get a response on TikTok. Uniqlo stitched his video and posted a clip of an umbrella with human eyes looking shiftily from side to side. It seemed to be saying—Remmington thinks—“Oops, haha, what have we done?”
On TikTok, customer service isn’t always that serviceable. Budget airline Ryanair has 1.8 million followers on the app, thanks to its practice of responding sassily to passengers. An August video with 14.4 million views is captioned, “When you realize that no matter how much they complain, they will always fly with you” and features a laughing plane. (Ryanair did not respond to a request for comment.)
Ryanair regularly uses a TikTok filter that lets users overlay an inanimate object with eyes and a mouth—Uniqlo used the same filter in its response to Remmington. It seems that the airline’s success may be ushering in a new era of sassy service. When Ryanair first joined Twitter in 2013, the brand’s tweets were sincere and straightforward; at the time, most company accounts were polite and professional. That’s changed. In 2014, The New Inquiry documented the rise of something it called “weird corporate Twitter,” where company accounts spoke in the voice of those run by individuals. As brands have migrated over to TikTok, things have seemingly only become more extreme. But does that always fly with customers?