The way you and your agents communicate with your customers has evolved at a rapid pace over the last few years. The number of channels you use has expanded to include platforms that were never thought to be able to transition to the realm of business correspondence. If you have a robust omnichannel system, and you should, you now use messenger applications, text message, and webchat on a regular basis.
As new channels enter the contact center’s toolbox, the realm of acceptable message content expands. Here we look at emojis’ usage and effect on the customer experience.
Emojis in customer service messaging
Emojis are the smiley face, 🙂 , upgraded. In 1999 Shigetaka Kurita of Japan created 176 pictograms that represented people, places, emotions and concepts. They added context and meaning to plain text. But, did you know that emojis weren’t widely adopted outside of Japan until 2010?
Today they are widely used to breathe life into text messages, webchat, social media, and more. Some cynicists even argue that in the not too distant future, text will be replaced totally by emojis. A turn back to hieroglyphics!
In response to why we need emojis, Kurita responds, “if we didn’t use emojis, we wouldn’t be able to convey our feelings so we might misinterpret each other and end up arguing.”
At the core of emojis is the intention to communicate more clearly. It seems that all contact centers should start leveraging this technology right away, right?
Yes! But keep in mind emojis cannot be used in every conversation. You need to use them discerningly and with a certain understanding.
Emojis can both delight and derail a conversation in a business setting. Here’s how.
You want every customer experience to be delightful. How can you leverage emojis to enhance customer communication?
Humans are highly contextual creatures. We need outside cues to help us understand the speaker’s meaning. Psychologists agree that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is tone, and just 7% are the words themselves. Communication that is done over text must rely on something other than words to provide context.
You can choose from any of 2,789 pictographs to add meaning. Emojis give you the ability to change the entire tone of a sentence with a single character. Consider how you interpret these two sentences:
The first sentence says the speaker was delighted to see the recipient. The second sentence says the speaker wasn’t actually all that happy to see the recipient.
A safe bet when using emojis during customer support is to employ mirroring. Mirroring happens when one conversation partner mimics the body language, tone of voice, or style of speech of the other. It helps to quickly establish a bond and for your conversation partner to feel comfortable.
As far as emojis go, if you mirror your customers’ use of them, you’ll almost never use them inappropriately. If you know your customers are comfortable using emojis and they make an obvious joke, responding with a laughing face might strengthen your relationship with them.
While emojis add context and convey a friendly tone, they can be used inappropriately. Emojis are informal and should not be used when discussing serious topics. Avoid emojis with:
- Sensitive information
- Serious issues like data breaches or defaulting on debts
- With very angry customers
Using emojis in any of these situations makes it look like you are not taking them seriously.
“Read” the room
Just as you would read a room to determine what’s appropriate in a social setting, certain channels are more appropriate than others for emoji use. Generally, as the formality of the channel increases, the less you want to use emojis.
Channels like live chat are particularly suited to emojis. It is the most informal of all channels. Users often ask a quick question and expect a quick, informal answer. The use of emojis is almost expected.
What’s more, webchat is often manned by chat bots, and your customers can tell. You can program your virtual agents to use emojis at appropriate moments to give each conversation a boost of human-like energy.
Emojis are also widely accepted on social media platforms. But still, care must be taken when you consider the topic you are discussing.
You want to avoid using emojis on more formal channels like email unless that aligns with your brand. They work better for real-time communication but lose some of their charm if the receipt is not immediate.