Do emojis have a role in live chat support?

Emojis

Today is World Emoji Day. Staggering as it may seem, but the humble emoji is now so popular that it warrants its own day of celebration. 

And as with any public phenomenon, it was only a matter of time before it crossed the divide into the business world.

Emojis have been embraced by the marketing world for some time and - perhaps surprisingly - it has proven successful. Research suggests that customers are 95% more likely to open an email when there is an appropriate use of emojis.

Elsewhere, research by Mailjet suggests that open rates in the UK and the US rise by 5% and 6% respectively when emojis are added.

 The raised hands emoji generated a 21% increase in open rate in the UK. 

Emoji 1
The winking face  and sunglasses  emojis produced a 10% and 23% increase in France and Germany respectively. 
Emoji 4

So emojis have become a common part of online conversations - even in the business world. But what about their use in customer support?

Too casual?

Emojis cover such a wide range of expressions that people are starting to rely less and less on words. As our collective consciousness evolves, we can easily use a single emoji to convey an entire sentence.

However we do not use emojis in every conversation that occurs over synchronous chats, because despite their efficiency, they are also deemed as a casual approach to conversation. In other words, those who want to be perceived as professionals steer clear from using emojis throughout the conversation.

These things tend to change when it comes to customer support or sales. According to the latest trends, you have a better chance of building a strong base of customers if they develop a sort of friendly bond with you.

This means that using emojis can be one of the simplest approaches to building that bond and presenting your company as that friendly chap with a helpful demeanor. So, let’s examine some rules and impacts of emojis during a customer operator live chat interaction.

Emojis can create a more positive experience, as long as they are used strategically      

Cheeky or charming?

Before the use of emojis was considered childish, but leaving the potential to win over customers underutilised would be unwise. So, all you need to do is skillfully use emojis so that you do not come off as cheeky, and to successfully mend a bad situation.

Here is an example that can demonstrate a good use of emojis – “Sorry, our servers are down.” Vs. “Sorry, our servers are down ☹”

The first sentence is neutral and it will most likely leave the user or the reader annoyed, the instant reaction to this message is – “Oh, great! Now what?!”

The second version of the statement demonstrates that you as a provider are also affected by this development, and that you empathise with the users, which makes them less likely to be angry at you.  

A more positive experience?

Based on the last example it is valid to wager that emojis can create a more positive experience, as long as they are used strategically. In fact, there were more than a few surveys conducted on the topic and so far, most of the the results have revealed that agents who used emojis in the conversations received better ratings.

In other words, even if they seem too casual or childish to play a part in a formal type of communication, they can still be an integral part of professional and business communications. This is because customers prefer agents who can display or demonstrate their empathy over live chat, over those who do not.  

Appropriate time?

An agent should first gauge the seriousness of a situation or customer’s mood before they decide to include emojis in their message. If a customer is frustrated or upset, then it would be for the best to refrain yourself from using them.

Additionally, it is possible to ascertain whether it is alright to use emojis based on the message you are about to send. For example, it would be a bad idea to try and lighten up the mood if you are about to send a negative update. – “It seems that your credit card was declined because you have gone over your overdraft limit. ☺“

This is basically common sense, as you would never deliver bad news to someone with a smile on your face. Also, if nobody in the company is using emojis during live chat interactions, you shouldn’t stand out just because you consider it a good idea.

Best practices

Considering how emojis have become widespread in the field of instant messaging platforms or social networks, customers are really familiar with their use. Facebook’s latest update even added reaction emojis to chat messages, which only demonstrates how often they are used.

This helps live chat agents, as they are able to ascertain which online platforms are emoji-friendly, and it helps them embrace this environment. So, it would be a good idea for business that communicate with users on Facebook to encourage their agents to use emojis in Facebook chat.

Basically, if the platform itself is less formal, you should naturally use emojis in conversations. On the other hand, when you send an email, it is considered a more formal approach to notify someone, and as such should stay emoji free, although it is not a rule set in stone.

Lastly, remember not to use negative emojis, as in the majority of cases the situations where they can be used naturally are not the situations where emojis are appropriate. The example with servers that was used in the beginning is one of the rare instances where they are a good idea.

Now that you know when and how to use emojis, it is safe to say that your ratings for a quality customer support service will go up. As a company it is important to keep up with the trends and to leave a good impression on your customers, and emojis can help you out in this department.

Jason Grills is a technical support executive at ProProfs.com.

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