The benefits of rich communication and emojis for digital customer service

The successor of the humble emoticon, emojis have taken digital messaging by storm and have become the new messaging feature that people love to hate. There are some that claim that emojis are destroying our ability to communicate face-to-face, that they are dumbing down communication, or even that they are going to destroy written communication altogether.

However, the claims made by those who are anti-emoji, while contentious, don’t seem to hold much water when one does a little digging. The “face with tears of joy” emoji was chosen as the Word of the Year in 2015 by Oxford English Dictionary – a company in the business of written communication!

The truth: emoji is an new face on old technology

Regardless of the arguments that emoji naysayers make about emojis’ detrimental effects on our language and communication habits, the fact is that emojis don’t represent a new way of communicating. Pictograms were used by many cultures for written communication for tens of thousands of years before the Sumerians invented the first alphabet.

Additionally, according to linguist Dr. Neil Cohn of Tilburg University, “Humans are naturally multimodal communicators. When we use written language alone, like text, much of that information is lost. Emoji provide a way for people to further enrich their communication with non-verbal cues.”

In other words, emojis add emotional context to conversations over digital channels by conveying added layers of meaning that would normally be conveyed through body language, facial expression, gesture, and tone of voice.

When communicating in text alone, it can often be difficult to assess the emotionality of a message or email, and can lead to people drawing incorrect conclusions or taking offense where none was intended. Emojis offer a quick and easy way of denoting things like sarcasm, mixed emotions, or otherwise nuanced feelings that we are used to in our face-to-face communications, but are difficult to convey with text alone. According to one report, “the biggest reasons consumers use emoji are to help them more accurately express what they’re thinking, and to make it easier for other people to understand them.”

And are emojis effective at offering the desired emotional context? Evidence shows that yes, they are! One study showed that looking at emojis activates the same part of our brain that looking at human faces does.

Are emojis useful for customer service?

The ability of emojis to add an emotional layer of communication to digital messaging can be a useful tool in a high-achieving customer service professional’s toolbox. Friendliness and the ability to build emotional rapport is key to customer service excellence, and emojis can help to quickly form an emotional connection. Perhaps just as importantly, they can help to soften the delivery of negative messages.

Another benefit of emojis for digital customer service is the overall benefit of engaging customers emotionally. In an era of declining brand loyalty, brands who can get their customers to engage with their brand emotionally are coming out on top. While the uses of emojis for business communication are still being explored, it’s interesting to note that emojis in the subject line of an email – when implemented correctly – can actually boost overall response rates.

Love them or hate them, people are using them, so why aren’t you?

Regardless of what you think of emojis, the fact is that the vast majority of people are using them. In North America alone, we send 6 billion emojis and animated stickers per day. And 92% of the online population use emojis in at least some of their digital communications.

And this is a trend that is only going to increase. Smartphone manufacturers and carriers are collaborating on a more feature-rich evolution of texting that will eventually replace SMS called Rich Communication Services – which will standardize features like read receipts, group messaging features, and sticks across RCS-enabled devices.

To learn more about how you can leverage digital messaging and emojis to improve your online customer service experience, contact us to book a demo.

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About the Author: Anna Kreider