Those emoticons you see above may just be the difference between a happy or angry customer.
According to research from Penn State University, people who text chatted with customer service personnel gave higher scores to those who used emoticons in their responses than those who didn’t.
“The emoticon is even more powerful than the picture, though classic research would say that the richer the modality — for instance, pictures and videos — the higher the social presence,” said S. Shyam Sundar, distinguished professor of communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State University, who worked with Eun Kyung Park, a researcher at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea. “But the fact that the emoticon came within the message and that this person is conveying some type of emotion to customers makes customers feel like the agent has an emotional presence.”
In fact, patrons prefer customer service representatives who can demonstrate empathy in guest services.
“Emoticons can be effective vehicles for expression of empathy in customer relations, especially in the mobile e-commerce context,” Park said.
Also, the researchers found that customer service agents who responded more quickly to customers during a text chat were rated more positively than those who did not.
“When people are instant messaging, for example, and the messages are flying back and forth, so that one person sends a message and the other person immediately responds, it feels like they are in the same place,” Sundar said. “That can create the feeling of social presence.”
And this is especially important when dealing with complaints.
“Feelings of co-presence, constructed by the agent’s promptness, might lead customers to be loyal to the company by creating a favorable service experience,” Park said.
The researchers conclude that emoticons make customers feel emotionally connected to an agent, and the quick conversations give customers a feeling of being together in a physical sense.
“To have a meaningful conversation we often need to be in the same place at the same time, however, in a mediated environment, when you’re distant and not in the same place as the person you are communicating with, it’s hard to create that feeling of togetherness,” Sundar said. “What this shows is that if a conversation can’t happen in the same place, at least it can happen at the same time, which leads to positive evaluations.”
(Story source: Penn State University/Matt Swayne)
(Image: James Young/Creative Commons)