Happy, confused, angry… it can be difficult to tell how a customer feels in a text. Now that so much of customer care is taking place via text messages or email, Communicators may feel they’re losing one of the most powerful tools in their toolkit—a positive, upbeat tone.  According to widely published research by psychologist Albert Mehrabian, tone and body language together may be even more important than the words that are actually said.

No matter what method of communication is being used, Communicators can still succeed in putting smiles on their customers’ faces. An increasingly acceptable service strategy is the use of the emoticon.

A recent study at Penn State University suggests that, while emoticons may seem too casual for professional communications, they actually contribute to higher customer satisfaction ratings. Communicators who used emoticons were seen as more personal and friendly, which was preferred by customers.

Emoticons are also highly visual, which gives them a natural edge over the written word.

When emoticons are used professionally, they can improve your customer support, but the question is, what does it mean to use them professionally? Here are a few tips to share with your Communicators about when and how emoticons can be helpful:

  • Use them sparingly. Unless you’re familiar with the person you’re talking with, it’s best to keep it to a minimum.
  • Use them in context. Best used at the end of a conversation, emoticons work best when used in context.
  • Use them to show you’re listening. In the midst of a long series of exchanges, a well-placed emoticon can show you’re listening and understanding, similar to a nod of the head in a face-to-face conversation.
  • Be careful of sending mixed messages. Avoid using emoticons to convey serious messages, which could be frustrating and confusing for customers. They are intended to be lighthearted and humorous, so be sure the message matches the use. 😉

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.