Support Sessions: Using Emojis in Tech Customer Support

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The Rise of the Emoji

It all began long ago with facial expressions made out of punctuation – labelled emoticons:

: – )
: – (
; – )
8 – D

The first emojis that resemble our beloved of today were created by a Japanese artist in 1999 and were officially ‘born’ into mainstream social media culture in 2011 after Apple incorporated them into their iOS 5 Operating System. Since then, their usage and popularity has exploded exponentially 💥 as mobile and web interaction has evolved to take over the world 🌎🌍🌏

Earlier this year it was reported that 90% of social networking users are communicating through emojis and more than 6 billion are estimated to be exchanged each day. You only have to open the emojitracker.com webpage (careful, flashing images!) to witness this first hand.

The rapid development of their palpable popularity highlights the power of the emoji as a tool for cross-cultural communication and expedient expression of emotion in a digital world otherwise distant and devoid of feeling. Today’s emoji comes into play in pretty much all corners of our everyday lives.

To give an example from a personal perspective, I appreciate Monzo and City Mapper’s use of whimsical emojis to humanise their user notifications daily, the visual cues catch my attention with a similar sensation of receiving a message from a helpful friend. It’s evident that emojis have heavily permeated marketing campaigns in recent years undeniably yielding positive results in this field. But it’s not really been until this year has the Customer service/Customer Support emoji revolution been recognised as appropriate, advantageous and even essential.

You may ask – why are they so important in this area? Well, it’s a question with many possible answers. If we care to venture only a few – emojis reflect a sense of fun, a human touch, and above all else they represent both empathy and familiarity inclusively in a reality of indirect interaction that can sometimes feel cold and lonely.

So, how do we use them in Customer Support at Marvel?

In Support we are the front line. The direct link between Marvel’s audience and the brand/product.

On the Marvel Support team, we like to ask: If Marvel were a person, who would it be?

The ‘Marvel voice’ is perhaps the single most important element of training new support recruits. We must make sure we share the brand personality at all times through a consistent style of communication. We must know the product and its core values inside out. Namely:

We try to embody these characteristics in every engagement with customers through Support on a daily basis. A key apparatus in enabling us to do this is often as simple as a carefully chosen and cleverly placed emoji (in an already expertly drafted response, of course, we can’t expect emojis to do our job for us). In other words, they help us to tell the Marvel story.

Email is our primary method of interaction, given which the expression of empathy is more challenging than it would be face-to-face (facial expression & body language) or on the phone (tone of voice & conversational rapport). Empathy is both the cornerstone of user experience design, and by extension, customer service. We’re here to give you a positive experience with the Marvel product and at the same time, nurture your relationship with us as a brand.

““Emotionally charged events persist much longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral memories.’ – Designing for Emotion, Aarron Walter, 2011

We want you to remember interactions with us as delightful; and using emojis can help achieve this. Using Emoji in the Marvel Support experience is designed to reassure, by bringing a sense of familiarity combined with an emotional warmth that can only be felt by connecting with another human.

Therefore, emojis are our essential tools of the trade.

In Support, we pride ourselves on how well we get know you. We quickly learn to read user behaviours and build user personas within just a few back and forth exchanges.

Doing this helps us decide which emojis to use, how many to use and where to use them in a conversation. It also helps us discern whether they’re, in fact, appropriate – on rare, and probably more formal, occasions it’s sadly just not, but recognising this is also an important skill.

Many of our users who come through support are from overseas presenting a language barrier which can be a little tricky to navigate, even with Google translate as our best friend. Slipping an emoji into the conversation can sometimes make all the difference, as it represents a shared language everyone who has ever done so much as pick up a mobile device can understand.

And the moment you have all been waiting for…which emojis make it into the Marvel Support ‘Hall of Fame’?

Here’s a list of the emojis we use most in Support and a brief guide on when you can expect them to appear in convo:

😊 – perhaps the most used as a friendly message starter or finisher

😃 😺 – similar to the above if we’ve feeling extra enthusiastic or something really great has happened

🎉 – party time when bug is fixed, or issue resolved, or a new feature is released

🧐 🔍 – “we’ll investigate!”

😎 – “have a great day/weekend!”

🐛 – “this could be a bug!” (makes the issue seem less scary/severe/more manageable and even personifies it as a cute little critter in the system that will be dealt with asap by the team)

⚡️ – “thanks for your speedy response!”

🔥 💯 – “great design/prototype!”

But why stop there?! I’m hoping our team can in future become even more creative and imaginative with the emojis send to users in conversation, if only to make their day a little more interesting or evoke a few mental smiles👩‍🎨

Note: We NEVER use negative emotion emojis, they’re unnerving and contribute to the experience as being a negative one – 🚫 😟 😡 🙄 😰 😢 😩 🚫

Top tip:

“Doesn’t dropping emojis into email all day slow down your workflow? 🤔” I hear you ask.

Nope! A glorious little trick for Mac users who are also emoji obsessed (like us) is to quickly drop emojis into the conversation using this handy keyboard shortcut 👇

Ctrl + cmd + space

You’re welcome 😜 Use with care! 🙌

Aspiring UX’er and wannabe minimalist. Currently Customer Support Manager @ Marvel.

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