As the popularity of online shopping continues to grow by giant leaps, so does the need for online customer service. What used to be emails, telephones, and traditional online customer support, the current trend of online chats have now become representative of that real salesperson we used to meet and speak with when we shopped at brick and mortar stores. Our new online chat representative is the person who now provides us with support, advice, and encouragement.
Last week my online chat support experience brought me to another plateau. When the local computer technician in my area told me the hard drive in my six-month-old computer had crashed and much of my information was lost, I reached out to an online customer support agent. I explained the symptoms and what I had done to try to restore the system, and at the end of my first conversation I used a sad face emoticon. [ :>( Moments later the customer service representative responded with some technical information and used an emoticon also.
When I go to the mall, service representatives use hand gestures and facial expressions to convey a message to me. When I communicate by email, people use capital letters when they are angry, emoticons, and internet acronyms such as "lol", "imho", and "omg." Therefore, should it be acceptable and useful for online chat personnel to use these subtle cues?
Most of us have stereotyped, preconceived, and exaggerated impressions of customer service agents we never meet - of course depending on the product or service we are dealing with and what our needs are at the time. Humans do have a desire to know with whom they are communicating, since customer satisfaction also takes into consideration subjective opinions of the personalities of others we are dealing with at the time. As humans and social beings, we become more connected to people who convey more social traits. Although sociability is not going to replace a service representative's expertise in their particular area, online chats with some personalization can have a positive impact between the sender and the receiver; thus making another connection and loyalty from that customer.
Hotels, restaurants, and many other hospitality generated service industries can make a positive impression using personalization during customer service encounters. Each organization has to consider what is acceptable. Of course, some professions do not lend at all to any kind of personalized online chat. Banking and insurance agencies rely on a high accountability of professionalism not suitable for emotional text. Anyway, however it is indeed interesting food for thought.