The debate started on the social channel, Reddit, where some users described the use of this emoji as "passive aggressive”, “rude” and even “hostile”. Others defended the use of this emoji as a universal signal for “OK” or even “understood”.
“No one of my age in the office does it, but the Gen X people always do it. Took me a bit (of time) to adjust and get (it) out of my head that it means they're mad at me,” says one 24-year-old Reddit user, as quoted by Today Live.
The debate spilled onto other social channels and into traditional media, which speculated about the appropriate use of emojis, GIFs (graphic image files) and other colloquialisms on digital communication.
“At first sight, you may discount this as an overblown debate on something very trivial, but it holds value for South African dealers,” says Elize Roos, the head of MindBridge, a well-known training provider in the automotive industry.
“A lot of our communication with prospects, clients and colleagues have moved to channels like WhatsApp.
“Add to this the fact that we are communicating across 11 official languages and many different cultures, classes and contexts. It makes electronic communication a minefield to inexperienced staff and managers,” says Elize.
Elize gives a few rules for dealer staff communicating on electronic media:
Keep it simple and to the point
Steer clear from GIFs, emojis and other electronic images when you are starting your communication with customers. While they may not tell you, they could misinterpret your intention and it could lead to a lost sale.
Let the customer or prospect dictate the tone
Respond to customers on their terms. Formal tones should be met with formal, but informal should be met with clear and simple communication.
Mix your media
While many customers, especially the Gen Zs that are entering the buying market, prefer to communicate almost exclusively on WhatsApp or other chat channels, it is a good idea to add a bit of face-to-face communication or calls, where you can “read” a customer and communicate your positive intentions better.