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5 Big Issues with Smiley Face Feedback

Feb 18, 2023 | Blog, Smiley Face


Emojis, also known as smileys, are small digital images used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication. They are seen everyday and often used to simplify messaging. Yet there are big issues with smiley face feedback, so must be used with caution.

They were first created in US at Carnegie Mellon as ASCII characters (– :-) and :-( – for a bulletin board.

Emoji Characters

However it was in Japan in the late 1990s that pushed them to become a cultural phenomenon worldwide. They are used everywhere in multiple applications including for feedback. In fact there are now over 3,000 types of emojis that convey every emotion and multiple actions.

But the smiley faces, needless to say, had staying power. Now, 76% of Americans say that emoji have become part of the lexicon in their professional communication.

However not everyone is in agreement that they are a good think. So we will list their advantages first, then uncover some of their pitfalls of using smiley faces in feedback.

1) Enhance Communication

Smileys are used to add tone and emotion to messages, which could be easily misinterpreted in text form. They convey nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures, and body language that help to define the meaning of a message. For example, a simple smiley face can indicate a friendly tone, while a frown might indicate displeasure. (some of the above images maybe harder to clarify!)

2) Universal Language

Smileys have become a universal language that transcends geography and cultural differences. They are recognized and used by people of all ages, races, nationalities and backgrounds, allowing communication without the need for language translation.

3) Quick and Easy

Smileys are a popular way to express emotions on digital platforms, such as social media, messaging apps, and email. They are quick and easy to use, which saves time and effort, and allows us to communicate more efficiently. The use of smileys is not only limited to personal communication, but it’s also increasingly prevalent in the business world. In fact, many companies are now using smileys in their email communication to make it more friendly and appealing.

4) Expressive

Smileys provide a fun and creative way to express ourselves and a feeling. With 3000+ options available, we can use smileys to convey our mood, personality, and style. Moreover they can convey activities and even actions. They allow us to express ourselves in a more nuanced and personalized way than traditional text.

In summery so far, smileys have become a widely used part of our daily communication. They claim to enhance communication, are a universal language, quick and easy to use, and provide a fun and expressive way to communicate in the digital age. So far so good, but now it is time to reveal their darker side. As the guy below is saying:

What’s the problem?

Thinking Emoji


Check out the video then read some more:


Problems with Smiley Faces for Customer Feedback


We know that customer feedback is essential for businesses to understand their customers’ experiences and improve their services. One popular way to collect feedback from customers is through the use of smiley faces. This might be through email, blog, web site or touchscreen device using a feedback button. However, this method of feedback collection has several problems that can affect the accuracy and usefulness of the feedback. This includes the risk of not appearing to be professional. This means a business needs to be cautious. Here are the big issues with Smiley Face Feedback.

1) Lack of Nuance – What do they convey?

Smiley face surveys provide limited feedback to businesses. Sure they can be in real time, yet customers can only choose from a few options, such as happy, neutral, or unhappy. This means that businesses are not getting a detailed understanding of what the customer liked or disliked about their experience. For example, a customer may select a happy face, but they may have had a specific issue that they did not mention. Or maybe it’s the only question asked, but its the wrong question.

Moreover, the smiley faces are too simplistic to capture the complexity of customer feedback. Customers may have a mix of feelings about their experience that cannot be boiled down to a single happy or unhappy face. For instance, a customer may be happy with the service but dissatisfied with the product. The use of smiley faces does not provide an opportunity for customers to express these more complex ratings , which can lead to businesses making the wrong assumptions about their customers’ experiences.

2) Ambiguity – What do they mean?

Simply put, different people can interpret the same emoticon in different ways. For example, one person may interpret a smiley face as positive, while another person may interpret it as sarcastic or insincere. Moreover, with so many options of emoji expression to choose from, and different styles applied to each face (usually without any description of the scoring) – the whole process becomes very subjective. Furthermore, if its subjective for the customer, just imagine the struggles by the business to interpret these smiley surveys.

Remember also that different people look at these with completely different meaning. For example, in China because grinning faces come with different smile types and varied overall facial expressions, they’ve come to be unofficially categorized as more or less genuine. Using the standard, close-mouthed smiley with unexpressive eyes could do some serious damage, connoting “a despising, mocking, and even obnoxious attitude.”

Remember that smileys were designed for simplicity yet emoji misinterpretation is a killer of this advantage.

3) Lack of Context – What do they cover?

Smiley faces also lack context. Customers may select a happy face because they received excellent service, but they may have had a negative experience with the product itself. Without context, businesses cannot make the necessary changes to improve the product or service.

For instance, if a customer selects a happy face, a business may assume that everything went well, and no changes are needed. However, this reaction might just be for the cleanliness of the restrooms, not the price of the service. This means, if the business does not examine the context, they may miss critical information that could help them improve the customer experience.

4) Not Representative – Who gave the feedback?

Emojis are used and interpreted differently. Men and women (women for example, use emojis more often than men), young and old, and different ethnic groups all view these symbols inconsistently to each other.  Emojis for personal use are not viewed the same as business. Nor are the equal when in public versus private.

This means that misinterpretation is going to happen, and misunderstanding of who is talking will occur.

5) No Opportunity for Follow-Up – What to do next?

Another issue with smiley faces is that they do not provide an opportunity for follow-up. When customers provide detailed feedback, businesses can follow up with them to address their concerns and provide solutions. However, when customers only select a smiley face, there is no opportunity for follow-up. Touchscreens are the worst for this. A simple push of the button without obtaining more data is a clumsy method for improvement. Moreover will result in businesses not being able to fully resolve the issue and improve the customer experience.

In addition, the lack of follow-up can lead to customers feeling ignored, underappreciated or unheard, which can negatively impact their perception of the business. After all, why give feedback if nothing is going to be done?

Actionable feedback is the critical issue here.


Emoji feedback by itself is a recipe for disaster.

While smiley faces may seem like a quick and easy way to collect customer feedback, they have several problems that can affect the accuracy and usefulness of the feedback. A business owner should consider using other methods, including standard numeric rating questions such as open-ended questions or surveys, to collect detailed feedback that can help them make informed decisions and improve their services.

Remember that emoticons can convey basic emotions, but they don’t have the same level of detail and nuance as written or spoken language. This can make it difficult to fully understand a customer’s thoughts and feelings. This means it’s important to consider the context and audience when using emoticons in customer feedback. While they can be a useful tool for conveying basic emotions, they should be used sparingly and in combination with other forms of communication to ensure that customers’ thoughts and feelings are accurately understood.

Better still – there are tried and tested feedback programs like Opiniator that enable on the spot customer feedback – that use a mix of questions types that over come the issues above. Actionable feedback is possible when these 12 rules are followed.

Don’t let a smiley face derail your feedback. Don’t let this end in tears. Contact us to find out more.

Crying Emoji


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