I recently had a chat interaction with a financial services company that ended with the rep signing off with a smiley face emoticon. For a split second, I wondered if the person helping me sort through my financial accounts  dotted her "i"s with a happy face and had a favorite Jonas brother.

The chat session was helpful and I’m sure the happy face emoticon was a well-intentioned sign-off, but the interaction reminded me that an obvious brand inconsistency may not be obvious to everyone who represents your brand.

Communicating via chat is very different from the telephone. There is no customer voice tone to gauge mood. It’s more difficult to inject humor or small talk. The channel lends itself to informality that may not be appropriate.

The right brand voice is not always self-evident. Best-in-class companies train their chat agents to connect with customers with the right tone for the brand. I spoke recently with a financial services client who described that a key part of chat rep training is to help reps detect and match the level of formality in their customers’ tones. Similarly, Virgin Media provides training to its reps on the how to inject elements of the casual fun that are part of Virgin Media’s cheeky brand voice.

Reinforcing your brand through chat doesn’t just happen. But it can happen when finding your brand voice is a part of chat agent training.