Can synchronicity and visual modality enhance social presence in mobile messaging?

Eun Kyung Park, S. Shyam Sundar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


As companies move increasingly toward text-based computer-mediated communications (CMC) for providing customer service, they tend to lose out on the social presence of a live agent interacting in person or via the telephone. Given the importance of social presence for maintaining healthy customer relations, how can companies counter the relative lack of social presence in CMC? Increasing the synchronicity of communications is one solution, but it is not always possible to provide instant responses to customers. In such cases, can a richer modality (e.g.; picture of the customer-service agent) make up for diminished synchronicity and thereby enhance social presence? We addressed these questions with a 3 [synchronicity: high (no delay in response time) vs. medium (1-h delay) vs. low (6-h delay)] × 3 [modality: text-only vs. text+picture vs. text+emoticon] ful factorial, between-subjects experiment in which participants (N = 108) interacted with a customer service agent in a mobile e-commerce context. Data reveal that participants in high synchronicity and text+emoticon conditions felt higher social presence and perceived the customer service agent more positively than those in other conditions. Social presence and task impression mediated the relationship between each independent variable and their evaluations of the customer service agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-128
Number of pages8
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
StatePublished - Apr 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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