Call centers introduce 'emotion canceling' AI as 'mental shield' for workers

Image: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A (Shutterstock)

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Call center employees have notoriously unpleasant jobs. They field questions from angry customers all day long and can only respond with corporate-mandated jargon. Many expect AI to one day replace these customer service jobs, but for now, many corporations are using AI to alleviate the incredible emotional stress of their employees. Well, they're trying.

Last week, Japanese conglomerate SoftBank announced it had developed “emotion cancellation” technology to protect employees from consumer harassment. Asahi Shimbun. The voice-altering technology, called SoftVoice, transforms the voices of angry users into calm ones. Its purpose is to provide emotional support to call center employees by acting as a “mental shield” for operators.

SoftVoice's developers told the Japanese newspaper that the AI ​​will detect hostile accents, and automatically change the customer's tone without changing their words. By 2025, the company hopes to have the technology more widely marketed. Frankly, it sounds like a dystopian experiment out of science fiction, where our rulers grind human emotions to the dust to lubricate our corporate exchanges. But SoftBank is not alone in this half-assed attempt to use AI to help troubled employees.

Memphis-based regional bank First Horizon is using AI to detect when a call center employee is on the verge of losing it. American banker in March. The bank sends employees a relaxing video montage of photos of the employee's family set to music. The videos, called “Resets,” were produced by Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global and include inspirational quotes with guided “breathing bubbles” to guide the employee through relaxing breathing techniques. are Reports Resurfaced on social media this week.

First Horizon employees choose their photos and songs to appear in their one-minute Reset videos. First Horizon saw a 13% reduction in burnout levels during the initial test, and then a 20% reduction in the larger test. The company has reportedly rolled out the technology to all of its 3,000 call center operators.

While it may sound strange for AI to emotionally support employees, it is an important step on the way to changing the jobs of call center operators. An important function of the job is to recognize when a customer is upset and apologize on behalf of the company. Both SoftBank and First Horizon's AI systems deal with emotion recognition, and that's no coincidence. Effectively, their AI is practicing itself on call center employees, but one day, these companies want the AI ​​to deal with angry customers on its own. Until then, we're in this weird limbo where AI is pointing out just how bad call center jobs can be.

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