• | 8:00 am

These companies want to use AI to make call center jobs less horrible

From AI that changes customer voices to sound less angry to software that detects employee stress, new tech aims to improve the customer service industry.

These companies want to use AI to make call center jobs less horrible
[Source photo: GlobalP/iStock/Getty Images, chuanthit kunlayanamitre/iStock/Getty Images, karandaev/iStock/Getty Images]

Working at a call center can be a stressful job. For eight hours (or more!) a day, you talk with customers who have problems—and oftentimes those frustrations boil over. That can take a toll on the mental health of employees.

Added to the stress is the looming threat of artificial intelligence making those workers obsolete. But AI, as it stands today, is nowhere near ready to be the public face of a company for its most frustrated customers. As work on the technology progresses, some businesses are leaning on AI to make call center jobs a bit less traumatic.

Mental health studies have found call center workers to be more prone to burnout and compassion fatigue than many other professions. A 2021 study found just under 46% of the call center employees were mentally in an at-risk group and encouraged “training, counseling, and support programs” for the workers.

But with the help of AI, some companies are attempting to counter those negatives.


Japan’s SoftBank Corp., a telecommunications firm that is a subsidiary of Softbank Group (along with the Softbank Vision Fund), has unveiled an AI-driven technology that alters the voice of angry customers, giving them a calmer demeanor, which it says can help protect workers from the mental tolls of being screamed at and harassed.

The technology is expected to be available in fiscal 2025, after additional fine-tuning, according to the company. It changes angry rants of frustrated customers to a calmer tone. Toshiyuki Nakatani, who developed the tech, said he used a character from the popular anime series Gegege no Kitaro as his voice inspiration.

The AI was trained with the help of 10 actors who were hired to perform over 100 phrases in a wide range of emotions. The words spoken by the customers to agents aren’t changed, just factors like pitch and inflection.

While it does remove the fury, the AI doesn’t completely eliminate emotion. If someone is angry, the call center worker will still know it, but the vocal tones of their complaints will be softened, so they don’t get the full brunt of that rage.

And to prevent workers from being caught in an extended call where the customers continue to demand something the worker cannot supply, the AI will decide if the call has gone on too long or become too hostile, then send out a message alerting the customer the call is about to be terminated.


Memphis bank First Horizon uses AI to scan customer service calls, and if the technology determines the employee’s patience is running thin, it will send a video montage of photos of the person’s family set to music to “reset” the employee and calm them down. (Customer service agents choose their own photos and songs for their resets.)

That might sound a bit odd, but the company says it has proven effective. First Horizon says internal tests of the pilot program showed a 13% reduction in the level of burnout—and an improvement in call handle time of 36 minutes.


Microsoft is using AI to quickly scour help manuals and materials to provide better answers to customer service call center employees.

The software, which will become available on July 1, is designed to replace the often-outdated systems employees in the service industry interact with, to provide resolutions for customers in a quicker fashion with a higher confidence in the answer.

“The service space is, unfortunately, just rife with toil and drudgery. There’s tons of tools, and they have to use lots of processes just to do the most basic sort of tasks. It’s a brutal experience,” said Jeff Comstock, corporate vice president of Dynamics 365 Customer Service at Microsoft. “And so, our goal is to help them in the flow of work to reduce that toil and drudgery.”


Last year, workers at select AT&T call centers no longer had to take notes during calls with customers. AI carried that load for them instead, generating a transcript, which managers could consult, if needed. The AI also provided suggestions on what to tell customers and acted as a screening service, answering simple questions via an automated phone service before a human operator took over.

The risk, of course, is that in incorporating AI into the call center and customer service processes, companies are also training it to do those jobs. So, while AI might be relieving some stress for employees today, it could bring about a whole different kind in the years to come.

  Be in the Know. Subscribe to our Newsletters.


Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience. Learn more at chrismorrisjournalist.com. More

More Top Stories: