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Telemarketers Use Emotionally Intelligent Software 176

Posted by Zonk
from the they-feel-you dept.
eldavojohn writes "There's a new kind of software that's being used more and more. It's software that detects emotion and now it's being used in call centers. It's a $400 million industry according to Forrester Research that relies on volume, pitch and even the words & phrases being used. Are we inadvertently getting closer to software that can understand us by filling the needs of telemarketers who need to know when I'm upset that they just interrupted my dinner?"
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Telemarketers Use Emotionally Intelligent Software

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  • I SAID PLEASE REMOVE ME!

    I said I want to be removed from every single fracking list that your company uses to call people.

    NO I DO NOT WANT TO SUBSCRIBE!
    • Computer: ADD LiquidCooled TO EVERY LIST
      • ERROR Please speak clearly.
        Could not compute "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all"
        • by Duckz (147715)
          I don't get the joke. It is a joke, right ?
          • by rts008 (812749)
            What happened wit MS's debut of some voice recognition software not long aga.
            I'm sure if you copy-past all of the phrase in the quoatation marks into a Google search, will find out what you want to know. (BTW- worth the effort for a good laugh- real life is funnier than fiction!)
            • by rts008 (812749)
              Holy crap!
              note to self:

              USE PREVIEW next time! aga? past? Argghh!

              For the pendants/grammar nazis:

              correction:
              aga should be ago
              past should be paste
              Why yes, I DO post while drinking!
    • Back in the mid 1990s (this is before the official US state and national do-not-call registries with their legal enforceability) I was really destitute and looking for an excuse to use the phone a lot, so I took a job as a telemarketer for a shady ripoff firm that fleeced old ladies in the name of charity. Their call lists were photocopied phone book pages, and we were told to add everyone who clearly requested no further calls to a seperate do-not-call list. When someone tried to act hip to the scam and
    • DO NOT CALL (Score:3, Informative)

      by wowbagger (69688)
      There's your mistake - you don't want them to remove you from their lists.

      You want them to add you to their do not call list - the one they are required by law to keep.

      "Add me to all your do not call lists."
  • by MECC (8478) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:48PM (#16520481)
    As if a telemarketer will need a computer to tell them I'm pissed off when I feed them a stream of obsenities for calling my mobile phone. Oh wait, I guess the retarded telemarketers might need a computer for that. Oh wait, that catagory includes all telemarketers, and the rocket scientists who thought that annoying people was a good way to get them to buy stuff.

    • No they don't. The headline is bogus.

      Telemarketing == Outbound Call Center
      Customer Service == Inbound Call Center

      Which does this sound like:

      Health insurer Wisconsin Physicians Service, for example, uses the technology to scan automated phone calls for "Medicare" and "confused" to find calls from seniors with Medicare questions.


      And this?

      Roger Woolley, vice president of marketing for speech analytic software seller eTalk, of Irving, Texas, said subtler systems are used to identify when an angry customer is preparing to cancel services.


      I think a telemarketer can judge for himself whether or not you're upset. (And promptly ignore you.) This system is intended for support calls, where the customer service rep might not realize that they need to take action to prevent the loss of your business. Presumably, the system would automatically flag a manager if it calcualted that the customer was getting frustrated.

      Considering the number of inexperienced customer service reps that companies employ, it's probably not a bad idea. Especially since it's currently difficult to auto-route "easy" vs. "hard" calls between the experienced and inexperienced employees.

      Editors: Can we change the headline?
      • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:35PM (#16521115)

        >Customer Service == Inbound Call Center

        Me: I've been on hold for 49 minutes, and you're the third unhelpful person I've talked to. You fucked up my order, and it's been a month since you promised to fix it. No! I don't want to place a new order. I WANT YOU LYING SHIT-WEASELS TO DO WHAT YOU PROMISED THREE MONTHS AGO. I've already told fifty people at work what rat-bastards you are, posted a 5000 word screed on your perverted business practices to 13 business related blogs, and I'm getting ready to tell the Taliban that your compnay is a front for an Israeli arms manufacturer.

        Them: Sir, the software on my computer is informing me that you are beginning to be upset with my fine employer. Let me put you on hold while I see if I can't find someone to help you place a new order.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          ...I WANT YOU LYING SHIT-WEASELS

          In the Technical support call center I worked in nearly 10 years ago, we had a button on the phone that would be pressed as soon as the caller became abusive. The call immediately was dumped to a special recording queue, priority attention from supervisor, and disconnected. Further contact from that customer would go directly to our Legal department. At that point they would no longer be permitted to talk to support personel.

          I doubt companies are that protective of their tra

        • by rts008 (812749)
          LOL! Good job. I would have expected insightful instead of funny, but funny it was.

          Clippy: I see that you are becoming upset, do you want to:
                          a. Terminate this call?
                          b. Terminate the order?
                          c. Nuke the Call Cente......FATAL EXCEPTION!!!!....NO CARRIE..
      • by Alef (605149) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:55PM (#16521451)
        This system is intended for support calls, where the customer service rep might not realize that they need to take action to prevent the loss of your business. Presumably, the system would automatically flag a manager if it calcualted that the customer was getting frustrated.

        So, essentially, the more frustrated and angry you sound, the better support you'll get...?

      • by pete6677 (681676)
        Considering the average callcenter employee has the intelligence of a retarded monkey, incapable of doing more than reading a script, software like this is probably necessary.
    • by curecollector (957211) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:00PM (#16520629)
      I was about to post the exact same thing, and then got to thinking that perhaps they're not screening for angry repsonses, but rather those that may come across as "vulnerable". Most telemarketers I've spoken with (either commercial or for charity) have been akin to dealing with a strange and dangerous animal - in other words, they can smell fear (or rather, indecisiveness, malleability, etc.).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      rocket scientists who thought that annoying people was a good way to get them to buy stuff.

      They wouldn't do it if it didn't make money.

      Annoying people apparently is a good way to get them to buy stuff.

      My understanding is that they primarily pray on lonely old shut-ins, that's their bread and butter. These people are so desperate to talk to someone that they will buy your shit just to keep the conversation going a little while.

    • by danpsmith (922127)

      Oh wait, I guess the retarded telemarketers might need a computer for that. Oh wait, that catagory includes all telemarketers, and the rocket scientists who thought that annoying people was a good way to get them to buy stuff.

      Make no doubt about it, telemarketing does, at least to some extent, work. It might not work on the 20-30 something IT crowd, but it certainly has benefits for a company. And this software might do what it promises and make it more effective.

      I find it particularly sick that it's al

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by winomonkey (983062)
      I hate to break it to you, but telemarketing is based upon the solid business case that it does in fact work. Companies would not be engaging in telemarketing if it weren't for the fact that it has a decent ROI when compared to other wide-reaching marketing campaigns. This article [findarticles.com], while definitely not the most recent one out there, speaks of the 5-15% success rate.

      As annoying as we find SPAM (both the food and the email), telemarketers, and mass mailings, they do show a return on the marketing investm
      • by rts008 (812749)
        Nice post-if I had mod points I would have used them instead of replying.
        Good job listing the ph#'s, and the succinct but informative message with link.

        Personally, I don't want bothered by telemarketing. I understand that it works enough to use, but it does not work with someone like me.

        I have no credit/debit cards, no bank accounts, pretty much a cash only way of life. (got burned bad in a divorce way back- my own fault-but still gunshy) If I don't have the cash to afford something, I wait until I do. Yes,
    • by johansalk (818687)
      Well, annoying people must be a good way to get them to buy stuff otherwise we wouldn't be seeing this explosion in telemarketing.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:49PM (#16520487)
    ...telemarketers who need to know when I'm upset that they just interrupted my dinner?"
    I thought this forum was for IT workers. IT workers NEVER make it home in time for dinner.
    • by cayenne8 (626475)
      "I thought this forum was for IT workers. IT workers NEVER make it home in time for dinner.

      You do if you're a smart one. First, you NEVER work for free......and of late, unless the company needs it, they don't like to pay OT.

      Second, never work salary....there's no such thing as job security, so why not get contractor pay, if you're working for contractor job security?

      I work, in general, the hours I want....you should too.

      :-)

  • by Goblez (928516) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:50PM (#16520499)
    If ( customer.words.contains( "Sh*t, F*ck, Damn, Hell){

    return SELL_MORE;

    }

    Still skewed by the people motivating it.

    • AOL's customer service emotion detection softare:

      Do forever:

      If

      "How many times do I have to tell you I want to cancel your f*sking SERVICES, you foreign asshat? Can't you speak ENGLISH?"

      then

      Offer to give them 3 more month for free if they stay

    • My company actually did something similar to this. I think it was something of a lark, though, not really meant to be a serious production feature. We were developing a natual-language speech recognition IVR system. The boss called the test line to see how the project was going. The demo app simulated a banking system, so the computer said "Please state your request in natural English", yadda yadda yadda. So my boss says, "I'd like my checking balance, please." The computer said, "I didn't understand,
  • The Future (Score:2, Funny)

    by gt_mattex (1016103)

    Telemarketing conversations of the future:

    Excuse me sir, would you be interested in..

    I'm trying to eat dinner! Remove my number from your..

    Thank you for your interest, if I may just have your social security number..

    • .. me seeing 'international call' on my caller ID and answering with the throaty noise that dead chick from The Grudge makes.
    • Lately I've been getting a lot of recorded "You have just been selected to win a chance to buy a new yacht!" type messages. Since I'm on the DNC list, these are highly illegal, but there's no way for me to provide any feedback to the campanies doing this, and I can't be bothered to report them (yet). So, I'd say your Future is Now.

      Then again, the article is actually about telephone service centres, not telemarketing... and I like the companies that have implemented these systems, since I just have to so

      • You know I've often wondered if you could have an out going message that informed the seller that your time to listen to their pitch was worth $1.10 per second. Could you enforce that once they said whatever, here's my pitch &&|| if it was a recording that started?
        -nB
  • by 56ker (566853) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:52PM (#16520535) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone else see the irony and humour in the article finishing with the line: "said subtler systems are used to identify when an angry customer is preparing to cancel services." - followed by a related headline of "liquid explosives detection device created" *grins* As if the people getting frustrated at wanting to cancel will resort to more extreme methods. *grins*
  • the future (Score:5, Funny)

    by Phantom of the Opera (1867) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:53PM (#16520557) Homepage
    automated telemarketer calls Phantom

    *ring ring*

    automatic secretary picks it up
    "Hello, this is Phantom's answering service."

    "I'd like to talk to Phantom."

    "He's not in right now, may I take a message."

    "This is QRX credit card services.."

    answering service cuts off "He does *not* need another credit card"

    "M'am, I can tell you are getting upset right now, but this is a really good deal."

    "Cut the crap; NO!"

    "Well, maybe you need some credit. He treat you well enough? Maybe we could keep that between the two of us.."

    "tell me more..."
  • Telemarketers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:53PM (#16520559) Homepage
    I read two of the links, and nowhere did it actually mention telemarketers. It seemed to indicate it was more related to customer contact things where the customer is calling about their service, and getting frustrated with the voicemail maze or the person on the phone with them. Like when you're calling your cable or phone company.

    While we all hate telemarketers here on Slashdot, I'm not convinced either of the stories is referring to them particularly.

    Cheers
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lxy (80823)
      I haven't tested this, but I've been told if you call Charter's main support number and drop the F-bomb you're immediately routed to tech support.
      • by pherthyl (445706) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:30PM (#16521033)
        I don't know about Charter, but I do know that MSP (Medical Services Plan in canada) does this. For 15 minutes I tried to wrestle with the voice activated menus they have, and absolutely could not figure out how to speak to a representative. Well eventually I just got pissed and started swearing at the thing. It paused for a while, then said "Ok, a representative, one moment please"

        Best. system. ever. :)
    • I read two of the links, and nowhere did it actually mention telemarketers. It seemed to indicate it was more related to customer contact things where the customer is calling about their service, and getting frustrated with the voicemail maze or the person on the phone with them.

      Yeah, as usual the summary was completely misleading. Some jackass felt the need to add his two cents. Why the editors accept submissions like this while rejecting scores of others, I'll never know.

      But getting back on topic, m

    • t seemed to indicate it was more related to customer contact things where the customer is calling about their service, and getting frustrated with the voicemail maze


      So will they have the system minimize frustration or maximize it to get you off the phone faster?

      -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        So will they have the system minimize frustration or maximize it to get you off the phone faster?

        I would hope the former, but I guess that depends on the company.

        Don't know if you've ever been confronted with one of those evil, broken, and annoying systems whereby you have to tell the system what you're looking for. Invariably, it understands only a few options, and drives you around in circles since it can't decide what you might want. I've hit a few of them.

        You eventually get frustrated with the 'automa

  • Four words: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zaren (204877)
    Do.

    Not.

    Call.

    List.

    I put my number on the national list as soon as it came out, and we get ZERO calls now, and haven't for at least a year. The few that called before the list got widely distributed were politely told to put me on their list. I've had no problems, no dinner time calls, nothing. It really does work.
  • ... it's for the damned Indians that American company managers seem to think are a good replacement for American people. I swear, they speak perfect English, but I can repeat myself 10 times in a very clear, understandable way to Indian call takers, and it just doesn't register with them.

    Specific case: I use Miva Merchant. All of their support is Indian. I called with a technical problem (where are the instructions for this section of software), and I ended up giving up because none of the Indians could
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raduf (307723)
      It's not the indians, it's their managers. They could have been eschimos for all you care and if nobody gave them a piece of info they don't have it.
      Now if you said that setups in india are designed to be cheap and do one thing only as simple as possible, disregarding complications... you'd have a case.
  • Caller ID (Score:3, Insightful)

    by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:54PM (#16520569) Journal
    Seriously though, does anyone pick up the phone any more if you don't recognize the number?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dcclark (846336)
      My parents live in rural central Michigan and still have a pulse line, as do many of their neighbors. They couldn't *get* caller ID if they wanted it. If they get a call during dinnertime, they can either guess about the intent, or just pick it up (and probably talk to the relative on the other end...). There are a surprising number of people in the same situation as them.
    • by SpiceWare (3438)
      My parents live in Mexico. Calls from them don't show a number.

      I've taken using the answering machine to screen calls.
  • by miyako (632510) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `okayim'> on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:55PM (#16520575) Homepage Journal
    I'm not sure how we can use this new technology to further abuse telemarketers, but I have faith that the geeks of the world will find a way!
    Personally, I think it would be useful to simply confuse the software by saying horrible things in honeyed tones. Especially things that use phrases that the programmers probably wouldn't have thought to include in the code to detect annoyance. "Sure, you can tell me about your companies products, after I force you to watch as I bathe in your offsprings viscera".
    You know, ever since I dropped my land line and just stick with a cell phone, I kind of miss having telemarketers to abuse...guess I'll just stick to abusing spammers.
  • The last thing we need is a nuclear bomb with emotional software out of wanting to commit suicide.
  • by kclittle (625128) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:56PM (#16520589)
    one of the truly great oxymorons...
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Friday October 20, 2006 @03:59PM (#16520625)
    I don't see anywhere that mentions telemarketers at all (except in the "summary"). The article only mentions call centers, which are more likely to be customer service centers than someone trying to sell you carpet cleaning.

    This could potentially be a good thing for the public. If you could measure how upset people get by certain people, then you could fire the ones that make people the most upset. Of course this could also lead to other problems as the goal of support is to solve peoples problems, not make them feel nice.

    It could also be a bad thing. Imagine if your called up customer service a few times in a bad mood, and the system flags you as a problem child (or maybe you're just a false positive as it isn't perfect). You then always get treated like you're a jerk.
  • by Stanistani (808333) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:01PM (#16520637) Homepage Journal
    Link [washingtonpost.com]
  • Even so... (Score:5, Funny)

    by theheff (894014) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:05PM (#16520685)
    It will never be able to detect sarcasm.
  • The greatest way to avoid getting annoying telemarketing calls during dinner is to never answer the phone during dinner!
  • They spent $400 million dollars for this:

    10 PRINT "Customer is annoyed"

    20 GOTO 10
    • Actually, I think it was more like this:

      10 PRINT "Attempt to sell service"
      20 INPUT I$
      30 REM IF I$="Customer is annoyed" THEN PRINT "Terminate call quickly"
      40 GOTO 10
  • I could have used that notice when I did customer service.
  • Are there chances to cause buffer overflows using low level words?
  • by crabpeople (720852) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:12PM (#16520791) Journal
    But then how will we be able to hear quality calls such as this one? [vox.com]

  • Mirror (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:13PM (#16520807) Homepage Journal
    So will the telemarketers turn this emotional software on themselves?

    Output:
    Subject: Telemarketer
    Aparent Emotion State: Cheerful
    Real Emotional State: Depressed and soul crushed.


    -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]
  • Unless your a Replicant.
    • Beth: Tyrell Corporation Customer Service. "More human than human." This is Beth, how can I help you?
      Roy: Uh, yes, I'm a Nexus-6 model replicant. I'm having problems with my lifespan.
      Beth: What sort of problems, sir?
      Roy: I've got less than two months to live because of this crazy cutoff date I just found out about.
      Beth: Okay, I'll need your serial number and incept date.
      Roy: Damn, it's around here somewhere... uh... N6MAA13-- I mean, 10816. Incept date is 8 January 2016.
      Beth: Let me look that up for y
  • by cgreuter (82182) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:17PM (#16520849)

    Telemarketer: Hi, I'm calling from $COMPANY to offer you $DEAL.

    me: I'm not interested.

    Telemarketer: May I ask why?

    me: Because they're using telemarketing to try to sell to me.

    Telemarketer: $LAME_EXCUSE. Goodbye.

    I don't see how emotion analyzing software is gonne get them out of that.

  • Is this the same Forrester Research that submitted all those proposals to use an orbiting space station as a closed environment for experimentation on human subjects, and presented "inventions" like the "double butt graft" and the "Cheese phone"? I don't know that I'd want to rely on their products...
  • $400 million (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drgonzo59 (747139) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:21PM (#16520873)
    They invested $400 million in an emotional analysis program using pitch, loudness and so on.

    So next time they call start smiling and in a soft polite voice say "FUCK YOU" and hang up.

  • It's software that detects emotion and now it's being used in call centers
    According to my girlfriend, this software is necessary in our relation, not in call centers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      My girlfriend's latest answer to telemarketers, "You know my name, my street address, and who my mortgage is with. That scares me. I think you might be a stalker. If you call me again, I will report you to the police." It seems to have the desired effect.
  • by misleb (129952) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:38PM (#16521159)
    I seem to recall a new device for people with aperger's/autism to help clue them in on the feelings of others. I believe it worked on visual cues. I bet this would be a pretty good addition. Especially for phone calls.

    -matthew
  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Friday October 20, 2006 @04:38PM (#16521173)
    "Hello, Microsoft Customer Service."

    "Why is windows accusing me of stealing it?"

    "Sir, I can see you're feeling... 'furious' ... I am sorry. The Windows software is only trying to protect you from piracy."

    "Wha... what? How am I threatened by pirates?"

    "I understand you are... 'confused' ... Allow me to help. Windows is simply ensuring that you have a genuine, complete, unbroken copy of the software."

    "So windows is making sure I can use my computer by not allowing me to use it?"

    "We simply want to ensure you do not accidentally have an illegal copy of windows from a source that is not trustworthy."

    "You want me to prove I'm not guilty so that there's no chance you're not making money? Why you..."

    "Sir, you seem to be feeling... Um, there are too many emotion words scrolling on the screen, I can't read them fast enough. Oh shit, I shouldn't have told you about the emotion words."

    "I. Will. Kill. You. Dead."

    "Ok, looks like we've settled on 'furious' again. Do you have a credit card handy? Sir?" (It looks like he hung up. Now the screen is telling me to lock the call center doors.)
  • I read, "Are we inadvertently getting closer to software that can understand us by killing the seed of telemarketers who need to know when I'm upset that they just interrupted my dinner?"

    Which depending on your definition of "seed" may be going too far. I'm all in favor of sterilizing telemarketers, but once they've actually mated killing the resulting progeny would be wrong.
    • by trongey (21550)
      ...I'm all in favor of sterilizing telemarketers, but once they've actually mated killing the resulting progeny would be wrong.

      Why do you say that? We already do it with weeds, bacteria, mold spores...
  • Software: "I can feel them."

    (shortly before willing the five approaching human sentinels to explode)
  • Well, I can think of a couple of good uses for this (and I'm not even being sarcastic):

    1. When you're staffing call centers with people from a culture other than the one of those calling the call center, this can help them judge the emotions of the person they're talking to more effectively;

    2. In various ways, this type of technology can help Autistic people figure out the emotions of the people they're dealing with, which is actually a very cool thing indeed.
  • by PPH (736903) on Friday October 20, 2006 @05:07PM (#16521631)
    ...if you are getting angry.
    Press the octothorpe if you are confused.
    Repeatedly press 6 if you are impatient.
    Press any key to be returned to our on hold music.
  • All I know is that when I get a phone call in the middle of the day and it's a MACHINE on the other end, I hang up RIGHT AWAY. The LAST thing I need is machines calling me, something that seems to be happening more and more often lately. Frankly I don't care if its a message, a survey, or if they're trying to sell me something, have a PERSON call me. There's nothing more offensive that getting a phone call from a freaking ROBOT. DAMN ROBOTS!!! *shakes fist in the air*
  • They're not allowed to call me. And those who are: cops, fundraisers and politicians, I generally tell them to scream in boiling atomic hell while they fuck themselves. Then I hang up. I wonder what their emotional software reads when I do that?
    • by krray (605395) *
      I tend to react the same way whenever any such call ever hits the "house phone".

      I've purposely have had multiple numbers for just this reason as an adult. Not too long ago ISDN sure beat out dialup and one circuit was simply always "busy" (inbound). Today it's even easier with VoIP -- particularly when I want to make a call and control what CID shows...

      The house phone is only ever given to friends & family. Otherwise the bank, credit card companies, stores, and your brother can go ahead and try and reac
    • The software may have a sense of humor too. It could even be evil and put 10 faxes in a queue on your phone number. :-)
      • by gelfling (6534)
        Faxes on that number are silently routed to email where they are filtered with a white list. Everything else: bitbucket. Someone sending me a fax needs my permission before I see it. I got tired of my fax machine printing junk faxes and misrouted 20 page mortgage applications. Not only is it annoying, it's expensive. So I pulled it out and print to the network printer. I use the regular fax machine for outbound only.

        Anyway I can do the same thing with any VoIP number so if I see a number I don't want I jus
  • by noz (253073)
    Can it detect my apathy when they call? What becomes their tactic?
  • A couple of years ago a friend of mine told me about a system that his company had installed on their inbound voice-activated phone system. You know the type, "Please say 'billing' to be tranfered to billing. Please say 'I like this music' to continue to wait on hold, etc." (or whatever the prompts are).

    Anyway, the new voice-recognition system included volume and scans for common profanity to move the caller ahead in the queue if they were getting upset. (Because, as anyone who's done tech support or cust

Them as has, gets.

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