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I Am Not Angry, Dammit!

'Emotion detection' means the cranky wheel will always get the oil

2:35 PM -- There are systems that can recognize your fingerprint, your eyes, and your voice. There are systems that can recognize your face, your shape, the way you walk, and the way you type.

Now, there's a new system that recognizes the way you're feeling. Or at least, how it thinks you're feeling.

The new "emotion detection" technology was appropriately developed by NICE Systems, one of the major providers of digital call recording and analysis systems for call centers. NICE is used by 67 of the Fortune 100, and all of the world's top 10 banks, according to company officials. If you've ever been told, "this call may be recorded for training purposes," chances are you're being being taped by NICE.

Now NICE is offering emotion detection for its recording systems. When your voice hits a certain decibel level -- or if you use harsh or foul language (or the name of a competitor) -- NICE's call monitoring system will issue an alert to call center managers that there's a problem. This can bring speedier intervention by a manager -- and swifter resolution of a call, NICE says.

"Like all recorded calls, your angry call will be digitized and stored on a server, where it can be batched with other angry calls, searched by keyword and emailed as a sound file among company managers," NICE says. "The idea? Find out what makes callers angry -- and address it systemwide."

Now, I'm not an expert in this technology, but doesn't this skew customer service strategies toward loudmouths and blowhards? Heck, I know people who use foul language when they're asking for the salt. I also know people who need decibel reduction surgery just to be allowed into a ballpark.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those whose voices never change, even when they are really steamed. I'm not English, but my grandmother was, and I was raised to smile and be polite -- even when you're telling someone to eat your shorts. "An Englishman," someone once said, "is someone who can tell you to go to hell and leave you looking forward to the trip."

Now that I know about NICE's new technology, however, I'm tempted to raise my voice during my next customer service call, even if I'm not really mad. "No, dammit, I'm not angry, I just want your system to think that I'm angry, so that it will record my complaint!"

It SEEMS TO ME that NICE's emotion detection technology, like most biometric technologies, HAS SOME FLAWS, DADBURN IT, and it may take some time to FIX THE FRIGGIN' THING. In the meantime, the technology surely is BETTER THAN NOTHING, so I hope customer service organizations will give it a try before they GO TO A COMPETITOR -- AND NEVER COME BACK!

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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