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The Almighty Buck AI Businesses Idle Technology

World's Rudest Robot Set To Simulate the Fury of Call Center Customers 150

An anonymous reader writes: A New Zealand-based company called Touchpoint Group has unveiled the world's angriest robot, which is designed to help train call center employees in the art of dealing with frustrated customers. The project, named Radiant, will involve one of Australia's biggest banks, which is providing researchers with recordings of real-life interactions with customers. Once finished Radiant will simulate hundreds of millions of angry customer interactions, helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls.
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World's Rudest Robot Set To Simulate the Fury of Call Center Customers

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  • Oh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:15PM (#49685947) Journal

    I definitely want to set that thing loose on Slashdot!

    • Re:Oh! (Score:5, Funny)

      by sinij ( 911942 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:17PM (#49685971)
      I read at -1, and I can personally assure you, that thing is a frequent AC poster here.
    • Re:Oh! (Score:5, Funny)

      by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:36PM (#49686347)

      Me, I'm waiting for the consumer edition.

      It's only fair that we use our own robots, to get through their robots, and to speak to their customer service representatives (who may not be robots themselves, but who may act like robots anyway).

      "Please cancel my Comcast subscription.", "By the way, I'm recording this phone conversation for proof that I've actually cancelled my Comcast subscription. So let me ask again, please cancel my Comcast subscription.", "I don't care about any of that, please cancel my comcast subscription. ", "What was your name and employee number again? Thank you 'John, I can't give you my last name because of company policy'. Despite the fact that I've given you my social security number, my address, my birthdate, the maiden name of my mother. Once again, please cancel my comcast subscription. ", "No, I don't want to be transferred to your retention specialist. Hello, hello..."

      Busy signal...

      "Is anyone there? Fuck all of you!! I just want to cancel my Comcast subscription!!"

      Busy signal...

      "I'm just a robot. I can do this all day. Please cancel my Comcast subscription!!"

      Click. The Comcast system has just hung up the phone.

      My robot redialing...

      Busy signal...

      My robot redialing...

      Busy signal...

      • ... and hook it up with the Judge Judy sound board.
        http://www.ebaumsworld.com/sou... [ebaumsworld.com]

      • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

        Cortana would be ideal for that if only it can be made to do sequential steps. Currently it's one instruction only.
        "Cortana, phone xxx call centre, authenticate me and let me know when you hear "How can I help you today?"

        • Empirix's Voice Watch product actually does this thing exactly. Although it's usually used by the company, not the customer.
    • no you don't! have you thought about what a horrible idea that is? of course you haven't, because you need a brain to think!

      and what the fuck is wrong with YELLING, SLASHDOT FILTER!??!!?

  • That will provide them with the angriest and most justified to be angry customers in the world.

    • It would be more fun to turn it loose on Comcast. Their call centers would go supernova.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's more likely Comcast is going to look at hiring the rude robot to *replace* their rude, useless call center people.

      • Or even better, set it loose on the various states' Attorney General's offices, regarding the problems they're having with their Comcast service.

    • I sure hope I'm getting residuals for this. I'm pretty sure my voice is on these recordings.

  • by AnotherBlackHat ( 265897 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:23PM (#49685995) Homepage

    What makes the callers angriest? Call center employees who act like robots.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Spending 40 minutes on hold and having to talk to someone who has no power to do anything for you! Bonus points if they tell you to call back during normal business hours!
      Another good one is being transferred around to different departments until someone hangs up on you.

      • ...being told to call around to different departments until you end up with the person you spoke to originally

    • by Megahard ( 1053072 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:37PM (#49686045)

      It would be amusing to hook the angry robot up to one of those online automatic assistants.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or call center employees who obviously have no ability to fix a situation, assuming they even understand the problems in the first place. Call centers exist purely to run interference for the people in charge.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What makes call center employees act like robots? Call center clients who give us ineffective reaching instructions and inflexible scripts. When an agents tries to do the right thing, then either sales or customer service will get rude, all-caps emails and calls at all hours of the night threatening to go off service. Or perhaps the agent will get ahold of somebody who can do something only to be subjected to an obscene torrent of insults.

      When I used to be on the call floor, I received multiple death thr

    • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @11:09AM (#49689389)

      What makes the callers angriest? Call center employees who act like robots.

      Also, hearing "We are receiving higher than usual call volume..." every single time you call anywhere for any reason. Nothing says "We are lying incompetents" more clearly.

  • Impressive... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:26PM (#49686003) Journal
    It sounds like somebody is justifying have their head in the sand by commissioning a fancy study on mineralogy.

    People fucking hate call centers because they have to traverse some hellish phone tree, wait too long to talk to a representative who is generally underinformed and insufficiently empowered to actually do anything about the problem. In some cases the rep is even required by company policy to be actively unhelpful, attempt upsells, and the like. Plus, of course, nobody calls phone support when things are working properly, so you start out with a somewhat skewed sample of people who are having issues of one kind or another; not so much happy people just looking to transact.

    What do they want? The magic fancy AI to tell them how to keep customers from being pissed off because of bad service without actually making service better? The one weird trick to making someone feel calm about being told that the problem cannot be fixed? A deeper understanding of why listening to hold music and inane recordings about how much we care about your call for half an hour is obnoxious?
    • The fact the corporate brass are so not getting the issue that they commissioned this project is, itself, a symptom of exactly the problem they want to study. This is some meta level stupid.

      • The fact the corporate brass are so not getting the issue that they commissioned this project is, itself, a symptom of exactly the problem they want to study.

        You are making the unwarranted assumption that it is cheaper to provide good service than to provide bad service and train employees to deal with the blowback. I see no reason to believe that is true. Sure, for some businesses, providing good service pays off, but there are certain industries, including cellphone service, cable service, and health insurance, where all of the companies use the "crappy service" model. I don't think that would happen if that strategy didn't maximize profits.

        • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

          I generally just drop shitty companies. It's worked great for me so far. I am fortunate that my internet provider is actually very good. A little pricey but I'll take that over cheap and shitty. If they sucked I'd have a hard time replacing them. Everyone else though is very expendable.

      • Re:Impressive... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by N1AK ( 864906 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @05:59AM (#49687821) Homepage
        As crap as call centre customer service so often is, it doesn't make this a waste of money. Even if the company was perfect and never did anything wrong, they would from time to time receive calls from customers who are angry/touchy/rude, and giving staff good training in how to keep those interactions relatively positive is useful.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      People fucking hate call centers because they have to traverse some hellish phone tree, wait too long to talk to a representative who is generally underinformed and insufficiently empowered to actually do anything about the problem.

      This...

      But people are half of the problem. They want champagne service at beer prices.

      My car insurance is with RAC here in Western Australia. They aren't the cheapest but they have a local call centre that operates on Western Australian time, well trained staff and I've

      • Cheap and good can be done together. I am in upstate New York and my car is insured with GEICO. I switched to them for the reason they typically advertise: it's cheaper. The delightful surprise is that their customer service people are super-polite, sufficiently trained, sufficiently empowered, and on the two occasions when I have filed a claim with them, they have been fast about getting things back in order.

        On a side-note, I've been to the Philippines. I think their English is more EN_ca than EN_us.

    • How to avoid the tech support script runaround? The code word is "Shibboleet." [xkcd.com]

    • You know damn well what the reason is! Your questions are rhetorical. For those that aren't aware, this is further training and conditioning of the customer base to justify the cheap call center labor in India. Because, smart people are expensive to employ.

    • by Whiteox ( 919863 )

      A deeper understanding of why listening to hold music and inane recordings

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • I'll share an anecdote with my story from Microsoft.

      Way back in 2007 I bought a Microsoft bluetooth keyboard and mouse to replace my Logitech that kept dropping connection and "sticky key"ing (connection drop, last key hit was repeated until I could reconnect). For some reason, the driver install would complete, but it wouldn't actually pick up the keyboard and mouse. Then I read it needed Windows installer 3.0 (I think?), but I had 2.something. Uninstall/reinstall a few times, nothing. So I call tech su
      • Logitech is a decent company. You don't get that level of support everywhere.
        And Windows installer going TU is going to be difficult to fix in any case. It doesn't happen often and reinstalling Windows seems like a good solution to fix a part of the Windows OS. Since it doesn't happen often I can't imagine there being a decent business case for making a separate windows installer installer beyond re-installing the OS. There will always be edge cases.
        Now for why Windows STILL does not make separate data and

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls"

    helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls?

    ARE THEY MORONS?!?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I thought it was obvious what generated heated calls. Companies could just listen to their customers and then they would know.

    • I thought it was obvious what generated heated calls. Companies could just listen to their customers and then they would know.

      Listen to our customers? What a radical idea - you're fired!

  • "helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls."

    Bollocks, it'll be used to better understand how to pacify and palm off heated calls.

  • by Ami Ganguli ( 921 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:29PM (#49686023) Homepage

    That's not hard to answer. Nobody wants to spend hours on the phone with somebody who:

    • Can't say anything that isn't on their script.
    • Has no authority to fix the problem even if they could understand it.

    Modern call centres appear to be designed specifically to infuriate people by politely wasting their time without solving any problems.

    • by erice ( 13380 )

      That's not hard to answer. Nobody wants to spend hours on the phone with somebody who:

      • Can't say anything that isn't on their script.
      • Has no authority to fix the problem even if they could understand it.

      Modern call centres appear to be designed specifically to infuriate people by politely wasting their time without solving any problems.

      No. No. No. The purpose of the modern call center is to "solve" customer problems in the most cost efficient manner. If the customer goes away and keeps paying without the company needing to spend resources to fix something, that is a good result. It gets even better if this can be accomplished while paying the customer service rep as little as possible.

      It is, of course, a delicate balancing act. Go too cheap and you lose customers. Spend too much and it cuts into the bottom line. The robot training

      • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @10:58PM (#49686923)

        Keeping customers "happy" while you screw them is key.

        It's worked so far for the world's oldest profession...

        • Well, but only because getting screwed is what the customer wants. The current call center is only a success for customers with a serious masochistic tendency. And for that it's fairly badly marketed because not only is that market rather small but also usually willing to pay way more for the abuse.

      • The purpose of the modern call center is to "solve" customer problems in the most cost efficient manner.

        Nope the purpose of the modern call center is to enhance the resume of the manager who runs it. The modern call center is just about always associated with a monopolistic venture with captive customers, so their happiness of the customers and the number of complaints in the queue are simply irrelevant numbers ignored by everyone.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd do it for HALF the fucking money and with TWICE the rudeness, but do these boffins fucking even ask? IDIOTS.

  • Every call center I've ever encountered is designed to ask you if you power cycled your thing and then call back if that doesn't work. If you call back, the person you speak to will ask if you power cycled your thing. You really have to put up a fight to talk to someone who can actually help you, assuming that such a thing even exists at that call center, and most people give up long before they reach that point. Most of the time you can find an answer with a bit of googling anyway.It seems like to pointle
    • Every call center I've ever encountered is designed to ask you if you power cycled your thing

      Yeah, I got that when I called the bakery about the missing raisins in my raisin bread. They asked me to power cycle the loaf and cut another slice.

    • Every call center I've ever encountered is designed to ask you if you power cycled your thing

      http://www.thefedoranerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Hello-IT-Have.jpg

  • They are not planning to do anything to reduce frustration of customers. They will train more low wage workers to bear the brunt of frustration. They will spend all this money to desensitize them to verbal abuse and angry calls. But they would not think, "mmm, our customers are frustrated. Let us find out why and make them happy".

    Sooner or later these phone line workers are going to initiate a class action law suit for permanently damaging their emotional selves and making them insensitive to anger they h

    • by Livius ( 318358 )

      They will train more low wage workers

      My guess would be *replace* low wage workers once the robot is sufficiently obnoxious.

  • Ug, this sucks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:58PM (#49686143)
    I saw this coming in the mid 2000s. Companies realized it was more cost effective (read:cheaper) to have happy sounding customer service than a good product and knowledgeable staff. For people wondering why they don't just create an environment and products that don't make people angry in the first place it's because that costs money. Lots of it. So you dump the job of cleaning the mess left by management's lousy decisions onto some poor bastard in Bangladesh or some barely literate goof in Alabama. The sad thing is it works. People remember how the interaction felt more than it's content... For anyone who isn't an overly emotional idiot it's incredibly frustrating; and all the robots in the world don't help that.
  • They could have just called my wife.

  • by LessThanObvious ( 3671949 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:00PM (#49686161)

    Bender, is that you?

  • by fullback ( 968784 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:02PM (#49686175)

    The "Genius Bar" (is that still around?) never gave anyone answers. They just gave you tons of dripping empathy, but no help.

    "Yes, I can understand completely how frustrated you must feel; however, Apple doesn't feel that your computer not working is a serious enough issue for us to warrant talking to anyone else in the company who cares or will listen. Thank you and have a wonderful day. Would you like to buy this other shiny piece of matching crap over here that doesn't work either?"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Gotta be Westpac. And they wouldn't need 'angry customer' training if they didn't treat their customers like dicks with open wallets.

  • Exactly what I was seeking for to answer telemarketers.
  • by ZipK ( 1051658 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:18PM (#49686265)
    Since Comcast can't seem to service their customer service lines in a timely, intelligent or helpful manner, and nearly all of the callers end up angry, why not just use the excess calls for training? It's not like these callers will be any more frustrated by operators who know nothing about Comcast than they are by actual Comcast customer service agents.
  • Does it pass the Turing test?
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Almost. It was doing fine until it told the service rep to kiss its shiny metal ass.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      can the service rep pass or administer the turing test?

      I bet according to the script he can't do either.

      which is why the callers are frustrated.

  • by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:45PM (#49686379) Journal

    helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls.


    #include <stdio.h>
    main()
    {
    say("Your service fails intermittently.");
    say("Your service costs too much relative to similar services in other developed nations.");
    say("You don't test your services thoroughly before and while providing them to us.");
    say("You don't staff your call centers adequately.");
    say("When presented with reasonable customer complaints, your call center employees aren't empowered to alter policy appropriately.");
    say("Your corporate governance is ethically lacking.");
    }

  • Why do we want to train customer service representatives to be angry and rude? Can't they learn how to do that on the job?

  • The funny thing is, with unemployment so high, and call centre work not being intrinsically difficult, companies can hire motivated, people-oriented workers with excellent listening and problem-solving skills and super-friendly personalities. So they do. But the job turns them into the call centre workers we talk to when we call.

    That says a lot about the employer.

    • Worse. The latest *hotness* is all about community support and open forums. Have a problem with a product or service?? Go online or talk to your co-workers and neighbors. Got a billing question? E-mail us and maybe it won't get lost in our junk/spam folder.

      Phone line? Yeah, business will soon be cutting that cord real quick. It's nothing but a cost center.

  • "... helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls."

    No it doesn't. A robot pre-programmed for being angry can only help companies understand the best ways to endure / pacify angry callers.

    Yay for treating the symptoms of bad customer service without even attempting to touch the cause.

    • They would have to understand why customers were angry to begin with, in order to build a decent simulator. To understand "what triggers heated calls all you have to do is care and listen your customers.
      • why customers were angry to begin with

        unless you've been living under a rock or in a cave, you've undoubtedly made some sort of financial transaction where you felt like you got ripped off. how did that feel to you? so are you a special different kind of human or maybe perhaps you might be able to comprehend that these people feel like you did. do you need a manual or a book to explain the human experience?

  • these call centers are fronting for operations that could care less about whether their customers are angry or happy. just about every big operation these days is a monopoly, and the customers are going nowhere. they don't need to solve customer problems or soothe the raging callers. the only real motivation is to talk the customer out of more money.

  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @12:36AM (#49687261)

    Seriously, people get pissed when you:

    1) don't get what they paid for

    2) get lied to

    3) have to put up with clueless cue-card-reading tech support

    4) have to wait inordinately long periods of time to talk to someone

    Want happier customers? Don't fuck them around. If mistakes are made, own up to it and make it right. Above all, train your staff well so they actually understand what they're supporting.

  • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Thursday May 14, 2015 @04:37AM (#49687695)
    what triggers heated calls.

    Dealing with banks is what triggers heated calls. I should have thought any adult who has ever had to deal with an bank knows that. I have had more intelligent conversations with parrots than with banks.

    OK, I live in the UK, but banks are banks.

  • http://ars.userfriendly.org/ca... [userfriendly.org]

    The white box is a, rather sarcastic, AI inside an SGI O2 computer box.
  • One of the few things there is no shortage of, irate customers. Have them go work for BT in the UK or any cable company in the US for a week, and they'll learn everything there possibly is to know about dealing with slews of pissed off people.
    • They've already called me up twice today. Obviously it was just for practice because I already told them I'm not buying any of their shit. And I work for free training these assholes how to deal with cold calls.

      Usually I keep them on the line long enough to waste their time, or go to the loo and at least squeeze out a #1 (bonus points for a #2) while I hold the phone near enough to hear it.

  • millions of angry customer interactions, helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls."

    I'll help you cut to the case, it's shitty service and shitty call center reps with no power to do anything helpful. Until you fix that, you're gonna have pissed off customers.
  • by pem ( 1013437 )
    You said my call could be recorded for quality control or training purposes, but you never gave me an opt-out. Selling it to an outside vendor to use this way is a clear copyright violation, and I'm going to call back to complain!
  • Having previously worked at a helpdesk I can only say one thing..

    they are creating an abomination!

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