Don't Get Overemotional

Article Featured Image

It’s only natural that designers and developers want to show off their products’ or systems’ latest capabilities. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

When creating a great speech-enabled IVR, designers and developers should not focus on dazzling customers with their systems’ latest bells and whistles (i.e., telling jokes or feigning emotion). After all, we don’t expect customer service representatives (CSRs) to tell jokes, gush with emotion, or try to become a customer’s new best friend. It’s not that CSRs can’t—they’re perfectly capable of doing these things—but when a person fakes emotion, it comes off as contrived and trite. It’s only worse when it comes from a machine. IVRs that are too friendly come off as creepy (see Moshe Yudkowsky’s column, "The Creepiness Factor," on page 4). Focusing too much on making the IVR memorable may also get companies into trouble (see Melanie Polkosky’s column, "Contradicting a Legend," on page 7). Doing so puts too much emphasis on the system and not enough on the customer.

Instead, designers and developers should focus on delighting customers. Often, delighting customers only requires quickly providing them with value. It’s the same approach you’d suggest to a live agent. Once the customer is delighted, the company can then look for reciprocity, which is when it can act on cross-sell and upsell opportunities or retrieve valuable customer feedback.

With that said, is it helpful to add emotive speech into an IVR? After all, don’t people realize they’re talking to a machine? Some industry insiders think it will help customer interactions. In our cover story, "An Emotional Mess" (page 14), by freelancer Paul Korzeniowski, one industry expert says, "By incorporating emotive speech into voice systems, human-machine interactions may become more appealing, more natural, and more effective because users will find it easier to interact with a well-mannered machine."

We packaged this story with another feature, "Emotional Intelligence" (page 20), by freelancer Jessica Tsai. This story highlights how emotion detection technology, combined with a speech analytics and workforce optimization suite, can reveal customers’ emotions, which offers tangible benefits to an organization. After reading these two features, it’s clear that it’s not as important to convey emotion in the IVR system as it is to understand and build positive emotions in customers.


Allow me to welcome Editorial Assistant Adam Boretz to the Speech Technology magazine staff. Adam recently completed his coursework for an MFA in fiction writing at Columbia University. He is a bright reporter and a talented writer, who will undoubtedly be an asset to this team. Feel free to contact Adam at aboretz@infotoday.com.

SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues