New developments in "emotion analytics" promise to help call-center agents better understand customer moods, reports Natasha Singer in The New York Times (10/13/13). "It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it," says Dan Emodi of Beyond Verbal, developers of software that analyzes intonation to "detect 400 variations of different moods." The goal is to "read and respond to consumers’ emotions in real time" and better serve their needs. Unlike other software that simply identifies "emotional trigger words," it analyzes "tone and frequency."
Beyond Verbal’s "technique is based on the work of Israeli researchers in the 1990s who studied how babies understand and respond to the moods of adult speech before understanding actual language. The researchers developed their mood-detection algorithms by analyzing the emotions of 70,000 people in 30 languages. Company executives say the software can detect not only callers’ primary and secondary moods, but also their attitudes and underlying personalities." The company’s chief executive, Yuval Mor, sees applications beyond call centers.
Yuval believes Beyond Verbal can also identify and influence consumer decision-making. "If this person is an innovator, you want to offer the latest and greatest product," he says. A more conservative person might instead be offered "something tried and true." However, skeptics, such as Dr. George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon, thinks Beyond Verbal puts too much stock in a single phone call. "They are just reading your voice at one moment in time," he says. "You are not going to read someone’s personality from their voice."