Machines are training human workers to be more compassionate

“You are speaking faster than usual,” reads an alert on a computer screen. The call center agent on the phone with a customer can see a speedometer icon.

The conversation with the customer continues, as does the computer feedback. “Think about how the customer is feeling. Try to relate,” the artificial intelligence-powered tool interjects. The agent receives other notifications, from “extended silence” to “empathy cue,” which suggests the worker is not showing enough empathy.

For about 1,700 agents at the call center of Humana Pharmacy, the software called Cogito is becoming part of their work lives. It listens to most of their phone calls with customers nationwide and guides the agents on how to better communicate by analyzing vocal cues in conversations such as pitch, tone, and rhythm of voices.