First Horizon Bank Receives Backlash for “Bleak” Tactic to Tackle Contact Center Burnout

The bank uses AI to present contact center agents with family photos and their favorite song when stressed

First Horizon Bank Receives Backlash for “Bleak” Tactic to Tackle Contact Center Burnout
WFOLatest News

Published: July 3, 2024

Charlie Mitchell

Burnout remains a persistent problem in contact centers. Agents log on, expecting bad calls, and that anticipation causes continuous stress.

Recognizing this issue, Cisco Webex released an Agent Burnout Detection tool to sense high-stress levels and disrupt the cycle with a sixty-second mini-break.

During this mini-break, agents can take some quality “me time”.

According to the vendor, companies trialing the solution saw stress reports decrease by 13-15 percent, average handle time (AHT) increase by 40-50 percent less than it would have otherwise, and customer satisfaction improve.

So far, so good. But, when piloting the Agent Burnout Detection tool, First Horizon Bank received some criticism on social media.

As part of its pilot, the bank decided to present agents with a montage of family photos alongside their favorite songs during these mini-breaks.

Well-meaning, perhaps? Yet, commentators on social media have labeled the deployment as “bleak”, “grim”, and a “Black Mirror plot”.

Indeed, the comments section on the following bustling X post makes for quite a read.

One person noted: “The notion of building neural nets specifically trained to detect when a human is about to “Lose it” seems like a potentially poor idea that may have unintended consequences.”

Meanwhile, one commentator found fault in sharing family photos, stating: “Because family is obviously never ever the source of the trigger right? ”

Finally, one commentator wrote: “Somehow, I doubt it will be their actual favorite song either.”

Before these comments came rolling in, First Horizon Bank had shared a positive update from its trial, recording “double-digit” reductions in burnout cases.

Moreover, the move seems well-intended. As Jason O’Dell, Vice President for Voice Services at First Horizon, told American Banker: “When Cisco Webex came to us to talk to us about being part of this wellness program, we were all in on this.

This is exactly what we need to do to get our agents into a state in which they feel that we’re involved in making sure that they’re satisfied and happy with their work environment.

However, since the social media discourse spiraled, First Horizon Bank has released the following statement on X:

“These initiatives, driven by a technology partner of First Horizon’s, have not been rolled out to our contact center or client care teams. These are just some of the options we have explored to improve the lives of our associates across the bank.”

So, not exactly all-in, after all?

Yet, it’s critical to note that many other brands are trialing this technology alongside other AI solutions to lower agent stress.

For instance, SoftBank Corp, a Japanese telecoms giant, is testing AI software that softens the tone of irate customers.

Meanwhile, 12 out of the top 20 customer service BPOs have leveraged technology to alter the accents of contact center agents, again bidding to improve agent wellbeing.

Yet, whatever your thoughts on such contact center AI use cases, The Simpsons may have once again predicted the future.


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