SoftBank looks at ‘softening’ angry customer calls with AI


SoftBank is addressing the challenges faced by call center workers when dealing with disgruntled customers by exploring the potential of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled software to mitigate the impact of tense interactions.

As Japan’s third-largest telecommunications provider, SoftBank plans to initiate both internal and external testing of this technology within the next year, with the goal of commercializing it by the end of March 2026.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, SoftBank detailed its efforts to develop a solution capable of converting customers’ voices into a more relaxed conversational tone. Leveraging AI-enabled emotion recognition and voice processing technology, this solution aims to facilitate smoother communication between customers and call center workers, prioritizing the well-being of employees.

While Japan is renowned for its exemplary customer service standards, concerns surrounding the harassment of service industry staff have garnered increased attention in recent years. In response, the government is exploring legislative measures to enhance protections for workers.

According to a survey conducted by UA Zensen, a labor union representing workers predominantly in the service and retail sectors, approximately half of the 33,000 respondents reported experiencing harassment from customers over the past two years. Instances of harassment ranged from verbal abuse to intimidation, with some customers even making demands for workers to kneel and apologize.

The psychological toll of such harassment is evident, with over 100 respondents indicating that they sought psychiatric assistance as a result of these incidents.