Emotionally intelligent contact centres, generally means people using the skill of emotional intelligence when handling customer contact.  Emotionally intelligent contact centres driven by AI? 🤖  What does this mean? Is this Artificial Intelligence using the pretrained skill of emotional intelligence to handle customer contact replacing humans? Is that the future of customer contact?

At the moment we are leveraging the technology AI brings to help us establish levels of customer satisfaction in calls through understanding sentiment, key words and phrases and tonality, integrating LLM’s and predictive analytics to do clever stuff to help guide the agent and respond to customer needs. Fusing AI with Speech analytics gives leaders the ability to detect conversational challenges more seamlessly and then coach an agent real-time to turn negative sentiment into positive sentiment.

Agent Guidance with real time nudges agent nudges and knowledge prompts is just one aspect of how AI is supporting the agent but it still means the agent is in the driving seat and the AI is supporting and minimising customer confusion reducing potential negative outcomes. We can see through sentiment of a call over time that negative sentiment can actually reduce as a result of the AI and human working in tandem, importantly we can also see where that negative sentiment is increasing and put close loop actions in place to follow up and or use AI to support with that realtime.

Ultimately our aim in the Contact Centre is to mitigate against customer dissatisfaction so we reduce the risk of customer churn, better support vulnerable customers and identify complaints areas and improvement opportunities, which will improve loyalty, reduce attrition and increase lifetime value of customers. But all this is done with the agent being a central part of that chain; will we get to the point of the AI voice bot showing enough emotional intelligence to be able to replace a human?

I’ve seen lots of articles and comments that suggest maybe in as little as 12 months time the contact centre agent role may be a lot less dependent on a human being in the driving seat?

My thoughts 💭 whilst I see AI advancing at an incredible rate, human nature and our trust levels of AI doesn’t go at the same pace so whilst humans are in the driving seat for how they want to be engaged I foresee the need for human to human contact as prevalent in 1-3 years as we do now?

We invited some thoughts from the contact centre industry to debate this question and share their input into the debate, here’s what they had to say:

Ben Booth CEO of MaxContact:
There are so many points you could discuss here and we have a character limit so here goes:

Emotional Intelligence in AI: While AI is advancing, it’s not yet at the level of human emotional intelligence. AI indeed struggles with nuances like sarcasm, especially prevalent in British humour. However, AI is improving in understanding context and sentiment, which are crucial for emotional intelligence. Ready now, no, in future yes but not 12 months.

Consumer Preference: Businesses may favour AI for cost efficiency, but consumers often prefer human interaction, especially for complex or sensitive issues, think of due process, have I been listened to even if my problem is resolved (the story about the speeding ticket?). It’s a balance between convenience and the need for empathy and understanding that only a human can provide.

Impact on Jobs: AI will likely lead to a shift in roles rather than outright replacement. As AI takes over routine tasks, human agents can focus on more complex and emotionally nuanced interactions. The timeline for this transition is uncertain, history tells us it is slower than we think, but there will be a contraction on current requirements.”

Danny Wareham – Business Psychologist and founder of Firgun:

For me (with my psychologist hat on), emotional intelligence is about YOU. Do you understand YOUR own emotions, how they are triggered and how they affect your behaviours, decision making and actions?

Then, in turn, understand how these outputs impact on, and are perceived by, others?

In that sense, AI will never have “emotional intelligence”. It won’t understand its emotions – because it doesn’t have any to understand.

What we really mean is the customer’s perception of that output I mentioned.

In that regard, AI might be able to produce outputs that are perceived as emotive (considerate, nuanced, responsive) to the customer/end user, which feel like a better service.

There are blockers currently. Ben’s mentioned conversational and cultural nuance (i.e., sarcasm) already. However, we also see these as blockers to service between different groups of humans (i.e., perception of UK service versus offshore).

Michelle Spaul CX enthusiast and Management Consultant – Delta Swan :

Will humans be as prevalent in contact centres as they are now?

I think a lot of people compare AI – which can only act as if it has empathy – with humans – who are empathetic. But we have all experienced totally unempathetic call centre staff. The option seems to be, coach them into empathy or let AI take their place.

Kathryn Simon’s Porter – Women in CX and Technology specialist:

Some might say that’s a bit of an oxymoron; AI with emotional intelligence. For now human in the loop is safest, but mainly due to hallucinations when using Gen AI. EI/EQ is also so utterly individual, and I’ve said for a while that EI/EQ perhaps should be screened at agent hire as someone with low EQ will only come across disingenuous when prompted with the Real Time guidance offering based on utterance/ sentiment from the customer.

Sure there are IVAs out there now that can detect sarcasm from the customer , and respond, but its a bold (stupid) move to allow the IVA to respond to this in an effort to mirror the ‘humour’. Lets not forget what happened last year to ‘that’ logistics company.

Darran Crook – Senior operations leader:

I think the EI will improve, there’s so much focus on it that it has to, otherwise it won’t be widely adopted and customers won’t buy into it. There’s definitely huge opportunities in the chat flows to cover even more of the customer interaction with AI, so less ends up needing to be transferred, but I don’t think it will completely replace a physical agent for a long time, if at all.

I think the biggest benefits we might see is ok the agent side to drive more automation and automated responses to help make the agents life easier. Be interesting to see how this plays out.


AI is advancing at a tremendous pace and it’s clear that it has some significant value in streamlining processes, automating tasks and creating more sophisticated environment that will support better customer outcomes. There is of course opportunity for AI to replace agents and for customers to choose to engage with AI voice bots and Chat bots with a clear acceptance that they are engaging with a Non Human, the real question is would you be comfortable engaging with a Voice bot or a chat bot without knowing that you are not speaking with a human and how would you feel if contact centres did this without your consent? Ultimately it’s a cost play as AI responses will inevitably become a cheaper way to serve, would you pay a higher premium to have a personalised human to human conversation, perhaps that’s how we’ll differentiate for the future? What’s your thoughts?