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AI that stops you getting mad at your customers? Are you crazy?

There’s a certain twisted irony in having to create AI to fix things that businesses may have themselves caused in the first place.




He’s just received an empathy cue. Can you tell?

Screenshot by ZDNet

I adore machines.

They allow me to live faster and longer — and communicate to far-off places from my bed.

I worry, though, that sometimes we don’t entirely think their purpose through.

I’ve been drawn to this painful state on hearing of a company called Cogito. Its website offers a great — and much-needed, in these times — promise: Reduce Employee Turnover.

Clearly, I hear you sniff, this must be a company that’s elevating management skills to an exalted art form.

Well, perhaps. And then, perhaps not.

Here’s a sentence from the company’s website: “Cogito detects more than 200 voice signals in real time that reveal how customers really feel.”

Your customer service agents, you see, just don’t realize that when a customer screams, “Why have I been kept waiting for 45 bloody minutes to talk to you?!,” that customer is angry.

So here is adorable AI that helps them get it.

Perhaps your customer service agents aren’t au fait with human cues because you make them sit with headphones on for eight hours a day, with nary a second to eat a Twix or urinate.

Cogito — pronounced Koh-Jee-Toh, rather than the Latin way — is aware of such issues: “The higher stakes of voice calls put more pressure on agents. It takes a lot to deal with the hardest problems all day, all week, all month, all year.”

Could this be because companies have structured their organizations so that it’s hard to get through to a human and, when it finally happens, customers are already in a highly pained state, no matter the seriousness of their problem?

I feel a shiver in both extremities and internal organs when I read this Cogitish wisdom: “Help make individuals better versions of themselves.”

And how does Cogito do that? By sending an “empathy cue” to tell the customer service agent not to sound as if they want to headbutt the customer from across the country.

But wait, aren’t call center workers some of the more underpaid and ill-treated of all employees? Might one idea to make them more empathetic be to treat them somewhat better?

Oh, don’t be silly. Why would you do that when Cogito promises “the first scalable way for every agent to display consistent emotional intelligence on every call.”

Welcome to the era of creating machines that turn humans into corporate machines. Why, Cogito actually uses the encouragement: “Guide your frontline workforce with human adaptive technology.”

It’s OK if your management has barely adapted to human needs. Technology can do it for your employees, without your management having to exhibit caring.

Perhaps I sound exasperated. Perhaps I need an empathy cue. But when you’re already tracked by the second in a call center — as many employees there are — do you really need one more element to trigger you?

I watched a Cogito video and saw samples of the messages that appear on call center employees’ screens. Such as: “Think about how the customer is feeling. Try to relate.”

To which some would surely be tempted to respond: “Hey, annoying machine. Think about my bladder. I’ve been wanting to go for 37 minutes. Try to relate.”

Of course, everyone loves to have a back-seat driver when they’re behind the wheel. Here, you can have a front-seat nag who just might turn you into something of a kindly psychopath.

And who doesn’t want to be offered “an automatically generated experience score” that “instantly alerts agents to the customer’s sentiment”?

Because listening to them just doesn’t do it anymore.

Here’s one more glory: Cogito tries to learn the behaviors of the highest-performing agents and then uses those to, um, persuade everyone behaves that way.

I’m sure that Cogito has the best intentions. Some of them may even involve making money.

This week, however, Microsoft suggested that even a five-minute break between meetings can make an enormous difference to, well, brain function and employee sanity.

I wonder how many breaks most call center employees get between customer calls. I fear the answer may be diddly-squat.

Ultimately, then, it seems that many companies created more and more unpleasant and aggressive working conditions so that employees would be more “productive.” They weren’t. So management found machines that nagged those employees to smile, smile, smile in order to “produce” more.

You’d think at least one or two companies would have come to realize that one of the best ways to make employees more productive is to treat them like, well, humans.




A useful Android privacy feature that most people have never heard of

Android has a useful hidden feature that the iPhone doesn’t.



Ever handed your iPhone to someone and then remembered that one thing that you don’t want them to see?

Maybe a photo, or a test, a personal message, something private from work, or your stash of cat memes you’re collecting.

Whatever it is, we carry a lot of sensitive stuff on out smartphones, and it’s only natural to what to keep that stuff private.

But the developers who work on Android have thought about this, and added a feature that allows you to be able to hand your phone to someone else, while keeping your information private.

Must read: The best Android apps for power users in 2021: Track data usage, test connections, and more

That feature is called Guest mode.

This popped into my head the other day following a conversation with an Android user who said they wished there was a way to lock their private data but still allow others to make calls and use the internet.

That’s what this mode does.

Guest mode creates a temporary account on your smartphone that is free from any of your personal information. No photos. No contacts. No messages. No files.

It also disables the phone feature, but you can choose to activate that if you want.

So, how do you access this feature? Well, it normally lives at Settings > System > Advanced > Multiple Users, but not always. If you can’t find it, a search for users should bring it up.

Guest Mode on Android

Guest Mode on Android

When you find it, you’ll see it at the bottom of the list of Google accounts tied to the handset. To switch, tap on it, and the handset will switch over.

The process is fast and only takes a few seconds.

To switch back, navigate back to Multiple Users and tap Remove Guest.

If you want to give the Guest Mode access to the phone, before going into Guest, click on the cog next to it and enable Turn on phone calls.

Guest Mode can also optionally make calls

Guest Mode can also optionally make calls

Also, for quick access, you can make this feature available from the lock screen. Handy if you use it regularly.

It’s a cool feature that helps keep your private stuff private.

That feature is called Guest mode.



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Cisco to acquire Sedonasys Systems for innovative NetFusion platform

Cisco said the Sedona NetFusion platform is the first to deliver complete network abstraction and control.



Cisco announced on Tuesday that it was acquiring Hierarchical Controller market leader Sedonasys Systems in an effort to beef up its multi-vendor, multi-domain automation, and software-defined networking offerings.

Kevin Wollenweber, vice president of product management in the Service Provider Network Systems for Cisco, explained in a blog post that in order to expand the internet and operate networks at massive scale for the billions of new users coming down the pipeline, the internet had to be reinvented in certain ways.

Cisco is acquiring Sedonasys Systems primarily for its NetFusion platform, which has a Hierarchical Controller (HCO) that it said, “enables multi-vendor, multi-domain automation, and software-defined networking.”

Wollenweber said the Sedona NetFusion platform was the first company to offer “complete network abstraction and control” that helped CSPs manage their networks across a variety of domains, vendors, layers, and technologies, all as one single network.

The addition of Sedona NetFusion to Cisco Crosswork portfolio will allow the company to offer a more advanced network automation platform for Cisco’s Routed Optical Networking Solution.

“HCO is the brain that enables transformation like 5G network slicing, routed optical networking, and disaggregation. We have one simple goal in our network automation strategy — simplification,” Wollenweber said.

“Now, CSPs can gain real-time, dynamic, and seamless control of IP and optical multi-vendor networks together. They can quickly move from clunky, manual operations across siloed teams and technologies to a completely automated and assured network that’s easily managed through a single pane of glass.”

With Cisco Crosswork and Sedona NetFusion, users will have access to a real-time replica of the entire network to predictively manage any changes to the deployment, connectivity, and activation status of all network inventory.

Operators can preview optimization, assurance, and changes, and then commit them as needed, Wollenweber added.



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Colonial Pipeline cyberattack shuts down pipeline that supplies 45% of East Coast’s fuel

The attack highlights how ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasingly a threat to real-world infrastructure.



Colonial Pipeline, which accounts for 45% of the East Coast’s fuel, said it has shut down its operations due to a cyberattack.

The attack highlights how ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasingly a threat to real-world infrastructure. The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil and fuel for the U.S. Military.

In a statement, Colonial Pipeline said:

On May 7, the Colonial Pipeline Company learned it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack. In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems. Upon learning of the issue, a leading, third-party cybersecurity firm was engaged, and they have already launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident, which is ongoing. We have contacted law enforcement and other federal agencies.

Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue. At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline.

Cybersecurity: Let’s get tactical | A Winning Strategy for Cybersecurity | Cyberwar and the Future of Cybersecurity

Here’s a look at the Colonial Pipeline system affected by the cyberattack.


Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown should it continue may lead to supply shortages since it covers so much territory in the US.



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