Using AI to predict service agent stress from emotion patterns in service interactions

Stefano Bromuri*, Alexander P. Henkel, Deniz Iren, Visara Urovi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose A vast body of literature has documented the negative consequences of stress on employee performance and well-being. These deleterious effects are particularly pronounced for service agents who need to constantly endure and manage customer emotions. The purpose of this paper is to introduce and describe a deep learning model to predict in real-time service agent stress from emotion patterns in voice-to-voice service interactions. Design/methodology/approach A deep learning model was developed to identify emotion patterns in call center interactions based on 363 recorded service interactions, subdivided in 27,889 manually expert-labeled three-second audio snippets. In a second step, the deep learning model was deployed in a call center for a period of one month to be further trained by the data collected from 40 service agents in another 4,672 service interactions. Findings The deep learning emotion classifier reached a balanced accuracy of 68% in predicting discrete emotions in service interactions. Integrating this model in a binary classification model, it was able to predict service agent stress with a balanced accuracy of 80%. Practical implications Service managers can benefit from employing the deep learning model to continuously and unobtrusively monitor the stress level of their service agents with numerous practical applications, including real-time early warning systems for service agents, customized training and automatically linking stress to customer-related outcomes. Originality/value The present study is the first to document an artificial intelligence (AI)-based model that is able to identify emotions in natural (i.e. nonstaged) interactions. It is further a pioneer in developing a smart emotion-based stress measure for service agents. Finally, the study contributes to the literature on the role of emotions in service interactions and employee stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-611
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number4
Early online date29 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021


  • Customer service employees
  • Call center service interactions
  • Speech emotion recognition
  • Stress detection
  • Deep learning
  • Artificial intelligence

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