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Unlocking Empathy: AI's Role in Improving Communication Skills and Preventing Burnout


Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t just about automating tasks and increasing productivity; it has the potential to enhance one of our most essential human qualities: empathy.

Growing up in India, I was immersed in a culture that valued direct communication. “Call it as you see it” was a common mantra. While directness has its merits, it can also be perceived as blunt or harsh by others. It didn’t take long for me to realize that effective communication involves not just what we say but how it’s received. Empathy, the ability to understand another person’s perspective, became my guiding principle.

My journey towards empathy wasn’t a sudden transformation but a gradual self-discovery process. I learned that the impact of my words on my team was profound, but it often came at the cost of my productivity. Like empathy, effective communication is a skill that takes time to develop.

Generational differences further complicated the process. Tailoring messages to each recipient was challenging. For instance, Baby Boomers may interpret text messages differently from Millennials or Gen Z.

Now, thanks to AI, I can quickly compose messages with the right tone and content. AI has become a valuable tool in my quest to strengthen empathy and communication skills. It helps me adapt my communication style to various situations, whether in personal or professional contexts.

Here at Webex and Cisco, we aim to power an inclusive future for all. Empathy is a core skill set and value significantly impacting mental health and well-being. I feel so honored to serve the greater good by launching AI in our products to help people improve their empathy skills. Some of the newest functionality includes:

Communication tools that foster empathy, respect, and well-being

At Webex, we are excited to empower you with our latest developments in communication tools. We firmly believe in the importance of effective and considerate communication in the workplace.

With our newly launched Webex AI Assistant, we aim to enhance your messaging experience by providing real-time suggestions to help you deliver messages with a more positive and professional tone. The Change Message Tone feature ensures that your intentions are effectively conveyed, fostering empathy and understanding in your interactions.

We also understand the challenges of staying on top of a fast-paced business environment filled with numerous meetings and messages. That’s why we have introduced Meeting Summaries and Messaging Summaries. These features allow you to quickly catch up on important discussions, key points, and action items you may have missed. By automating the sorting and summarizing process, we free up your time and alleviate the stress and cognitive load associated with managing overwhelming amounts of information. This enables you to show up at your best, with patience, presence of mind, and understanding for others.

Furthermore, our AI Assistant helps you maintain focus and respect for everyone’s time. You no longer need to check for updates and notifications constantly. Instead, the AI Assistant summarizes the critical information, allowing you to stay informed without interruptions. This creates a more productive and connected work environment.

At Webex, our goal is to provide you with clear and effective tools that enable you to be your best self and achieve your best work. By leveraging our AI Assistant, we believe you can communicate more effectively, work with empathy, and foster a positive and collaborative atmosphere.

Never miss context to improve understanding

As with anything, context matters in communication. Everything from tone, gestures, reactions, voice tones, inflections, and word choice are all part of the nuance of communication.

To ensure our users never miss social or communication cues while joining meetings from different locations, our Real-Time Media Models (RMMs) for audio and video ensure you never miss insights, information, or interaction.

Our new Webex AI Codec eliminates choppy audio or video resulting from poor connectivity to support getting the full context of audio and video communication. This capability eliminates issues that typically derail conversations and interactions, leading to frustration and misunderstandings.

Reduce burnout to increase retention in contact centers

All employees can benefit from reduced stress. However, some employee populations, such as contact center agents, are at higher risk of stress and burnout, leading to poor mental health and high turnover.

A recent study found agent turnover is twice that of any other profession, and burnout causes 50% of agent turnover within contact centers, costing businesses $4.8M each year on average. But the cost to humans is even higher, with stress and burnout having very real detriments to emotional and social activity.

Wellness is a core value at Cisco, and building compassionate, progressive cultures around mental health and well-being is a mission we share with Thrive Global, the behavior change technology company led by Arianna Huffington and our recently announced partner in reducing agent burnout and improving customer experiences with contact centers.

Webex Contact Center and Thrive will use insights derived from real-time AI technology built by Webex to proactively detect stress indicators in agents and provide actions they can take to disconnect and recharge after a cycle of stress. Upon detecting stress, agents will be served a quick Thrive Reset video to reduce stress before taking another call. This results in customer care delivered by an agent in a positive mindset.

Final thoughts

The human side of AI is a story of hope, progress, and positive change. It’s about using technology to enhance human capabilities, reduce burnout, and increase well-being. Using AI, we can quickly grow our communication and empathy muscles to build connections and strengthen culture.

In this journey, we must keep people at the forefront, ensuring that AI is a force for good to create a more balanced future. As leaders, it is our responsibility to harness the potential of AI to uplift our people, nurture their well-being, and drive progress in our organizations and society. Together, we can unlock the full potential of the human side of AI and build a better world for everyone.

About the author:  Aruna Ravichandran is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing & Customer Officer at Webex by Cisco with two decades of experience leading global teams through workforce and technology transformations. 

To hear more from Aruna about hybrid work, effective communication, and AI, don’t miss her keynote address at ITEXPO 2024, taking place February 13-15, 2024 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Edited by Erik Linask
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