Sanas, the AI ​​startup, sells technology that allows call center workers to speak like Americans


Sanas, a Silicon Valley startup, has an ambitious goal: to ensure that call center workers have an American, white voice, no matter what country they are from. And this is just the beginning of your grand plan. In a demo with Motherboard, Sanas executives asked an employee to call from India and allowed the software to sound American.

On the Sanas website, you can listen to a simulated conversation between a call center employee with an Indian accent that can be changed through a slider that applies Sanas accent translation. After applying Sanas, the voice sounds more like a text reader than a human, but it is typically American and for white people.

Accents are a constant hurdle for millions of call center workers, especially in countries like the Philippines and India, where an entire accent-neutralization industry is trying to train workers to speak more like Western customers than they do.

Since launching in August 2021, Sanas has received funds from investors. At a difficult time for the tech industry, the accent translation company, founded by three Stanford alumni Maxim Serebryakov, Shawn Zhang and Andrs Prez Soderi, secured $32 million in funding in June 2022, which, according to them, it is the largest ever achieved for a voice technology service. A press release claims that investors who have tried the service called it “magic”.

Eventually, the company wants to expand beyond call centers, shifting focus to consumer video and audio calls; Sanas even mentioned his interest in cinema and television. New voices are also in the works: one day, worker accents might be translated into a Southern drawl for a Louisville caller, or a Midwestern drawl for someone from Cleveland, rather than more standard American English. generic, colloquially known as white person’s voice.

In an interview, Sarim and Narayana outlined their business strategy and explained why call centers were their first choice of customers. “We don’t want to say accents are a problem because you have one,” said Marty Sarim, president of Sanas. They are only a problem because they cause prejudice and misunderstandings.

Sanas describes its approach as accent matching and advertises on its website that it can improve understanding by 31% and customer satisfaction by 21%. Apparently, the software can offer multiple accents at the press of a button – although its demo only features an Indian accent transformed into a typical white American accent. The company says it has raised around $132 million in funding so far.

Sharath Keshava Narayana, co-founder of Sanas, said his motivation for the software dates back to 2003, when he started working at a call center in Bangalore, he was discriminated against because of his Indian accent and his name must have been Nathan. Narayana quit his job after a few months and opened his own call center in Manila in 2015, but the discomfort of that first experience stayed with me for a long time,” he said.

Marty Massih Sarim, president of Sanas and a veteran of the call center industry, said that working in call centers should be seen as “cosplay” (cosplay is a hobby of playing the role of a fictional character imitating their costume) that Sanas is simply trying to improve. It’s obviously cheaper to answer calls in other countries than it is in America, and that’s for Fortune 100, Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies. That’s why all the work was outsourced, he said.

If the customer is upset about the high bill, the cable is not working, or the phone is not working, they are often frustrated when they hear an accent. He will say, “I want to talk to someone in America.” Call centers do not route calls to the United States, so the agent has to deal with that. They don’t get the respect they deserve from the start. So it started as a very difficult conversation. But if we can eliminate the fact that there’s this bias, now it’s a conversation – and both people walk away from the call feeling better.

Narayana said his software is already used daily by about 1,000 call center employees in the Philippines and India. He clarified that workers can turn it on and off as they wish, although the call center manager has ‘administrator rights for security purposes only’. User feedback was apparently positive: Narayana says agents reported feeling more confident on the phone when using the software.

In France, in order to optimize the commercial relationship with their customers, many companies also choose to entrust this task to a call center in a foreign country, namely Free, SFR and many others that are present in Central Africa and the Maghreb. In fact, delegating services to a call center in Africa offers many advantages, mainly for cost reasons. Therefore, we are entitled to ask ourselves about the possibility of seeing a technology like Sanas in the Free or SFR call centers in the Maghreb and Central Africa.

Source: motherboard

Is that you?

What is your ISP? Do you think he assigns tasks to a call center in a foreign country?

What do you think is the quality of the services provided?

What do you think of technology that allows call center employees to speak like white people? Good or bad initiative?

Are you for or against relocating services to foreign countries?

See too:

Offshore, a threat to IT jobs in Europe? A study predicts it will kill 1.5 million IT jobs by 2017

How to save IT jobs in the face of offshore outsourcing? Should we tax or ban outsourcing of IT services?

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