What do call-centers, behavioral science and a philosopher have in common?
At first glance, it might be hard to find the connection but it’s the foundation for an emerging Boston technology company, Cogito. Ten-year old Cogito is in the business of using proven science to make people be, well, better people-people.
Cogito was founded out of MIT and provides a unique software solution that gives call-center employees real-time, in-conversation analysis on the speaking patterns of the customer, then provides recommendations on how a call-center agent can improve their approach such as changing their tone or pace. The software helps to make the customer-call exchange more pleasant and productive for both the customer and the call-center employee.
The team at Cogito has made a conscious effort to develop and offer technology that is a win-win-win for organizations, shared CEO Josh Feast. “A win for our organizational customers, a win for their employees and a win for their customers.”
“Technologists should be held to a higher standard,” Feast added. “I don’t think it’s enough to create a piece of technology that sells well. You have to think through the implications of what you’re selling to come up with something that is objectively good for the widest number of stakeholders.”
Feast shared that the approach of being mindful of the broader implications of their technology is something he is proud of. It also seems to be a winning formula for the company’s growth and adoption. The company boasts enterprise customers including Humana, Zurich and Blue Cross. And has closed $22.5M in two rounds of venture capital funding since December 2014, the most recent and largest round for $15M in November 2016 led by OpenView Ventures.
Cogito employs a full team of behavioral psychologists to inform product development as well as help the adoption of their application within large call-centers that may have tens of thousands of employees.
“Typically, large-scale customer service centers tend to be a science-free zone. Bringing authoritative information is important and our customers really appreciate it.” Feast shared describing the role that the behavioral psychologists have when on-boarding a new organizational customer.
On average, a call-center employee handles 50 customer interactions a day of varying difficulty all while having to manage other factors such as collecting data and personal influences like being tired or distracted.
“This creates a situation where an employee experiences heavy cognitive load,” said Feast. “Their person perception skills, the ability to recognize emotional signals in other and ultimately adapt, depletes. This creates an environment where it is quite difficult to consistently succeed.”
“People have known this intuitively forever” Feast added about how we can detect in ourselves when we aren’t coming across as our best selves. “It’s not enough to just tell someone to be nicer, that doesn’t work.”
Cogito provides alerts and a real-time measure of the customer’s experience so employees can enhance their speaking and build better rapport with the customer. And they can understand how to create strong emotional connections during a customer conversation with real-time recommendations on how to improve the interaction.
While this is the main application for Cogito, Feast envisions future offerings are going to enable and empower their customers to be their best selves. “Who is making us be our best selves? That’s the company that we want to be.”
The philosophical influence of the company starts with the origin of the name Cogito which comes from a phrase by Descartes, “I think, therefore, I am” The name is based on the first part of the phrase as an homage to the AI component of their application.