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Cogito Executive Interview

Joshua Feast, CEO and Co- founder, Cogito

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Sheri Greenhaus, Managing Partner of CrmXchange discussed Cogito with Joshua Feast, CEO and Co- founder at Cogito, which offers a real-time guidance system for call centers. Joshua highlights three key elements of their solution: real-time feedback, guidance on conversation content and nonverbal behavior, and the combination of customer and employee experience. He emphasizes the importance of human augmentation and the ability of their system to provide personalized coaching plans. Cogito's unique features include their large-scale, low-latency capabilities, emotion and conversation AI integration, and a passionate, impact-driven team.  

Sheri: I'd like to start with an overview of your organization.

Joshua: What we created was a real-time guidance system. This system listens to conversations, especially voice conversations, understands them in real-time, and guides the agents as they speak.

Sheri: It's interesting that many companies I've spoken with at the conference focus on coaching and training.

Joshua: That's right, absolutely. We believe we pioneered this area which has now advanced from its early stages. Let me highlight three key elements of our solution and provide some interesting history. Firstly, the real-time aspect is crucial. The system needs to work quickly, with low latency, providing immediate feedback. It's like a lane departure warning in your car. If it comes 10 seconds later, it's not useful. So, our system computes at high speeds and offers quick feedback.

Secondly, our system guides both the "how" and "what" of a conversation, including nonverbal behaviors. People assess whether they're well-served based on how they're spoken to. Agents can get tired and may unintentionally seem disengaged. By providing feedback on what to say and how they're coming across, we achieve better outcomes.

Lastly, we strongly believe that great efficiency comes from combining customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX).

We have several novel capabilities. We were recognized at the CCW awards last night for measuring both customer and agent perspectives. If a customer has a poor experience, the agent may not be as available for the next customer. These are important factors to consider.

Sheri: If the experience is not good, what do you do for the agent on the next call?

Joshua: While the agent is on a call, our AI listens to the conversation and looks for opportunities to give a nudge.

Sheri: Does the nudge come in the form of a visual cue?

Joshua: Yes, on the agent's screen, they will see a slide notification with an icon and a brief message. For example, it may suggest taking a break if they're speaking too much. It could also indicate speaking too fast or not providing a required statement. Or it might highlight an opportunity to offer additional products or services based on a positive customer experience and specific phrases used. These real-time guidance cues augment human performance.

Sheri: So, does it start with logic and then add AI? Can AI detect when a customer is getting bored without a script? How does it work?

Joshua: Our system utilizes techniques including compute engines with nodes that analyze and interpret conversations. It combines rules-based approaches, deep learning models, and large language models. We use the right tools for the job, whether it's rule-based logic or AI-powered analysis. AI can determine if a compliance statement hasn't been read, but it's always possible for the agent to override the system. Humans are in the loop, ensuring a seamless experience.

Sheri: So, there's always a human involved?

Joshua: Yes, our approach is human augmentation. While our tools save time and improve efficiency, we aim to assist people. We help them transition to higher-level work and create an environment that fosters agent development.

Sheri: In our CrmXchange webinars, we keep chat open for audience interaction. We've been told that agents often leave when they're bored or don't have a clear path. How does your system address this?

Joshua: Our system has helped customers save time, allowing agents to have an extra hour for personal development. It provides positive engagement. AI feedback can be more preferable, as it avoids relationship biases and favoritism. Having a coach assist in every interaction motivates agents. Supervisors can quickly jump into calls and recognize outstanding moments.

Sheri: If you have 1,000 agents with some doing poorly, others doing well, how does the system handle performance assessment and coaching?

Joshua: Our system focuses on coaching rather than assessment. Customers with sophisticated approaches use the system's personalized coaching plans. AI analyzes behaviors compared to best practices or team norms, recommending areas for improvement. Supervisors can save time by modifying the suggested plans. They can prioritize strategic needs or corporate objectives over individual development. Flexibility is key.

Sheri: Is coaching an ongoing process, or do you only intervene when there's a corporate need?

Joshua: Our customers tend to focus on different types of behaviors over time. They create groups of agents based on tenure or line of business and customize coaching plans accordingly. Tenure doesn't imply no improvement opportunities. Our system allows for ongoing development and flexibility.

Sheri: Can the guidance become white noise for agents with tenure?

Joshua: Our system is designed to be unobtrusive, picked up by agents' peripheral vision. Even experienced agents can benefit from reminders and nudges. If an agent becomes low-energy or forgets to be empathetic, AI can nudge them. For example, if there's extended silence while they're looking up information, the system can remind them to speak.

Sheri: What sets Cogito apart from other companies in your space?

Joshua: One key distinction is our focus on real-time capabilities from the start. We've proven our ability to operate at massive scale without latency issues. Additionally, we combine emotion and conversation AI, helping agents build emotional connections with customers. Our collaboration with the MIT Human Dynamics Lab has enhanced our expertise in this area. Cogito received funding from DARPA, among other investors, to develop an artificial intelligence platform and behavioral models to interpret human communication and detect psychological states automatically. Cogito’s behavior analytics was deployed within population health and care management programs at premier health and insurance companies. Thousands of interactions were analyzed, generating millions of data points to further enhance the effectiveness of Cogito’s behavioral models.

Sheri: So, you differentiate with large-scale, low-latency capabilities and expertise in emotion and conversation AI?

Joshua: Exactly. We have successfully deployed our system with some of the largest brands in various industries like telecom, technology, insurance, healthcare, and hospitality.

Sheri: Is there anything else about Cogito that our audience should know?

Joshua: Our customers value our team, culture, and impact-driven approach. We are research-oriented, and our team deeply cares about customer success and data-driven results. We prioritize service and flexibility over rigid software. Our origin stems from a need to manage complex human-machine systems differently. We believe our tools enable organizations to manage in a more effective and human-centric way.

Sheri: Would you say your focus on helping veterans and emotional understanding has shaped your organizational culture?

Joshua: Absolutely. Our origins lie in addressing the burnout and challenges faced by large human services organizations. We realized the need for a different management approach. We are passionate about creating tools that empower both agents and organizations. Our culture revolves around caring deeply and constantly improving based on customer needs and feedback.

Sheri: Did you personally design the system?

Joshua: I co-founded the company with my CTO. Our journey started with research at MIT, exploring how computers can interpret human behavior and psychological states. We have a science-driven approach, but our passion and commitment have evolved the company over the past decade. We focus on proving the effectiveness of real-time guidance and human-centric management.

Sheri: It's impressive to see how your company has grown and adapted. Your unique perspective and commitment to human-centric solutions set you apart.

Joshua: Thank you. We're driven by a genuine desire to make a positive impact and provide organizations with the tools they need to succeed. Our customers appreciate our collaborative approach and the passion we bring to every interaction.