Using AI and EQ to build emotional connections with customers at scale – Interview with Joshua Feast of Cogito


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phone conversation

Today’s interview is with Joshua Feast, who is the co-founder and CEO of MIT-spinoff Cogito Corp., that has developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology that delivers real-time emotional intelligence feedback for customer service professionals which helps them have better conversations and build stronger rapport with customers. Joshua joins me today to talk about what they are doing, the science and thinking behind the technology, where it is getting applied and the benefits they are seeing.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Co-creation, innovation and when you should get your customers involved – Interview with Prof. Jan van den Ende – and is number 205 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Joshua:

  • Joshua’s co-founder is Dr Alex ‘Sandy’ Pentland, who helped to helped create and direct the MIT Media Laboratory and is the author of the best-selling book: Social Physics.
  • Cogito’s focus is to use technology to help people have better phone conversations and build an emotional connection with their customers.
  • Emotional connections with customers at scale.
  • Research shows that the emotional connection, trust, rapport and confidence that we get from talking with someone that is on the same ‘wavelength’ as us ultimately inspires loyalty.
  • That is driven by the emotional signals that we send to each other.
  • That is what a lot of Dr Alex Pentland’s (Honest Signals) work has been about.
  • When Joshua was attending MIT, he was exposed to Sandy’s research, and that lead to a eureka moment based on his experience of communication problems in large organisations. He then partnered with Sandy to form Cogito as a way of addressing the communication, relationship, trust and rapport problems that he had witnessed.
  • Voice is not a learned skill and is much more hard coded into our brains.
  • Voice has a very rich substrate of social signals within it. However, a voice only conversation does not have the benefit of having the additional social signals that we would get from a face to face conversation.
  • To support this, Cogito has developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology that delivers real-time emotional intelligence feedback for customer service professionals that helps them have better conversations with customers.
  • What that means is that their technology is doing a number of things including:
    • 1. Analysing all calls that come into a contact centre, allowing them to learn about the nature and type of conversations that are being had;
    • 2. Performing in-call voice analysis, and
    • 3. Based on their research and insight, delivers real-time guidance to agents about how the call is going and what they can do to adjust and improve the quality of the call.
  • The guidance is very much focused on concrete observations and advice i.e. the software will tell you if you are speaking too fast or if you are interrupting a lot and that you should slow down and/or listen more, for example.
  • The technology is agnostic when it comes to language as many of the behavioural signals that are most useful are properties of ourselves as humans and primates and less properties of ourselves as cultural beings.
  • The signals that matter between different cultures, social roles and conversations tend to be common. There may be some difference in degree and emphasis but not so much that a small amount of learning and calibration cannot fix.
  • The science, therefore, sits outside of language and operates within primal levels of communication.
  • The technology works for an agent is that they have a little text message type screen on their desktop which will be offering guidance and advice in real-time but only when it is needed.
  • The technology is always listening to all of the calls that come into a contact centre and, thus, is learning all of the time. However, whilst Cogito are asked by some of their clients to record calls (for compliance and training reasons) their technology is not dependent on call recording and can learn and provide guidance to agents through real-time analysis.
  • To bring the benefits of Cogito’s technology to life, Josh cites an example:
    • Humana, a health insurer, who Cogito worked with on their senior care service. Initially, they piloted their software and approach and found that agents that were equipped with the Cogito software generated a 28% higher customer satisfaction rate over the course of 3-4 months than those that were not equipped with the software. Over the same time period, the employee engagement rate with the pilot group improved by 66%.
  • There is a problem in the way that technology is being developed and implemented because people don’t realise that there is a fundamental difference between service and self-service.
  • If you are only looking at solving a (customer’s) problem in the most efficient way possible then service and self-service is likely to look the same.
  • But, the customer experiences self-service in a very different way and the difference lies in the emotional journey.
  • In a self-service situation the emotional load lies with the customer but in a service situation the company or agent is taking that load away from the customer and that creates trust and an emotional connection.
  • Right now, we are not able to put our trust in an AI bot.
  • The problem with the conversation around AI is that we are talking in general terms and the conversation needs to evolve to talk about specific applications.
  • It is beholden on technologists to think more about what society wants and needs and not just focus on what they can build.
  • Cogito is focused on providing a tool to enable people rather than producing a tool that will replace people.
  • Wow service/experience is when you call in and you feel, as a customer, that that person is really listening, is empathetic and that it is a fresh interaction for that person regardless of the number of calls that they may have already taken that day.
  • Check out Cogito if you would like to take your customer service to the next level, improve your NPS scores and that works in a way that does not require you to completely re-engineer your whole business.

About Joshua (taken and adapted from his Cogito bio)

Joshua FeastJoshua Feast is co-founder and CEO of MIT-spinoff Cogito Corp., who have created a technology that is helping customer service reps have better conversations and build stronger rapport with customers.

Joshua’s focus is on helping Cogito’s clients increase their customer interaction success. His track-record includes over fifteen years of solution delivery to human services, government and financial services organizations. He holds an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management where he was the Platinum-Triangle Fulbright Scholar in Entrepreneurship, and a Bachelor of Technology from Massey University in New Zealand.

Check out what Cogito are doing via their website, say Hi to them on Twitter @CogitoCorp and connect with Joshua on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: garryknight Flickr via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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