Goldman Sachs Leads $37M Investment in Cogito’s A.I. for Call Centers

Cogito, one of the startups working to enhance businesses’ call center operations with sophisticated analytics software, has scooped up $37 million from investors to try and take its business to the next level.

The Series C funding round was led by Goldman Sachs’s growth equity fund, with earlier Cogito backers Salesforce Ventures and OpenView Venture Partners also contributing. The deal brings Boston-based Cogito’s venture capital haul to $62.5 million since it spun out of the MIT Media Lab 11 years ago, says co-founder and CEO Joshua Feast.

“This is a classic expansion funding round,” Feast says. “It’s really about deepening our product development and expanding our capacity to service new clients.”

Cogito is part of a movement to help companies boost their customer service centers and other business operations with data analytics, artificial intelligence technologies, and other software tools. Other players include Texas-based companies AmplifAI and EthosIQ. AmplifAI developed software that uses machine learning algorithms to understand behaviors used by top-performing employees in order to create training programs that can be used by the rest of the staff. Meanwhile, EthosIQ sells software that helps assemble data from disparate IT systems and perform analytics to look for places where productivity can be improved.

Cogito, co-founded by renowned MIT computer scientist Alex “Sandy” Pentland, developed behavioral analytics software that attempts to capture and interpret “honest signals”—involuntary cues in speech and behavior that help in understanding a person’s intent. Through real-time voice analysis of calls between contact center employees and customers, Cogito’s product is designed to instantly highlight possible trouble spots and give the employee a chance to recognize mistakes and adapt his or her communication style to the customer’s perceived preferences. The software measures things like pace and tone of speech, energy level, and whether the employee interrupts the caller. Cogito says its coaching software helps clients keep their customers happy (and hopefully loyal), while making customer-service employees more productive and engaged.

The bigger picture is that as corporations have grown larger, they’ve invested large sums of money in processes and technologies to make their operations efficient, Feast says. But their organizations have also grown more complex, making it more difficult to “manage the humans that are inside them and that interact with them,” he says. Cogito’s clients are primarily big enterprises, such as insurers Humana and MetLife, with thousands of call center workers. Cogito, which employs 110 people, frames its product as artificial intelligence-powered software that augments workers’ capabilities and helps boost their emotional intelligence.

Feast wouldn’t share specifics about Cogito’s planned product enhancements, but he says they will involve making the software’s instant guidance for employees “richer,” “more contextually aware,” and more customized to the client’s brand.

“Our big vision … is how do we help our clients be more human, at this sort of massive scale,” Feast says. “What’s needed at a fundamental level is systems that are complementary, that can help the human in the moment with what they need.”

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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