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Start-up aims to make customer service people 'more charming' through AI

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Ian Waldie | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Everyone's familiar with the distracted or non-responsive customer service rep. One start-up founder aims to make that phone call more pleasant.

Cogito, a voice technology start-up in Boston, is using AI to make customer service representatives "more charming," chief executive Joshua Feast said to CNBC.

The cloud-based software uses algorithms, behavioral and speech science to assess a speaker's emotional state by looking at things like tone and consistency in speech patterns — and then showing the rep how they can improve.

"We've built a way to numerically measure and understand how well a conversation between human beings is going," said Feast. "Conversations are a lot like a dance," he said. "But not everybody is as good at picking up on social cues and it isn't always easy to know if you're in sync with each other or not."

Cogito is now being used to give customer service representatives real-time feedback, so they can improve phone conversations with customers.

He says the technology can enhance all types of communication, including negotiations and other high stakes discussions. "We are able to guide one or more participants to recognize the social signals others are giving them that they might not be aware of, which can make people seem more proficient, confident, or charming," he said.

The start-up has raised $22.5 million dollars to date. OpenView led the company's latest series B round, with previous backers including Romulus Capital and Salesforce Ventures.

"What we aspire to do is make this type of technology available much more broadly, through us and technology partners," Feast said. But before that happens the company needs to master the interaction between the technology and humans.

Feast says the company is close to figuring that out, but it's no easy task. "How do you present information to users in a way that is helpful?" he said. Cogito is currently working on making the feedback prompts less distracting, which would allow users to remain fully engaged in their conversations.