Tireless empathy the goal as Humana brings in AI coaches

Looking to keep “compassion fatigued” call-center workers from growing increasingly insensitive to customers over the course of a workday, Humana’s mail-order pharmacy business has deployed AI-based software that sends reminders aimed at keeping the empathy consistent.

The software, named Cogito after the company supplying it, also gives supervisors tools to track and guide the workers.

In reporting the product installation, USA Today notes that AI’s growing presence in the workplace has lifted efficiencies and cut costs while also raising concerns among workers and labor watchdogs.

Reporter Frances Yue lists several pertinent events recently in the news:  

  • Amazon abandoned an AI recruiting tool in development last year, Reuters reported last October, after recognizing it couldn’t fix the tool’s bias against women.
  • Uber’s facial recognition technology reportedly couldn’t recognize transgender drivers, CNBC reported last August.
  • A study published by New York University’s AI Now Institute in April shows that workforce AI systems tend to favor white people and males.

“Talking about such concerns around AI,” Yue reports, “Joshua Feast, Cogito Inc.’s co-founder and CEO, said its software doesn’t mean to replace anybody. ‘We’re a coach,’ he said. ‘We're sort of proud as a company that we're helping workers do well on the job, helping customers have better experiences on the phone and helping our clients keep those customers.’”

The company, which formed in 2007, so far has more than 25,000 users. Its focus has been on improving performance in the call centers of big insurance companies, retail banks and credit card companies.

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