How voice biometrics is transforming contact centre engagement

For many organisations, the contact centre is the nexus of customer engagement. Although the concept of “customer experience” is much broader, encompassing everything from promotion to post-purchase support, the battle for customers’ hearts and minds is often won or lost in the contact centre.

We’ll all have a tale of contact centre woe where we’ve been frustrated by the process of verification. Whether we’re asked for a piece of information we don’t have to hand, a password we can’t remember, or simply asked to repeat the authentication process when we’re transferred from one agent to another.

It’s something that all contact centre managers are acutely aware of, but it can be challenging to get right. The majority of contact centre engagements are still via telephone, so speaker verification is an essential part of security. However, the industry-wide push to embrace process automation and drive customers down digital channels walks a tightrope between process improvement and depersonalisation.

Research suggests that most contact centre providers haven’t quite got this balance right yet. In fact, 80% of contact centres believe they don’t deliver a customer experience that matches their brand promise.

Evolving expectations

Consumer behaviour has driven contact centre evolution over the past thirty years; from multi-channel to omni-channel communications, two-factor authentication to the emergence of biometric verification. According to industry analysts, as many as 90% of users express a preference for biometrics over traditional ID&V. For example, fingerprint, voice or facial recognition has overtaken PIN as the preferred option for accessing your mobile phone.

Time is money

Modern consumers are cash rich but time poor. Perhaps the biggest complaint from customers when they engage with a contact centre is the time it takes to get to the stage when they can actually address their query.

Having negotiated the initial routing regime, to help “save time” you are asked to input a variety of data to help the contact centre operator identify who you are and who your call should be routed to. The main issue here is that the person who gets to save time is the contact centre agent, not the caller. We call it customer experience, not agent experience.

Manual authentication can take up to three minutes. This is three minutes of frustration for a customer and three minutes of an agent’s time that could be spent addressing a customer’s query rather than being lost on systems admin. For the average contact centre, this adds up to over 250 hours a year.

Voice biometrics offers a faster alternative to traditional verification techniques, helping to reduce verification time by as much as two thirds.

That equates to a saving of around £0.40 ($0.51) per call. Given that 68% of all inbound and outbound calls require some form of verification, it’s easy to see how the savings can add up.

Enhanced security

Highly publicised data breaches over the past twenty years have raised general awareness of the importance of information security. So much so, that it has become a differentiator for security-aware consumers when choosing service providers.

Contact centres that rely solely on manual authentication have been specifically targeted by fraudsters using social engineering to gain fraudulent access to customer accounts. Identifying personal data such as name, address, date of birth, pet’s name or favourite sports team is often enough to build a level of trust between fraudster and service provider.

Voice biometrics is a powerful fraud prevention tool as it relies not on simply what you say, but how you say it. Whilst personally identifiable information can be stolen, a person’s voice cannot. Not only that, the estimated industry-wide cost of agent-assisted security and identify verification is £2.1bn annually.

Keeping it personal

Process automation is understandable, and almost inevitable. However, people don’t like to feel “processed”. We like to be treated as individuals. Despite the availability of multiple channels, two-thirds of contact centre engagements still involve people talking. Whilst voice biometrics doesn’t replace the need for agents to speak to customers, it does tap into the same psychology of speech. Using a uniquely identifiable phrase, something that has meaning to the customer, not only saves time during verification, it makes the process seem more personal.

Voice biometrics is becoming more widely adopted amongst contact centre operators and it’s easy to see why. It’s the only biometric method that can be used to authenticate remotely over the telephone, without the need for any special equipment. It’s reducing the average cost and duration of a contact centre engagement whist simultaneously offering improvements in security and user experience.

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If you are thinking of introducing voice biometrics for authentication and verification in your business, and would like to discuss your requirements, contact one of our consultants today.