Why Voice Authentication Can Help Financial Institutions Deliver Better Customer Service

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Banking customers have long been had to provide passwords or PINs to access their accounts.  It’s just part of the process, and they understand it’s a necessity for information and account security.  Of course, they’ve also had to deal with the challenges of forgetting them – especially those who are security conscious and change the password regularly and avoid duplicating them on multiple accounts. 

More recently, customers have also had to deal with an increase in fraud activity, thanks to a rising frequency of call center phone fraud.  A Call Center Fraud Report last year found that fraudulent activity in call centers increased by 113% globally, dropping from one in every 2,000 calls into call centers being fraudulent to one in every 937 calls.

Contact centers have always faced a challenge with technology adoption.  Their business success depends on being able to effectively service customers and they have to be careful not to disrupt that relationship with updated or new procedures.  But, as most customers are well aware, hackers and identity thieves are constantly evolving their tactics to bypass security measures, and one of the key reasons for the increase in contact center activity is the emergence of EMV chips in credit cards that has forced thieves to give up point-of-sale skimming techniques in favor of alternatives.

But, there are ways for financial institutions to battle back and implement enhanced security measures without inconveniencing customers.  A big part of that will be voice biometrics – using customers’ voices to authenticate their identities.  Voice authentication not only creates a simpler process and non-invasive experience for customers, but it does it in a way that also increases security and makes impersonation of customers much more difficult.  It also eliminates the need to have to constantly remember passwords and PINs.  There are several factors that make voice an effective alternative to traditional authentication strategies.

It’s Conversational

Voice authentication can be done through normal conversation.  During the start of a call, the authentication platform attempts to match the customer’s voice the voiceprint on record.  Once verified, agents know they may proceed with the interaction, whether informational or transactional.

Active, non-invasive technology

Voice authentication is non-invasive and requires not extra effort or action from the customer or agent.  Thanks to the use of passive technology and normal conversation, both sides of the call save time because neither has to follow traditional authentication protocols – last four digits of social security number, mother’s maiden name, or other challenge questions.  Rather, agents are able to more quickly get to addressing customers’ concerns.

Text Independence

Just as it doesn’t require traditional authentication questions, voice authentication doesn’t rely on specific keywords or phrases to verify identity.  This makes authentication part of the naturally initiated conversation and reduces the risk of fraud because specific words or phrases can’t be recorded and used to access accounts.

Language, Dialect, Accent Don’t Matter

In addition to being context independent, voice authentication technology works regardless of language, dialect, or accent.  The systems are based on unique speech characteristics and features that are typically consistent and permanent in adults.  Content and language are unrelated to the voice print.

Simple Sign-up Process

Customers are enrolled in the voice authentication system when contact centers record one or more initial conversations.  Those recordings are processed by the speech technology engines to identify the unique features of customers’ voices.  Those traits are then extracted from the recordings to create personal voice prints, which are stored in a secure directory.  Directories may be segmented into broad classifications, such as gender, to make authentication easier.  Importantly, just as no specific script is required for authentication, it is also not required for enrollment.  Normal conversation in the course of the engagement is enough to create a voice print.

Enhanced Security

By nature biometric data is more secure than passwords and PINs; voice, like fingerprints and iris patterns, is unique to each individual.  In addition, many people re-use passwords, and many institutions use similar challenge questions, making it easier for criminals to gain access to accounts.

Fewer False Negatives

Even though authentication software is designed to ignore any voice changes due to colds, severe allergies, emotion, and other factors that may make a voice seem different to the human ear, there may be instances where the authentication fails.  However, the cases are limited and, while a minor inconvenience at the time, ensure customers’ accounts and personal information are protected.  In the event a voice print match cannot be made, agents are able to fall back on traditional verification methods.

Customers Like It

Customers are warming to the idea of voice authentication quickly.  Enhanced security and convenience are attractive features, especially in light of the constant flow of security breaches in the news.  But, the growing use of Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and other speech-enabled applications is driving understanding and acceptance of speech technology.

These factors all create an opportunity for financial services institutions to integrate better security into their systems without disrupting customer relationships.  In fact, if anything, voice authentication creates a better experience by eliminating a step in the process and lowering the time to resolution while reducing fraud, ultimately driving customer satisfaction and loyalty.