Voice Bio: Beyond the Financial Business Case

Businesses traditionally justify spending on new technologies on a very short list of criteria that directly correlate to return on investment (ROI). For voice biometrics the quantifiable benefits are commonly aggregated to: reduced call average handling time (AHT), increased self-service containment, and fraud prevention. These are generally well covered, as in a recent NICE whitepaper: Voice biometrics at the contact center – how much money will this actually save me?

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However, voice biometrics has moved well beyond its initial status as a “point security-solution”. As a key modality within a wider Intelligent Authentication strategy that is multi-modal, opti-channel and frictionless, voice biometrics is an integral enabler of omnichannel digital commerce strategies that cross traditional lines of demarcation between customer service, digital marketing and service delivery. As this footprint widens, it is becoming increasingly important to provide investment decision-makers with more strategic and qualitative rationale for voice biometrics.

I am not proposing to circumvent the process of making a financial business case for voice biometrics, but rather propose to augment classic hard savings with strategic, have-to-have, opportunistic and differentiating factors that have demonstrable correlation to revenues and profitability.

Improved customer experience (CX) tops the list as the underlying driver of Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). Satisfied customers are more accommodating of company services, which raises Employee Satisfaction (ESAT). The interplay of improved CSAT and ESAT improves Net Promoter Score (NPS = Promoters – Detractors), ultimately raising the overall perception of an organisation as a trusted brand that is committed security and privacy.

Justification Starts with Improving Security at Scale Across Channels

The immense growth of commerce through online, mobile and other remote channels has propelled congruent growth in fraud. Most notably, as mobile devices proliferate all areas of commerce, mobile authentication must keep pace with the demand for Intelligent Authentication ('IAuth'). This means context-aware, opti-channel, frictionless authentication that embraces a range of consumer-centric biometric modalities. Because IVRs and live agents remain involved in a preponderance of omnichannel journeys, securing the contact centre is very important.

Voice biometrics is an essential part of this mix because it is the only modality that can be applied in an agent-assisted dialogue. Transfering to an agent still dominates the IVR fall-back process, as well as a growing number of in-app support processes. If voice biometrics is not implemented as part of an overall IAuth strategy, the contact centre will present the weakest link even in an otherwise highly secure environment and become the obvious target of fraudsters.

New Regulations Will be Highly Punitive and Increasingly Expensive

The imminent enforcement of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) pertaining to identification and verification (ID&V) and protection of personally identifiable information (PII) has intensified the need to improve contact centre authentication. Consequently, companies are compelled to look beyond the financial business case to the punitive costs of non-compliance and breach of GDPR. Failure to comply will cary fines of 20 million Euros or 4% of annual turnover.

Likewise, Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) is designed to open financial services and payment processing to non-traditional banking businesses (as covered in a previous blog by Dan Miller of Opus Research). Biometrics is already playing a big part in supporting the adoption of increasingly "open technology infrastructures." Given that a great deal of digital activity originates from smartphones, and an increasing number of voice-first devices such as the Amazon Echo, Google iHome and Tmall Genie, biometrics is destined to be a natural complement to user authentication.

Support for Digital Transformation Strategies

Enterprise digitisation continues to capture the attention and resources of most medium-to-large enterprises. Artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent assistants (IA) and "digital employees" powered by big-data analytics and robotic process automation hold the promise of customer service automation at reduced cost to serve, as well as delightful CX – a 'win-win!' However, in order to provide such a aspirational customer experience, it is necessary to know, with a high degree of certainty, who the customer is.

Solution designers are therefore encouraged to keep IAuth, and in particular voice biometrics, high on the list of functional capabilities and bake it into the overall solution. The same goes for companies who introduced voice biometrics as point-solutions in their contact centres and mobile devices; this capability must be fully re-integrated in order to fully unlock the value of ongoing digitisation. 

The Virtuous Cycle: Usability, Perception & Adoption

Usability is not just about making users happy; it is about them becoming ambassadors for a company. This applies to customers and employees, and even suppliers and resellers. When it comes to authentication, the process is often filled with friction, making it difficult for users to access the spoils of the delightful user experience that may be securely locked behind an agonizing identity and access management (IAM) barrier.

Moving from a Purely Financial Business Case to Organisational Sustainability

As the numerous regulatory, privacy, cyber-security and technological forces conspire to disrupt conventional business and service delivery models, all the while heightening customer expectations and removing the barriers for customers to switch service providers, companies are compelled to also adapt their investment decisioning processes to find the balance between financial payback, strategic importance, and sometimes even survival.

Authentication is no longer confined to security – it is a growing Customer Experience issue. As such, it needs to inherit some of the models used for motivating CX projects.

It is our intent that this message will encourage professionals and decision-makers to look beyond the hard savings for voice biometrics, as neglecting the more holistic impact of Intelligent Authentication could have severe negative implications on other customer service automation initiatives, not to mention a company's brand.

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