Navigation Content

Newsletter, May 2012

In This Issue:

The Real Business Value of Voice Biometrics >

Voice Biometrics: Nearing the Tipping Point? A Conversation with Dan Miller >

Survey: Trends in Self-Service >

The Real Business Value Of Voice Biometrics

When first introduced, voice biometrics was positioned as part of a larger strategy to more aggressively combat fraud, prevent identify theft and ensure a high level of security. Fast forward to today, and companies are also harnessing voice biometrics to deliver - and achieve - much more. Brett Beranek, Solutions Marketing Manager for Nuance Communications shows how voice biometrics has evolved to enable companies across a wide range of verticals, including telecommunications, financial services, healthcare and retail, to deliver convenient, secure and expeditious customers care, and build lasting competitive advantage.

Security has long been the singular focus of voice biometrics applications. And for good reason. A voice print, is as unique to an individual as a fingerprint or iris scan. And since speaking is what we do naturally, voice is as user-friendly as it is secure.

Voice biometrics implementations are on the rise, Nuance customers alone have surpassed 15 million voiceprint deployments, up nearly 90% from the previous year, which has been driven primarily by government legislation and corporations’ desire (need) to prevent fraud and protect privacy. As Opus Research, a leading analyst firm in voice services and conversational commerce, noted in a recent report: "Executives at financial services companies, healthcare providers and telecommunications service providers are forging ahead with plans to implement voice biometric technologies."

While voice biometrics implementations remain sharply focused on "leveraging existing security infrastructure to support the goal of fraud prevention," the report also highlights new areas of opportunity around improved customer service and providing strong, rapid authentication in e-commerce and mobile commerce, where time (and ease of use) is paramount.

Innovating for Competitive Advantage
Indeed, many companies that first saw voice biometrics primarily as a weapon against unauthorized access to information or resources, are now wielding the technology to deliver a superior customer experience.

Take for example Turkcell Global Bilgi who is on track to enroll approximately 8 million users by December 2012, which is as many voice prints that existed globally at the end of 2010. With the implementation of voice biometrics Turkcell Global Bilgi has been able to streamline the identity verification process, callers no longer need to remember a pass code, or answer intrusive questions. Voice is the verifier and the person is the password. Customers are more quickly and easily authenticated allowing them to be more productive. And voice didn't just improve the customer experience; it also allowed Turkcell Global Bilgi to position itself as an industry leader and innovator.

Significantly, Turkcell Global Bilgi could use its voice biometrics implementation—and the superior customer service experience it delivered - to show customers they are innovative and committed to making their lives simpler. It also encouraged its customers to become brand advocates and use social media to share their enthusiasm for the no-brainer technology and the outstanding service it enabled – prompting other operators in the region to deploy voice biometric solutions.

Beyond the IVR
At the other end of the spectrum, Bank Leumi, one of the largest banks in Israel, implemented voice biometrics to streamline its authentication process, which was a tedious two-step process using PINs and verification questions that customers found both time-consuming and frustrating. The call duration was another issue Bank Leumi was determined to tackle. Again, voice biometrics delivered positive results, allowing the bank to markedly improve the work efficiency of contact center agents and so reduce overall costs. However, it was the improvement of the overall customer service experience that had the biggest impact. The immediate feedback from customers showed they appreciated the secure, convenient and more efficient services. Bank Leumi reacted by making the decision to deploy the voice biometrics solution across all of its contact centers.

And it doesn't stop there. Amit Lanshiano, IT Operations Manager at LuemiCall, notes that the technology is under consideration for future deployment in the bank's mobile banking platform. As he puts it: "The fact that voice can be used across all the channels customers use to interact with us is a great advantage."

Personalized Service
Invesco Trimark, one of Canada's largest investment management companies, implemented voice biometrics to build brand loyalty and strengthen relationships by equipping staff with the tools to engage with individual customers and deliver them a truly personalized experience. To achieve this, the company needed a simple and secure way to identify callers, without giving the customers the feeling that they were numbers or worse, strangers. A procedure that focused too much on the process and not enough on the person was deemed a 'fail' because it did not serve to establish a supportive, personal relationship. In recognition of this shortcoming Invesco Trimark replaced its approach - which required the customer to input an ID number and then answer industry-standard questions to verify their identify with one that used voice biometrics.

The solution allowed the company to route each customer to a dedicated Client Relationship Representative (CRR), who knew precisely who the caller was and could therefore focus efforts entirely on delivering personalized service.
Interestingly, the voice biometrics solution did more than equip the company to deliver outstanding service out of the gate. It also exceeded the company's objectives for security. To put the system to the test, the company staged a comprehensive evaluation where, under controlled conditions, imposters made attempts to gain access to a CRR using their voice. The test yielded an impressive security rate of 100 percent, which means the voice biometrics solution prevented the imposter from accessing client data every time.

Bright Future
High accuracy and security are just part of the reason why voice biometrics is becoming the technology of choice for a wide variety of identification and authentication scenarios. But voice biometrics also streamlines customer service, providing time-crunched consumers convenient, simple and efficient service they genuinely value. As each of these case studies demonstrates, voice biometrics has come to occupy a strategic position in the efforts companies across a wide range of verticals are pursuing to enhance customer service, build brand loyalty, position themselves as industry innovators and gain competitive advantage.

Clearly, voice biometrics has not only reached an important inflection point. It has emerged as a technology that allows companies to deliver customers the personal service they prefer across all the channels they demand.

Back to Top


Voice Biometrics: Nearing the Tipping Point?
A Conversation with Dan Miller

Voice is long recognized as a viable authentication method, because just like a fingerprint or iris, voice is unique to the individual. But now a variety of factors including the widespread acceptance of speech-enabled services and smart assistants such as Siri, the advance of smartphones and tablets, and the explosion of mobile commerce and banking are moving voice biometrics up the global business agenda.

Voice biometrics, a numerical model of the sound, pattern and rhythm of an individual’s voice also known as a "voice print," sits at the center of solutions and technologies aimed at preventing fraud, protecting privacy and improving security. To offer the industry an opportunity to share experiences and trade best practices Opus Research, an analysis firm providing research around voice services and conversational commerce, organized Voice Biometrics Conference 2012.

We catch up with Dan Miller, Opus Research Senior Analyst, to discuss highlights from the recent voice biometrics conference and identify the key trends and developments driving new growth in voice biometrics implementations around the globe.

You just held your annual Voice Biometrics Conference. What insights did you take away from the event?
The conference was timely. It's not just because the technology is mature; it's because the discussion in the industry is more about what can happen now that we can combine accurate speech recognition with artificial intelligence to really understand the intent of callers. That’s when a lot of lights go on about where voice biometrics is going. At the same time we can think of new use cases for voice biometrics, we are also seeing significant growth in implementation and take-up. I estimated that we're at around 10 million voice prints. But then Nuance showed the slide at the conference based on their implementations alone, that reveals we're at 15 million voice prints. So, it's growing rapidly.

What is driving this tremendous growth?
There are three layers to this. One is the technology. Vast improvements have been made around the ease with which people can enroll. Enrollment is the capture of voice samples from an individual with the intent of creating a voiceprint from the unique characteristics or features of their speech patterns. Up until now enrollment has been something of a speed bump. But now consumers understand and use speech services, and companies have also gotten better at training their staff and setting up the protocols and procedures that make it easier to enroll customers.

The second is geographic expansion. We're witnessing huge implementations of voice biometrics across more countries by more verticals. What’s funny is this all started in Australia, for some reason. The banks, the government and the healthcare providers in Australia have been the most aggressive. They were quick to use voice biometrics and voice signatures as part of their authentication strategies. But now there are initiatives elsewhere. In Canada, BellCanada has been able to enroll roughly 4 million registered customers. In Turkey Global Bilgi, a fully owned subsidiary of Turkcell, made the decision to incorporate voice signatures into the flow of customer care - a move that has proven to be a watershed moment for the cause of voice biometric-based authentication proving the technology supports secure and expeditious customers care. At the same time, in western Europe, North America and across Asia, a number of large enterprises have incorporated voice prints into their password management protocols, specifically surrounding password reset. That’s an “evergreen application” with a built in ROI.

Third, voice biometrics is driven by mobility and mobile commerce. We use our phones much more than every before; it's going to be our wallet, our loyalty card, the remote control for our TVs and how we control our homes - turning down the lights and regulating the temperature. At the same time, voice is how individuals search, command devices and interact with mobile assistants like Siri and Dragon Go! All the pieces are coming together, and voice just makes much more sense when we're already using our phones to do so much more.

The mobile phone, as you pointed out, is the remote control of our lives — and much more. How does this all come together to power secure commerce?
Connect the dots, and voice biometrics becomes a precursor and a prerequisite for what I call 'trusted commerce.' When you start thinking of developments that have been going on in the identity management and security industry around irrefutable assertion of identities, and when you look at how a voice print is a strong enough indicator of who I am, then you start to realize the real and powerful potential of voice biometrics to enable e-commerce and mobile commerce. Consumers can use voice to authorize a payment and within a larger context that takes into account everything the online merchant knows about the customer and what the customer wants revealed about themselves at that point.

As people carry out more e-commerce and other routine activities on their phones, biometric-based security will help prevent fraud in general. Moreover, during each conversation, strong authentication promotes “trust,” meaning that both parties can have confidence that they are in touch with the individual that they want to carry out business with.

Please walk me through the other use cases that support your view that voice biometrics is on a growth trajectory.
In the enterprise voice biometrics was all about enabling specific tasks, such as password reset or authenticating employees before allowing them access to corporate information. But we're also seeing that voice biometrics has a new role now that the whole 'Bring Your Own Device' movement has arrived, and business executives expect their IT departments to support their iPhone, iPads or Android phones and tablets. As soon as the CEO and CMO start using their devices for both work and personal use, it becomes more important to the CSO (chief security officer) to make sure his systems authenticate the person who’s in possession of that device. The move to mobile in the enterprise makes user authentication more important than ever because it is no longer sufficient to merely secure hardware endpoints. Participants want assurances that the individual at that endpoint is the person he or she claims to be. Companies need more robust security methods, and this is where voice biometrics comes in.

We're also seeing an acceleration in the use of voice biometrics in high volume contact centers where there is a clear ROI around shortening the time it takes to authenticate an individual caller. Finally, we're seeing more deployments by financial institutions and commercial banks aimed at authentication in order to provide excellent customer service. This activity is also driven by government efforts to prevent fraud and protect privacy.

You are seeing more implementations across more verticals, and you envision a huge impact on e-commerce and mobile commerce. What are some best practices you have observed or can offer?
A big part of this, particularly when we talk about 'Trusted Commerce', is about delivering a good user experience. It's not clear who will actually implement commerce services - it could be a telecommunications carrier, or it could be a company more involved in handling the actual payments - but it is clear that it's about identifying and authenticating customers quickly and easily, without having to educate the public to use the service, so everyone can get down to business.

Financial service providers and government agencies are going to propel voice biometrics-based authentication into their customer care workflows. As they do, they will be reciting the latest mantra in for best practices in secure trusted, commerce, that it support “multi-layered, multi-factor and risk-aware authentication.” Multi-layered simply means that more than one approach be taken to user authentication and risk-aware means that the number of layers that are applied should be based on the level of risk involved in a transaction. In other words, a four-digit PIN may be all that is needed for an individual to find out the balance due on a credit card because it is a “low-risk” transaction from the bank’s perspective.

Transferring $200,000 to an offshore bank account should require stronger authentication and another layer would definitely be applied. In this case, the transaction may be held up until a bank representative confirms the identity of a caller, most likely by asking “challenge questions.” Other “unexpected” instances may trigger suspicion from a financial institution. For instance, an individual may initiate a transaction from a phone or PC that is in an unexpected location, like Bangor, Maine, when they were last detected in Bangalore, India (for instance). Strong authentication is “multi-factor” by definition. The three possibilities are “something you know” (like PIN or password); something you have (like an ID card, phone or electronic token); or something you are – meaning a biometric, which is where voiceprints come in.

Alternatives to voice prints include fingerprints, face recognition, iris scans, DNA samples and any number of other forms of pattern recognition – like gait analysis (how you walk) or keyboard dynamics (how you type). Voiceprints are proving to be easy to capture. Comparison of voice samples to voice prints is proving to be as good as or better than other biometrics in terms of supporting reliable imposter detection when used in the field.

But the real drivers of adoption are the ease with which mobile subscribers can be authenticated and the ease with which solutions providers in government, banking and security can incorporate voice biometric-based authentication into their products and services.

Back to Top


Survey: Trends in Self-Service

With more than 120 application stores globally and an estimated 15,000 new apps coming on line each week across mobile platforms like Apple iOS and Android, it's little wonder that consumers are eagerly exploring the boundless choices to engage with companies they do business with. The results of a recent Nuance consumer survey sheds light on people's attitudes toward self-service across customer service channels like mobile, phone (IVR) and Web.

Connectivity and connected devices are coming together to create more customer touch points, more distribution channels and more consumer demand for interactions and information delivered according to their preferences. The assumption may be that everyone is online, but it's important to remember that everyone is not just on the Web. People access media and engage with companies using a variety of channels every day, switching back and forth between them frequently. From simple voice calls to sophisticated video chat sessions, people decide which channels to use to interact with the world around them - not the other way around. It's no longer about passive information and services consumption; it's about the proactive co-creation of custom experiences.

For companies, choosing the right medium is no longer a straightforward task. In fact, one could argue it's an outright waste of time and resources since consumers are at the helm and will choose the best channel for them. This is particularly true when it comes to customer self-service, an area where consumers are increasing accustomed to being in control.

To identify what consumers really want in self-service, Nuance commissioned a survey targeted towards 1,000 consumers. The vast majority of survey respondents (75 percent) find self-service is a convenient way to address customer service issues. Additionally, 67 percent of consumers prefer self-service, over speaking to a company representative.

At first glance the percentages seem extraordinarily high. However, include the context of what time-crunched consumers are juggling in their daily lives, and the numbers immediately add up. "The purpose of self-service is to help people be more productive providing them easy and instant access to what they need: information, goods and services, or the exact right person," explains Dan Nordale, vice president, enterprise marketing, Nuance Communications.

The survey also examined consumer attitudes toward self-service mobile apps, applications consumers download with the expectation that the app will enable them to get more value from the companies they do business with.

Among the survey findings: consumers across all demographics like and use apps provided they are convenient, easy to use and "always available." What's more, respondents would be encouraged to use their self-service apps more if they offered a seamless and effortless way to shift from the mobile app to a voice call when they need to speak with a call center agent directly for additional guidance or support.

Clearly, the initial results reveal the features and functionality that are top of mind when customers interact with customer service. But what is the real and lasting impact of a good customer service experience facilitated by a mobile app? A deeper look at the data provides valuable insights.

First Impressions Count

Mobile apps are fast becoming a core component in the mix of technologies and approaches companies need to reach - and keep - their customers. But offering a mobile app is just half the battle.

Customers embrace apps to perform self-service tasks, but they also reject companies that fail to meet their needs. "As in all relationships, first impressions count a lot," Nordale says. "Customers see everything, and every experience, through a lens. It's all about 'me'. A company that serves 'me', understands 'me' and makes it easy for 'me' is a good company and one that has earned my confidence. A company that doesn't has failed me, and doesn’t have my trust."

Put another way, there is an inextricable link between customer satisfaction and brand reputation. Specifically, 92 percent of consumers surveyed believe a company that offers a good customer service experience via a mobile app is also an innovative company. A whopping 89 percent of consumers said they also view the company as customer-focused, and 86 percent said they will have confidence in the company.

According to Nordale, consumers make the connection between app performance and company capabilities because they apply real-world rules to the digital realm. "In the real world customers will switch away from companies that don’t understand them." When it comes to apps, delivering an experience that is clumsy, clunky or just plain bad "sends a clear message that the company is incapable of understanding its customers."

No Friction, Please
Indeed, the data details how a bad customer experience can potentially influence the customer's overall view of the company, shaking the customer relationship to its core.

The majority (77 percent) of respondents take a bad customer service experience via a mobile app as a cue to "question their [the company's] ability to serve customers like me." What's more, 73 percent say they have a lower opinion of the company as a result. But don't think this dissatisfaction won't dramatically impact a company's bottom line. Over half (58 percent) said that a bad customer experience makes them "want to switch to a different company."

What encourages customer loyalty? A study of 75,000 people who had interacted with contact-center representatives or through self-service channels conducted by the Customer Contact Council offers two critical findings. First, delighting the customer (by delivering exceeding expectations) doesn't build loyalty; reducing the effort (the work and time they must invest to get their problem solved) does. Second, removing friction from customer service goes a long way toward creating (and increasing) customer loyalty.

This means making customer service easy is all about removing the obstacles, hassles and heavy-lifting around inputting information, eliminating the need to repeat information and avoiding or smoothing necessary transitions between channels to achieve the desired outcome.

Speech recognition and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) help streamline the process and remove the friction. The explosion of mobile voice services and the advance of smart mobile voice assistants, like Siri, are already significantly influencing how consumers interact with companies, encouraging them to describe issues and look for solutions using ordinary speech.

Read between the lines, and it's clear that delivering good customer service can be a risky business. First, the company must be flexible. This means delivering customer service across all channels - mobile (apps), phone (IVR) and Web - leaving the customer to make the match between the medium and the task at hand. Second, they must do their best to remove obstacles and friction that waste people's time and try their patience. “Do it well, make it easy and the company has left a positive and lasting impression. Do it wrong, by creating complexity where it doesn't have to be, and consumers can be unforgiving," Nordale stresses. “It's an outcome well-run businesses will avoid, particularly when the end-game is all about attracting, engaging and retaining customers.” 

Back to Top 

Archive Issues
Upcoming Events

Interactive Intelligence Interactions
June 4-7, 2012
Indianapolis, IN

August 13-15, 2012
New York, NY

Executive Corner

Q&A with Nuance's Robert Weideman


Robert Weideman was recently appointed as the Executive Vice President and General Manager for Nuance’s Enterprise Division. We recently caught up with Robert to get a better understanding of how he will transition his previous work experience to the Enterprise and what his expectations are for the division over the next twelve months.

You were most recently the SVP/GM of the Imaging division, and prior to that you ran different parts of the network speech business at Nuance. What learning’s will you apply from your previous roles, to leading the Enterprise division?
I’ll focus on my most recent role, running Nuance Imaging. I was fortunate to have led a team that transformed a consumer-oriented scanning business into the world’s largest capture and print management software business. It was an exciting and rewarding accomplishment that depended on an ambitious vision for the future of the document business, and a disciplined execution-focused team to make it happen. Nuance Enterprise is in a similar position. Consumers are demanding conversational, natural-language based means of achieving what they need, regardless of the channel they choose. Where we have provided that mean in the phone channel, we have a tremendous opportunity to enable our customers to use natural language to improve the customer experience in the Web and mobile channels as well. Nuance Enterprise will enable companies to completely transform how consumers interact with the companies, and differentiate by providing extraordinary customer experiences.

Nuance has four divisions, where do you see the intersection points with each?
At the core of Nuance is the most-sophisticated natural language understanding and processing capabilities in the world, evident by deployments in the contact center, automobiles such as the Ford Sync, mobile apps like Dragon Go!, use by 450,000 physicians worldwide, and in Imaging. It isn’t as evident, but the future of Imaging is dominated by natural language processing used to automate and classify all the documents users and organizations manage on a daily basis.

With the popularity of speech through applications like Siri and Dragon Go!, what impact will that have on the Enterprise?
The success of speech applications like Siri and Dragon Go! has shown us that consumers have a strong appetite for personalized, natural conversations on their mobile device. We are now seeing an influx of Enterprise companies asking us how they can integrate those types of “human-like” interactions across all of their self-service channels including mobile, Web and IVR – this wasn’t happening two years ago.

What changes do you foresee in Nuance Enterprise solutions over the next 12 months?
Enterprises are tasked with developing new ways to enable consumers to receive immediate outcomes across all self-service touch-points. This of course, is easier said than done. I believe the culmination of natural language, being able to understand intent, in a secure way, will provide consumers with intelligent customer service experiences across voice and text channels. At the highest level, it is our goal to provide our customers an easy way to deploy and manage natural language understanding applications by leveraging common technology, tools and insights to deliver a consistent self-service experience across channels. 

Newsletter May 2012

Choose your country.