• May 2, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

ClickFox Reveals Customer Identification Pitfalls During Self-Service

ClickFox today released its latest Customer Experience Analytics Insights report, revealing that 10 percent of all customers who call into an automated phone system will be transferred to an agent because of a failed authentication attempt. Assuming a cost of $5 per call, closing this gap could save companies more than $13 million per year, the research suggested.

The research also found that for callers who do end up talking to an agent, 30 percent are more likely to need to be transferred to at least one more agent to complete their transactions. "Since the system is unable to identify the caller, it can't route him to the agent best equipped to handle his request," said Lauren Smith, director of analytics at ClickFox.

This results not just in higher costs and longer average call handling times, but a 12 percent drop in customer satisfaction, the research found. Another downside is the lost revenue and sales as a result of taking agents away from these other tasks. "A simple thing like not identifying a caller in an IVR leads to additional costs downstream and additional customer satisfaction [issues] down the road," Smith says.

According to Smith, most authentication failures result from systems that request information that is not readily available to the caller. "In cases where companies use data that is easily recalled or data that is automatically available, [authentication] success goes up," he says. "We also see success with using the automatic number ID (ANI) as the primary ID source."

That’s what's driving higher authentication success rates in the telecommunications industry, which successfully authenticates almost 73 percent of all calls. The insurance industry was the lowest of all verticals in authentication success by IVRs, at 48 percent, followed by utilities and finance, at 58 percent and 68 percent, respectively.

Some recommendations drawn from the research include the following:

  • If requiring additional validation, companies should request personal info, such as a Social Security Number instead of a custom PIN, because PIN usage is 12 percent less successful.
  • Companies should use ANI data where possible or request personal information, such as date of birth, favorite color, or mother's maiden name, instead of an account number, because personal information is 10 percent more likely to succeed.

And, according to the research, customer authentication on company Web sites doesn’t fare much better, and the damage is great. Smith notes that up to 23 percent of customers who fail to log into a Web site call to an agent within seven days. "And more than half don't return to the Web site, abandoning that channel entirely," he says.

Web sites do, however, allow customers to retrieve passwords, and the research found that password recovery rates are twice as successful when tied to a security question supplied by the customer rather than those that seek additional account data. "Often, [the latter] is not something the customer has readily available," Smith says.

Smith's advice to boost Web login success is to allow customers to set their own security questions and answers and to build more intuitive FAQs that help the customer through the password recovery process.

On either the phone or the Web, "for customers to be able to self-service, don’t let something as tactical as identifying the customer impede that goal," Smith says. "And insure that the information you have about the customer is up to date and contains everything you need for your application."

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