Identity Resolution Moves into the Contact Center

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In the past, consumer interactions were largely anonymous; email, website visits, or calls into a contact center fundamentally were done without the company ever knowing who was behind those interactions.

That is not how business is done today. Companies want to know—and some would say they need to know—as much as they can about each and every customer that does business with them. It spans online and offline interactions, both past and present. It’s the key to converting prospects into actual customers and ensuring their loyalty going forward.

Identity resolution, therefore, has a long history in marketing, giving companies a way to construct a cohesive view of individual customers across all channels, devices, and contact formats. It has now started gaining prominence in contact centers as well thanks to advanced capabilities that are bringing it outside of the marketing technology stack.

Robert McKay, senior vice president of customer identity and risk solutions at Neustar, cites a couple of reasons why identity resolution is important to call centers.

For most, it comes down to basic economics. Identity resolution, when done properly, can shave more than a minute off customer contacts because it eliminates the need for agents to go through the costly and time-consuming process of asking callers for their names, addresses, birthdays, passwords, PINs, the last four digits of their account numbers, or similar identifying information before proceeding to the real reason for their calls.

“No consumer wants to go through a battery of questions that prove they are who they say they are. This, at a minimum, elongates the entire interaction, and it can be frustrating. Customers are reaching out to the contact center because they have questions or matters to be resolved, but if [the companies] have to make that consumer jump through a lot of hoops just to be authenticated, it can lead to a very poor user experience,” McKay cautions.

Identity resolution can also play a huge role in addressing fraud in the contact center, usually running in the background without expressly prompting the consumer to do anything, according to McKay.

As a person dials in, while the phone is still ringing, a number of technologies can extrapolate whether the phone number is connected to a known customer, whether the phone number matches the device and carrier associated with it, and other information known about the customer and his preferences that the company has on file.

“All of that can be done in a matter of sub-seconds, so that by the time that inbound call is answered, the session has already been rigorously vetted and some rich sets of information brought into the systems to help in the routing and handling of that call. Perhaps I now know it is a VIP client, and I will move him to the team that handles white-glove service,” McKay says.

In the case of an unknown identifier, such as a new phone number for an otherwise identified customer, the communication can be flagged for the agent to secure further verification, according to Tim Prugar, vice president of operations at Next Caller, a provider of call verification technology.

Systems can also flag behaviors that fall outside of normal parameters, such as when a customer who usually calls in the afternoon suddenly calls at midnight or when a customer who has always called in the past suddenly sends a text message. These activities can be flagged automatically for immediate action as needed.

“Brands have begun to become increasingly more sophisticated in understanding that if they want to understand about John Doe, they need to know not only John Doe’s home address and his phone number, but also what device he uses, what carrier that device is connected to,” McKay says. “When John uses that device to go to websites, what are the behavioral attributes in that experience and what has been recently spotted to have a better understanding to make a determination that, yes, this is in fact John Doe. Or, ‘Hey, we are seeing some anomalies here that are deviations from what are normal patterns’ to say this may not in fact be John Doe.”

Identity resolution can be done passively in the background before the call is answered and can then be blended with one more step at the outset of the interaction to further improve the communication. Automated systems, like virtual agents or interactive voice response engines, can gather information, like the reason for the call, to aid in routing.

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