The Customer Effect

Chase customers can now use their voices to unlock their accounts

  • Chase is rolling out voice-based authentication for card customers phoning its call center starting this spring
  • Beyond security and convenience, more efficient authentication methods save institutions money and cut down on the number of abandoned transactions
Chase customers can now use their voices to unlock their accounts

Chase card members’ voices will soon be their passwords when they call for help.

The bank is debuting a voice-authentication feature for credit card customers dialing the call center this spring to reduce the customer burden of having to remember multiple passwords and answer cumbersome security questions. The initial launch would only be for credit card customers, but the bank plans to expand the feature to all customers by the end of the year, a spokeswoman said.

Chase joins a group of banks investing in voice-based authentication methods for call centers, including TD, HSBC, Barclays and ANZ Banking Group.

As the customer speaks with the call center agent, a unique voiceprint is created using more than 100 physical and behavioral characteristics including pitch, accent, the shape of the customer’s mouth and vocal tract. Once the voiceprint is created, the call center automatically recognizes the customer on future calls, cutting out the need for additional security questions. The method offers an easier, more secure way to verify identity.

“It falls in line with a trend away from simplistic and static things like passwords and knowledge questions to something that’s more complex and harder to beat, and brings less friction,” said Julie Conroy, research director at Aite Group.

According to Chase, the voiceprint is securely stored as a mathematical equation, and only works for verification with the bank’s system. A Chase representative was not available to comment on where customers’ voiceprints are going to be stored. Voice-based authentication is more secure than passwords, but it’s safest when customer credentials aren’t stored in a central repository, said Hypr CEO George Avetisov.

“Decentralizing credentials — biometrics, PINs, passwords or bank cards — delivers sorely needed security against data breaches as well as the convenience that consumers want and enterprises work hard to deliver,” he said. “Central storage presents a single point of failure.”

No biometric authentication method is without fraud risk, which makes it incumbent on banks to do additional checks  — verifying if the customer is calling from their own device, whether they’re using a phone line or a VoIP line, and so on — to confirm identity, Conroy said. Chase may ask security questions if it feels additional verification is needed.

Beyond customer convenience and added protection beyond passwords, in the long run, biometrics saves institutions money and reduces the rate at which customers abandon transactions.

“Roughly 30 percent of calls to bank call centers are requests for account access,” Ben Jessel, managing principal at Capco, said in a recent report. “It’s estimated that each of these calls can cost a company around 25 cents — a princely sum for basic customer service, all over something as simple as a forgotten password.”

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