The Customer Effect

How TD uses voice to bring a retail experience to digital banking

  • TD Bank is giving customers an easier way to verify their identity: by integrating voice recognition technology into its call centers
  • The modern banking experience is often characterized by mobile and online experiences, but by investing in voice tech, TD is sticking to its Bank Human ethos
How TD uses voice to bring a retail experience to digital banking

The more sophisticated online and mobile experiences become, the more difficult is for people to prove their true identity — especially when it matters.

It’s a problem for both banks and their customers. Not only does it put a dent in the customer experience, it presents fraud and privacy risks for both parties. That’s why TD Bank is implementing voice recognition technology at its customer call center.

“One of the largest irritants our customers had was with authentication and having to answer all those questions we had to ask them in order to verify they were who they said they were,” said Robert Ghazal, TD’s head of U.S. contact centers.

The technology, branded as TD VoicePrint, reads about 150 different characteristics of a customer’s speaking patterns to create a “vocal fingerprint,” without recording the voice itself or storing any kind of voice biometric that can be stolen. After capturing the voice print, customers can phone in and TD will verify their identities by their voice prints instead of by answering security questions, and the customer service representative will prompt them to speak more if it doesn’t recognize them. The bank worked with agency TBWA/Chiat/Day to create an experiment to test the technology.

The identity problem gets more complex as customers choose to bank through multiple channels — at the branch, in their mobile apps, through their desktop computers or on a call — and banks try to make their presence more ubiquitous, positioning themselves wherever the customer is and whenever. Plus, customers have accounts with multiple financial services providers — they have deposits at more than one bank, they have PayPal and Venmo accounts, they share those credentials and data points with their various online shopping accounts — making the whole process more complex.

The modern banking experience is often characterized by mobile and online experiences, but by investing in voice tech, TD is saving customers’ time as well as translating its human-first store and retail experiences to all of those various channels, said Arianna Orpello, senior vp of brand, acquisition and digital marketing.

“The idea of being able to recognize people by the sound of their voice — what a great human moment,” she said. “If you think about the people in your life that recognize you by your voice they’re usually all people with whom you have a personal relationship… that’s the bar we hold ourselves to: we should be able to recognize you when you call us, just like when you walk into our store.”

TD’s mobile app has a secured in-app call feature that accounts for nine percent of the bank’s total call volume, Ghazal said.

Authentication had been a pain point for TD for a long time, Ghazal said. Its parameters around respond acceptance are very tight. For example, if a TD customer calls and is asked to verify a recent transaction to confirm his or her identity, TD needs to know the exact date it occurred and the exact amount.

“It’s a very small margin,” he said. “Often we hear that people have to log into their online banking or mobile banking in order to answer their security questions.”

Of course, the alternative of loosening authentication is even worse; doing so would expose customers even more to potential fraud.

Last year, TD also invested in fingerprint authentication provider SecureKey, whose technology is at the center of a Canadian bank consortium effort to let customers self-identify in a digital world. Biometrics aren’t a perfect solution yet — should a cloud database of customer fingerprints be hacked, they’re not replaceable like passwords are — but they’re proving to be a good enough solution for now in the right direction as customers largely favor speed and convenience over security and privacy.

“Security is a major concern for people,” Orpello said. “We’re trying to figure out how to protect but also enable the convenient experience… deliver it in a human way in your normal life. What better way than the equivalent of your fingerprint?”

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