Four steps to avoiding authentication pitfalls

“You idiot, I just entered all of that information.”

I have worked in customer contact centers my entire career, so as a customer, I tend to be a little more understanding than the customer quoted above when I need to call a company for support. Nonetheless, I am also critical.  

Most companies today authenticate callers using some method of automated data collection before handing the call off to a live person. For example:

  • “Please say or enter the last four digits of your Social Security Number.”
  • “Please say or enter your credit card number.”
  • “If you are calling from 555-555-5555, please press 1.”

Although companies undoubtedly intend to benefit the customer with this information gathering, more often that not, customers have to repeat the information once they connect with a live person.

This happens for many reasons. Sometimes it is compliance related or the result of a system failure. It could be poor processes or inadequate training. It might be a combination of all of these issues that requires customers to repeat information.  

Let’s face the facts. The reasons don’t matter when it comes to the customer experience (CE) or net promoter score (NPS).  Customers want to receive prompt, accurate service—nothing more, nothing less. Asking them to repeat information that they feel you already have starts you off behind the eight ball.

Here are four simple steps you can take to avoid these authentication pitfalls:

Acknowledge compliance requirements – If the customer must restate information for compliance purposes, make sure you tell them.  “Mr. Smith, thank you for authenticating your account in our automated system. For compliance purposes, I will need to validate some of your information before we can get started.”

Apologize for system issues – If the data does not pass through to the agent due to a system issue, apologize to the customer.  “Mrs. Adams, I am sorry that the data you entered in to the system did not make it to me due to a system issue. To access your account, I need to ask you to repeat the information.”

Test systems and processes – It is good policy to have your planning team or QA team test your phone systems and processes once per week at minimum, preferably daily, to ensure everything is working properly.  This will save your customers and employees a lot of stress.

Address the issue through training and coaching – Everyone handling customer phone calls should clearly understand the process a customer endures to get to a live person.  They must know what number customers have dialed, what options they can chose, and what data the system asks them to provide. Most importantly, agents must have empathy. True empathy will go a long way to changing the tone of the call. All of these issues can be addressed with proper training and coaching for supervisors and agents.

At Robert C. Davis and Associates, we use an exclusive process we call The Quality Conversation to better equip customer contact center teams to perform with a high level of enthusiasm, confidence, empathy and effectiveness. For more than 30 years, we have gained deep experience in training and coaching call center teams based on proven principles that are pivotal to business success. Our training and coaching programs make integral changes to the entire culture of the customer contact center for dramatic improvement in customer service quality, customer retention and sales results.

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– Brad Baumunk, Senior Consultant, Robert C. Davis and Associates | 512-695-2511