Tuesday, 14 July 2015 18:24

The ATO is listening to the sound of your voice Featured

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is the first organisation in Australia to deploy voice biometrics as a means of authenticating customers by the sound of their voice.

The ATO has now completed the two-phase deployment of Nuance Communications' voice biometrics solutions in its call centre in an effort to build stronger customer relationships with taxpayers and enhance authentication by replacing intrusive security questioning.

The ATO receives approximately nine million calls per year from the community, with around 75% of these calls requiring an ATO agent to verify the caller’s identity and, in addition, it expects to receive more than half (4.3) million of these calls within its four-month peak tax period between July and October.

And, prior to the deployment of voice biometrics, when a customer called to conduct a transaction with the ATO, the authentication process involved several steps, putting pressure not only on customers to provide personal details or have the correct documentation in front of them, but also on the ATO’s call centre agents, who collectively spent approximately 75,000 hours each year just trying to verify customers over the phone.

To solve the problem, the ATO chose to deploy Nuance’s voice biometrics solutions, in partnership with Optus, an existing managed network services provider.

The ATO completed its first installation of Nuance’s VocalPassword solution in September last year, allowing customers to speak a simple passphrase to verify their account.

Then, in April this year the ATO completed the second-phase of deployment with the implementation of Nuance’s FreeSpeech solution, a first of its kind deployment in Australia that verifies customers during inbound and outbound calls, without intrusive questioning, providing a seamless experience for customers.

Robert Weideman, executive vice president and general manager for the Enterprise Division of Nuance said that, combined, the new VocalPassword and FreeSpeech voice biometrics solutions provide an added layer of security for ATO customers, helping to prevent and detect identity theft.

The ATO says the deployment of Nance has boosted call completion rates.

“No one wants to be on a call to the ATO longer than they need to, but we must ensure that convenience and ease of access are effectively balanced with our mutual need for security” said John Dardo, acting Deputy Commissioner, ATO.

“With Nuance’s voice biometrics solutions, we have introduced a secure, fast and easy way to verify a customer’s identity, providing a greatly improved experience for our customers and for our staff. The streamlined authentication has allowed the ATO to quickly boost call completion rates, whilst also improving customer security. Customer and staff feedback has been very positive and they see this as another example of us delivering contemporary client experiences.”

According to Naunce’s Weideman all organisations are competing to provide new and engaging customer service experiences that are “simple and secure.”

“The customer experience is at the core of Nuance’s voice biometrics technology, a premise which aligns perfectly with the ATO’s organisational goals. Using Nuance’s voice biometrics solutions, the ATO has been able to greatly improve its customer service experience, while reducing costs and delivering an authentication process that eases the burden on both customers and service agents.”

Weideman said organisations around the globe are recognising the growing consumer frustration with PINs, passwords, and security questions and are addressing it head-on to make customer authentication more convenient, and more secure than knowledge-based authentication. Nuance’s voice biometrics solutions have been adopted globally by other large organisations.

According to new data from Opus Research, the voice biometrics authentication market is poised to grow from $200 million (2013) to $750 million globally in 2017.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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