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The Biometrics Aspect of IVRs
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The Biometrics Aspect of IVRs

December 08, 2011

  By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

At the Voice Leadership Forum in Wellington, New Zealand earlier this month, delegates heard that “voice recognition of keywords” and “the use of voice as a biometric for identification” are becoming central to interactive voice response (IVR) systems.

The forum offered first-hand reports of user experience of service from New Zealand’s Inland Revenue (IRD) and Ministry of Social Development (MSD) as well as BNZ and Westpac banks.

According to industry journal Computerworld, IRD’s first modernization feature, a phone interface in 2008, was “virtual hold,” in which a customer faced with a long wait can hang up and be called back.

Now the department’s system recognizes key words in the caller’s speech, routing them to the person best able to handle the inquiry. Customer-service group manager Heather Daly told the conference that if a customer calls about, say, Working for Families close to a public holiday, “we’ll play them a message telling them when the next payment will arrive in their account.”

She estimated that IRD can deal with 10 percent of its incoming traffic using such methods, without involving a live agent. A survey on the self-service system found that customers either regarded the interface as “very easy” or “very hard” to operate. But hey, some folks just aren’t what we’d call “tech savvy.”

Computerworld said that MSD launched its voice biometrics service in June this year, “with the aim of reducing to a minimum the time taken to become sure of a customer’s identity.” Which is important, seeing as how it gets over six million calls a year. Identification by voice is successful 80 percent of the time, MSD officials say, adding that because mobile phones compress speech, “it is not possible to do initial registration of a customer’s voice-print on mobile.”

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Tammy Wolf
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