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Be Careful What You Say: Voice Biometrics Added to Tax Office

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July 17, 2015

Be Careful What You Say: Voice Biometrics Added to Tax Office

By TMCnet Staff

Talking to the tax man is stressful enough. Now the Australian government has raised the stakes by adding Nuance (News - Alert) Communication’s voice biometrics in place of security questions. What else can they deduce from what you say?

In Nuance's announcement this month, the company says it has deployed the FreeSpeech and VocalPassword voice biometrics software in the ATO call center to eliminate the need for “invasive security questioning.” Considering that ATO receives about nine million calls each year of which 75 require identity verification, the addition of Nuance tools should not only provide better customer service to consumers but should also save the taxation office a lot of time. Furthermore, these benefits are expected to skyrocket with peak tax time that, in Australia, comes between July and October each year.

John Dardo, the acting deputy commissioner of ATO, commented on these benefits in his official statement:

“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,” Dardo said. “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.”

He further noted that both consumers and staff have complimented the new system since its inception last year. The installation came as part of a two-step process with the first step finished in September 2014 and the final step completed this past April. Since its beginning, more than 760,000 consumers have enrolled in the voice biometric system.

FreeSpeech performs fraud detection in the background of conversations between individuals and tax agents.

VocalPassword, on the other hand, is more active and allows individuals to verify their identities through voice commands. Also since last September, ATO has witnessed 480,000 successful VocalPassword verifications and 104,000 successful FreeSpeech verifications from the public.

Analytics reveal that, on average, customers have experienced savings of 40-45 seconds per call to the ATO. That will amount to a lot of savings come the peak of tax season. It is right around the corner, so it appears successful usage of the voice biometrics system could not have come a moment too soon.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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