West Corporation

Posted on May 15, 2020 by West Corporation 



How to ID and Verify Customers: Best Practices for Automatic Identification | Inside CX

Resolving customer issues as efficiently as possible is a goal for any contact center. So what if you knew each caller and their intentions before they said a word? That’s why you should verify customers with automatic identification.

In this article, we describe what this looks like in the customer experience space and share some best practices to get started. But first, why is this even important?

This article is part of the Inside CX series from Intrado, through which we’re creating a detailed, focused and actionable library of CX content. Use this player to hear another version of this content designed for podcasts and subscribe to future episodes.

Why Should You Verify Customers?

Without even considering the automation piece, you should consider whether to identify callers up front in the first place. Your goal should always be to provide a frictionless experience with your brand. And to do that, it’s important to understand your brand.

For some brands, like many retailers, for example, it may not be necessary to identify people up front. Callers may just want help completing a payment, so you don’t need to verify customers until the payment process. If you won’t utilize that information, don’t put your customers through the friction it causes up front.

But for a great majority of brands, there are advantages to getting that identification up front. The biggest reason lies in what we call “predictive intent.” Predictive intent is understanding why someone is calling and predicting the quickest path to resolution.

We consider this an industry standard. A business should always know why someone is calling. So you should never ask, “How can I help you?” There should always be some data point to reveal the reason for the call, but you can’t get that data point without identifying the caller first.

Why ID: The Mobile Difference

There are many reasons to automatically verify customers, but one of the most relevant is the ability to distinguish between landline and mobile callers. Today at Intrado, we see between 83 and 87 percent of customers calling on a mobile device. Because these devices include texting and web capabilities, this allows businesses to interact with these callers differently than callers on a landline, which is strictly a voice channel.

On a mobile device, you may be able to direct the caller to your customer app. Or they may want to engage on SMS, especially if it means they don’t have to wait for an agent to answer their voice call. These channels reduce costs and allow you to serve customers in a quicker timeframe.

Identifying their mobile device expands their service options. So by providing these options, you let the customer engage on their channel of choice for better self-service and a more enjoyable experience. For example, scheduling an appointment becomes easier if you’re able to share a button or web link. Adding that visual display makes a generally complicated experience much simpler to get through.

Methods of Automatic Identification

It goes back to providing that frictionless experience. Sure, you could just ask for someone’s name up front. But if you can use data that’s already been collected by the system, whether that be through IVR, SMS or another channel, you can reduce the friction by using the data you already know.

The sooner you can verify customers, the better the experience. With automatic identification, you reduce customer effort, simplify the start of the interaction and reduce average length of call. To create that frictionless experience, there are four ways to start to verify customers using automatic identification.

1. Automatic Number Identification (ANI)

First and foremost is typically through what we call “ANI,” or automatic number identification. With ANI, a customer calls from either a landline or a mobile device. Then, the inbound system receives that information, and based off the phone number coming in, the system identifies who is calling. Think of it like caller ID connected to your CRM database.

2. Caller-Entered Digits (CED)

If the system is unable to verify customers using ANI, it reverts back to what is referred to as “caller-entered digits,” or CED. With CED, the caller manually punches in the phone number tied to their account. This may happen if a customer calls from their work phone, for example, which may not be registered in your CRM database.

3. ANI-Learning Database

Here’s one best practice to keep in mind with CED. When a customer provides those caller-entered digits, store the number they’re calling from in your CRM system. This process can be automated with an ANI-learning database. This way, the next time the person calls, they avoid entering the same CED again. It all goes back to that frictionless experience.

4. Use Third-Party Services

After ANI and CED, consider utilizing third-party services to bolster your database information. Here at Intrado, we use a partner that stores millions of additional data sources in their own database. On average, they provide about 2.8 data points per household, which provides a highly valuable data source for automatic identification going forward.

Where to Begin with Auto ID

To get started with automatic identification, the first step is identifying how you verify customers today. Are you using ANI? Are you using CED? Do you have an ANI-learning database integrated with your CRM system? If any of those are missing, adding those features is a great place to start.

Second, you must understand how clean your data is. When a customer calls, do you have their number tied to the right account? How often do you scrub data in your CRM system and repositories for inaccuracies?

Next, compare your outcomes to industry standards. You should be identifying close to 90 percent of customers. If you’re not at that point, try to discover why and add additional automatic identification tools. Auto ID drives self-service success, so you want to be as successful as possible.

Next Steps to Verify Customers with Auto ID

Automatic identification helps makes customer interactions easy and convenient. We’d love to share some of our best practices and help you verify customers more easily and more often. So give us a call at 800-841-9000 or visit us at

Next: 5 Most Important IVR Authentication Best Practices

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