Knowledge-based authentication has never been a highlight of over-the-phone customer service, yet it’s a critical component. Before you can support a customer, you have to be able to pull up her records and prove that she is who she says she is.
Typically, we see over-the-phone authentication take the form of silly security questions: “Before we begin, can you please provide your billing zip code, your date-of-birth, and your mother’s maiden name?”
Not only are these questions an additional obstacle between your customers and your business, but they’re also downright insecure: Anyone can find most of these answers with a quick Google search or by browsing your Facebook timeline. (Remember when Sarah Palin’s email was hacked after someone googled the city where she met her husband? Or when Paris Hilton was locked out of her T-Mobile account after someone typed in her dog’s name?)
Some organizations have started to move away from security questions and toward a simple form of two-factor authentication, where the organization will send the customer a code via text containing a unique code or one-time password that the customer can use to prove their identity, essentially moving from a model of “what you know” to “what you have.” While this form of authentication is considered superior to knowledge-based authentication, it still doesn’t do much to change the call center’s reputation as the weakest link in the authentication chain, thanks to increasingly clever hackers employing techniques like SIM card swapping.
Thankfully, self-sovereign identity (SSI) is offering a much-needed alternative. Using verifiable credentials, SSI gives customers a more secure, privacy-respecting way to prove their identity, while giving organizations higher confidence in knowing with whom they are communicating.
The result is a trusted connection between organizations and their customers. For the first time, organizations can authenticate their customers without security questions and in a fraction of the time it typically takes, so that they can get back to what really matters—providing an exceptional customer experience. And consumers can now interact over private, secure lines that they trust and control.
And today, we’re proud to announce a new partnership with HearRo to help take this technology to call centers and brands around the world.
A California-based startup, HearRo has already made significant traction in the space and is well suited to leverage the founders’ 20+ years of communications technology and contact center design experience in order to tackle the massive $481B call center market.
As part of the partnership, HearRo has joined Evernym’s Early Access Program, which offers organizations a fast-track to SSI innovation and product development. The program now counts 60 members worldwide, including well-known brands like Barclaycard, Irish Life, and CULedger.
“Most existing phone, chat and messaging systems built for call centers are surprisingly out of date and behind the times. When we call customer service, we have to endure a seemingly endless cycle of menu options, waiting on hold, repeating information, transfers and starting over,” commented HearRo founder and CEO Vic Cooper. “We’re here to change all of that and make the support experience start and end on a positive note.”
“We’ve known for a while that call center authentication is an incredible use case for self-sovereign identity, and the technology is ready to make this a reality today,” added Evernym’s VP Sales & Marketing, Nick Ris. “We’re excited to work with Vic and the team at HearRo to take this technology to market and further demonstrate SSI’s role in transforming the customer experience.”
At the same time, the opportunity in front of HearRo goes far beyond authentication. SSI gives us the protocols and infrastructure to create an entirely new channel for peer-to-peer communications—one that is truly private and secure. Both parties (whether it’s a customer and a business, two businesses, two individuals, or even an individual and her smart home devices) will be able to immediately verify who’s on the other end of that communication and foster a relationship rooted in trust.
Earlier this year, HearRo was one of five startups accepted into the first cohort of the SSI Incubator, a startup accelerator facilitating the creation of the next generation of SSI-based companies. The company has also helped advance the DIDComm spec for communication using decentralized identifiers (DIDs), integrating the spec with WebRTC earlier this year.