May 10th, 2018

Don’t Let Friction Ruin Your Customer Relationship

*This article was originally published on AdAge.com on April 10, 2018.

My family makes time once a week for board game night. We are a competitive bunch, and it certainly shows in our gameplay. Take Battleship, for instance — if one of us is unlucky enough to guess a sector that doesn’t correspond to a ship, you can guarantee that the white “miss” peg will be accompanied by a healthy dose of gloating and trash talking.

In the B2C world, a “miss” is more than just an embarrassment — it has real bottom-line financial and brand implications. A customer calls in using a phone other than the number on their account, and you make them jump through hoops to identify and verify themselves? That’s a white peg. Incorrectly flag a legitimate order as fraudulent and cancel it, as was the case with almost one-third of orders cancelled for suspicion of fraud in North America in 2016? That’s definitely a white peg.

Generally these “misses” spawn from good intentions: businesses engaging in due diligence to protect their customers from fraud. Certainly with the recent spate of high-profile data breaches, not to mention the increasing sophistication of fraudsters, they’d be remiss not to step up their efforts.

But when those good-faith efforts end up compromising the customer experience by adding undue friction to the interaction … well, that’s not good either. The last thing you need is a formerly loyal customer leaving bad reviews or abandoning the purchase out of frustration.

At the heart of this problem is consumer data, both its limits and its ever-fickle nature. Over 35 million Americans change their phone numbers every year — and that’s not even mentioning the constant name, address and carrier changes that quickly put CRM records out-of-date. And even if you have the customer’s record right, it’s still no guarantee that the person on the other end of the interaction is who they say they are — they could have purchased the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from the recesses of the Dark Web, or circumvented Knowledge-Based Authentication (KBA) questions with skillful social engineering.

What’s a brand to do? Will we forever be caught between a rock and a hard place, choosing between keeping customers safe from fraud and keeping the customer experience seamless and ideal?

Fortunately, there is an answer, and it comes in two parts:

1. Know immediately who’s on the other end of every interaction

Want to know a customer when they call in — even if they call in from a different number than usual — so that you can always provide them with the personalized service they crave? Want to ensure you are reaching the person you intended, on the number and device they prefer, in your outbound conversations? It comes down to having more accurate, more complete customer data. It means partnering with an identity specialist, such as Neustar, who works with caller ID and other authoritative sources with direct billing relationships, so you can build a complete and accurate identity graph.

It also means having changes in your customers’ records proactively pushed to you, so the moment their phone number, address or last name changes, your records are updated immediately. That way, the next time they call into your call center, they are greeted with, “Hello Ms. ___, how can we help you today?” instead of a time-wasting, multi-step verification process.

2. Leverage “unspoofable” identity data

Fraud is predicated on fraudsters having access to PII and social-engineering techniques. Mitigating that fraud without consumer friction means adding another layer of “unspoofable” data to your arsenal — consumer data that can’t be spoofed, altered or stolen.

Using unspoofable device data, like phone type, usage, pre-pay flags, reassignment history and Mobile Network Operator (MNO) data, brands can quickly determine if the device a person is using belongs to the person using it, and whether that device is at a high risk of common types of fraud (e.g., phone takeover, reassignment notification, call forwarding, etc.) This means you are able to approve and let through your legitimate customers faster, while holding up high-risk transactions for additional verification steps.

In a more perfect world, brands treat their customers like old friends. Doing so means knowing who they are upfront and being able to trust them when they interact with you. Better identity data is the link to both — improving your customer interactions while protecting your brand and your customers from being taken advantage of by fraudsters. Because that’s what good friends do.

To learn more about Neustar Risk Solutions and everything they have to offer your business, click here.

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