Voice Biometrics Grows Up

NEW YORK (SpeechTEK 2012)—Millions of people are enrolled in voice biometric systems or solutions that use voiceprints to ensure fraud prevention, and companies that are using such systems are finding additional benefits, including improved customer care and customer satisfaction.

Voice biometrics may seem like the latest shiny new toy for the speech industry, but it has actually been around for quite some time. "The history of voice biometrics lies in forensics and law enforcement dating back to 1958," noted Alexey Khitrov, president of SpeechPro, at SpeechTEK 2012 on Wednesday.

But now voice biometrics is seeing explosive growth beyond those sectors, reaching into industries such as healthcare and finance.

"Here at Nuance, we've seen that the past year has been phenomenal, and we've hit an inflection point," said Brett Beranek, solutions marketing manager at Nuance. "We have over 23 million active voiceprints and have hundreds of deployments worldwide. We've seen financial institutions in particular make the leap in a big way."

At VoiceVault, Julia Webb, executive vice president of sales and marketing, also sees the healthcare industry climbing aboard. The company started focusing on the healthcare arena a little over three years ago and started engaging in big carriers such as Aetna, focusing on the problems they were facing, such as efficiently enrolling applicants for policies. VoiceVault helped companies use voice biometrics to generate legally binding e-signatures over the phone to add security and efficiency to the health insurance application process.

"Traditionally, health insurers are a little behind the times from a technology standpoint, but we really see that they are engaging in voice biometrics. I look at it as a great install base where we can extend the enrolled voiceprints to other applications such as information about benefits or premiums," Webb said. "It's also very relevant right now because of healthcare reform. The healthcare providers we've been talking to are saying, 'How are we going to deal with this major influx of applications from people who are moving policies?'"

Some things to consider in building a recipe for successful deployments include basics such as usability and accuracy.

Additionally, getting stakeholders "to the table early is critical," said Beranek. Providers also need to take into account that there's no a one-size-fits-all fix.

There are also other dividends voice biometrics provides beyond decreased fraud. Beranek points to increased agent satisfaction, reduced average handle time, and increased customer satisfaction.

"Call centers are seeing positive experiences beyond cost savings; we're seeing customer acquisition, retention, cross-selling and upselling," Beranek said.

"It's very interesting when you start building a business case around using voice biometrics as opposed to the guessing games that happen when your knowledge base is to shorten calls just to save money," said Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research.

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