Could you confirm?

You have likely experienced it – you call for something and you are given question after question to confirm your identity. The process is extremely annoying, especially if you have had the account or product for a long time and may not remember some of the details.

Here are tips to make that information confirmation process a bit smoother.

Don’t dwell on it.

This is something the guys at AOL actually do right. Their manual on customer retention (discussed here) actually says not to take too much time with the information confirmation/verification process. Though their intent seems to be to make the call go quicker (as opposed to enhancing the customer service experience), it has the same result.

Make it objective.
The security questions I can’t stand are ones like “Where did you go to high school?”, “What was your first car?” and things of that nature. Those questions aren’t 100% objective and many companies will say you are wrong if you say your first car was a “Ford” instead of the “correct” answer, which could be something like “1998 Ford Focus.” Or for your high school, you could say “JFK High School” instead of “John F. Kennedy Jr. Memorial High School.”

Try and stick to more objective questions like: What is your mother’s maiden name, what are the last four digits of your social security number, what year did you graduate high school, what college did you go to, what year did you get married, etc. Some of the these questions are much more high security than others, but you should get the gist of it.

Don’t be obsessed with details.
Somewhat like the above points. If the answer to the question about what college the customer went to was “Harvard College” and the customer says “Harvard,” accept it. Some systems make you enter in what they say and if it’s not exact, the system will say it’s wrong. Don’t use a system like that and if you have to use a system like that, make it accept partial matches.

Don’t use credit card numbers.
Many people (especially Americans) have lots of credit cards and a common fact about credit cards is their numbers change when they are lost or stolen and they expire. How am I supposed to know what credit card I was using when I ordered my television 5 years ago? Try to avoid the “last four digits of the credit card” question unless the customer has an easy way to check what the company has on file (example: by logging into the account manager) and is able to access such a system (if the customer is calling about their inability to login to the client manager, don’t bother asking about credit card numbers).

Use longer fields.

A good thing to verify is something like an address. Most people don’t move as often as they change or get new credit cards and most people remember their address more than their old credit card numbers.

Consider setting a password.
Consider asking the customer to choose a password they would like to use. Some customers will want to do this, others won’t. Advise them to make the password something that not everyone will guess and is actually secure.

Don’t tell them they are wrong.
Another thing that AOL was actually right about. Do not tell the customer that what they said is wrong. You can spin it different ways, though. Say “I’m sorry, but that’s not what our system is showing as your address. Maybe you have a different address you used – like an office or a second home?” Provide useful information that the customer may not have considered, apologize, and don’t say “Nope! Try again!”

Use common sense and be nice.
Like most things in customer service, if you use common sense and hopefully continue to be nice and friendly, the experience of verifying personal information should be okay.

One Response to “Could you confirm?”

  1. Service Untitled » Bank of America Gets Verification Right - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jan 10, 08 at 5:14 pm

    […] I’ve talked about the importance (and how to) confirm personal details before. The confirmation of personal details is an important part of any customer service experience. Not all companies deal with sensitive information, so it isn’t a necessary part of the experience for all of them, but for many, it is. A company where it is important to verify personal details is a bank. […]