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Supercharge Your IVR To Win Customers

A Handy Guide for Regional Banks and Credit Unions 

Takeaways From the Report

Consumers have lots options and plenty of new opportunities to save and spend. Why should they choose to bank with you?

This report combines the contact center experiences during 2020 with emerging trends to provide the strategies and tactics your business needs to:  

  • Deliver a personalized call experience in the IVR without a massive budget 
  • Avoid KBAs and OTPs that frustrate customers, without compromising security
  • Act quickly to win customers now, and recognize early returns from your IVR investment  


COVID Changed The Contact Center

While the financial fallout from COVID-19 may have sent the US economy into a pandemic-induced hibernation in 2020, Americans woke this Spring to low interest rates, lower unemployment, new stimulus checks, and widely-accessible vaccinations. This may explain why consumer confidence, borrowing, and spending are also trending up. Meanwhile, gains in the stock market are encouraging many Americans to invest (some for the first time), while others are taking the opportunity to relocate, renovate, or refinance. In short, signs suggest that we are ‘back in business.’


Perhaps eager to make up for lost time, consumers are also actively shopping for financial institutions that can best enable their plans. In fact, 60% of consumers report that they are more interested in saving, investing, or getting a loan today than they were just one year ago.1 And with so many choices, they may not need to compromise.


To complicate matters, when we looked at reported age demographics, one fact immediately stood out: millennials—a historically challenging demographic for local banks, regional banks, and credit unions–are the least likely age group to bank exclusively with these organizations (32%).1 This should motivate these financial institutions to create offerings that allow them to capitalize on the broader opportunity at hand and win business from an elusive cohort.


Today, earning business can hinge on delivering a personalized, frictionless experience, and every phone call is a new first impression. With 34% of consumers saying their experiences when calling their bank are “just OK”, and an additional 14% saying it is “slow and frustrating”, many of these impressions could be memorable for the wrong reasons.1 When it comes to standing out in a crowded banking market, the IVR can play a big role in making, or breaking, the customer experience. This Industry Snapshot reviews the lessons learned in 2020 and offers suggestions for designing efficient and resilient contact center IVR to meet customer expectations today and prepare for what may lie ahead.

1 Beantown Media Ventures, LLC, 2020, Consumer Banking Today


A Year in Review

Immediately following the onset of the pandemic, many financial institutions experienced a surge in call volume.1  Whether anxiously looking for loan forbearance, inquiring about stimulus checks, and for everything in between, the resulting influx of calls caught many contact centers off guard and ill-equipped to maintain service levels and customer expectations. The challenges were many:

1 Beantown Media Ventures, LLC, 2020, Consumer Banking Today

2 Pindrop Security, Inc., 2021, Voice Intelligence & Security Report

The IVR can create opportunities to add efficiency to contact center operations. But, the increase in sensitive, stressful, or impactful issues related to COVID often resulted in more customers wanting to speak with agents directly. For contact centers already stretched thin, this often translated into longer call hold and handle times. These, of course, can add cost to operations that rely on efficiency.
Almost overnight, agent stations in physical contact centers were required to be socially distanced, or else transitioned to remote work. While many contact center operations already supported at least some WFH agents pre-COVID, many had to scramble overnight to solve the logistical challenges associated with rapid change.
Perhaps preoccupied with alleviating the friction for pandemic-weary customers, contact centers may have relaxed security in ways that benefited fraudsters. Allowing customers to access information or self-service in the IVR is a great way to save time, money, and frustration. But, fraudsters can use those same conveniences to advance their schemes, too. And it appears that they are trying: A recent Pindrop Report found that fraud calls at the agent level happen in 1 out of every 1,074 calls. But in the IVR, 1 in 40 calls were classified as risky.2 This discrepancy suggests that criminals may prefer to avoid agents whenever possible, and the IVR could be just the ticket. 32% of consumers we surveyed reported that they would switch banks after only 1-2 poor customer service experiences.1
Maintaining service and operational standards were challenged by the instant need to send agents home. But, how do they perform with only one screen when they typically use three? Or access sensitive systems without a VPN? Do home Wi-Fi networks meet security requirements? And how is staff trained and updated on changing policies and procedures? Many contact centers had to confront these issues without much time to prepare to adapt.
Agents, especially well-trained ones, were in high demand and hard to come by. In addition, stay-at-home orders began impact the way that customers called businesses: With more flexible schedules, or perhaps now left without work, many individuals were free to make phone calls throughout the day. The unpredictable shifts in calling patterns challenged some staffing plans designed for “normal” circumstances.
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Want to learn how fraudsters got away with millions during the pandemic?


A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Pindrop, October 2020 asked 259 global fraud detection and prevention decision-makers across security and risk, fraud, IT, contact center support, finance, and business roles to share their thoughts on fraud during COVID.


stated that fraudsters are using the IVR for account mining and reconnaissance activities and many stated those numbers are still growing.1


are seeing new types of fraud in the contact center.1


say fraudsters are using the IVR for account mining or reconnaissance.1


say fraud attacks in the call center increased.1


say the impact of fraud on their bottom line has increased.1

Unfortunately, very few of the brands represented strongly agree that they have a good handle on their current fraud situation:



have a good understanding of how fraud is started and perpetrated throughout the CC.2



can discover and stop fraud in real-time with a high degree of confidence and accuracy.2

Fraud in the IVR is a growing trend, and one that brands should be considering even if it is not familiar territory.

1Forrester Opportunity Snapshot: A Custom Study Commissioned by Pindrop, November 2020

2Pindrop Security, Inc., 2021, Voice Intelligence & Security Report

Equip your credit union or regional bank with the latest contact center strategies, tools, and best practices.


Key Takeaways to Prepare Contact Centers for the Future

While a lot has changed since the beginning of the crisis in March 2020, the long-term impact of COVID on the contact center remains to be seen. For instance, despite some positive trends, not everyone is benefiting from the recently favorable economic conditions:


Foreclosures Increase

Some estimates forecast at least 200,000 loan defaults in 2021 and a 70% increase in foreclosures over the subsequent two years.


Gotten worse

Fifty-one percent of Americans also reported that their financial situation had gotten worse during the crisis.

So, it is important to recognize that the recent, welcomed surge of activity from eager customers may simply run in parallel to anxiety fueled spikes in call volume from less fortunate individuals looking for help managing their circumstances. Regardless of a caller’s disposition, call volume is up and providing exceptional service remains as important as ever to keeping customers and gaining new ones.


In the early days of COVID, many brands managed higher call traffic by opting for automation during authentication. This was an effective way to:

  • Save time for customers by allowing self-service in the IVR whenever possible.
  • Reduce the bandwidth required of agents to help lessen hold times when call traffic surged unexpectedly.
  • Avoid frustration for callers and agents by reducing the reliance on tools like knowledge-based questions (which fraudsters can routinely answer correctly), and one-time passcodes that add active steps to make customers feel like criminals.


Automation can also bring new security risks. Making things easier for customers frequently made things easier for criminals, too. The urgency to solve important issues without delay and the constantly changing calling or buying patterns already made it difficult for businesses to identify criminals from customers. Fraud strategies made it even harder:

  • Spoofing is used to trick the IVR into thinking a customer’s phone number is calling. This opens the door to confirm account information before speaking with an agent, or worse, authenticating an identity.
  • Social engineering obtained sensitive information directly from individuals or agents, then used that information in real time to complete the fraud event.
  • Data obtained from security breaches helped to provide answers to Knowledge- Based security questions throughout the call process.


Prioritizing the Balance Between CX and Security

With estimates that Americans have already lost $382 million to fraud, including a skyrocketing rates of Identity Theft, it’s likely that the threat will continue for some time to come. However, for any potential vulnerabilities, it may create, automation during authentication is a vital part of delivering the experience customers expect. A recent survey conducted by Next Caller underscores this point:


of consumers

believe brands are equally responsible for providing flexible and accommodating customer service and protecting personal information and accounts from fraud.1

Striking a balance between security and service is paramount. Prioritizing the following suggestions will help keep customers safe and build brand loyalty in the process:

  • Make Authentication Passive. This means removing active steps for callers to confirm their identity. Automating also helps to avoid the friction created by knowledge-based questions and one-time passcode while saving time in the process.
  • Use ANI Validation to Fortify Security. ANI Validation confirms that an incoming call is coming from the device that actually owns the telephone number. In other words, the call is not being spoofed. This is important to maximize customers who experience a more seamless experience, without rolling the red carpet out to impersonators.
  • ANI Match. Once you can trust that the number showing on the caller ID is real, automatically connect that number with a customer’s account whenever possible. This allows you to personalize the experience, increase the options for self-service to make customers happy and reduce agent caseload, and reduce the cost per call by saving handle time. It will also make life easier for agents who have to ask fewer questions before getting down to business.
  • Design Authentication on a Spectrum. Not all transactions are created equal. For low-risk calls like checking on the status of an application or a service ticket, a lightweight authentication process is ideal. For higher-risk transactions more prone to fraud like transferring funds or opening accounts, a multi-factor authentication process will be necessary. Outline every action that would be eligible for self-service, and allow those transactions in the IVR when callers pass ANI validation and ANI match.

1Next Caller, Inc. 2020, COVID, Fraud, and CX Report (Weeks 11-26)

Want the PDF version of this report?

Additional Resources

Anatomy of an IVR Fraud Attack & Lessons Learned

Fraudsters are using the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to steal identities and takeover accounts.

A Mystery Shopper’s Guide to Contact Center Authentication

Aite set out on a mystery shopping journey to figure out how call centers are authenticating callers. They placed several mystery calls into financial institutions’ call centers and tested multiple use cases. They made observations about how each call center responded to their queries, how they felt after each call and whether or not their goals were accomplished.


One-Time Passwords (OTPs) were created to help enhance security, as they can protect you from an identity theft attack. OTPs can take the form of automatically generated numbers that are sent to your cell phone or specific text/word strings that the user needs to recite in order to capture their voice sample.

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