Imagine how friends would feel if you asked them to prove who they were every time you saw them or when they called you or sent a simple text. Even though their relationships can span decades, many businesses treat customers like veritable strangers and ask for identification at every encounter. Instead of recognition, many businesses offer friction — especially in regard to how they manage their customers’ identities.
Authentication is often an early and frequent point of friction for users due to cumbersome and frustrating login processes. Forgotten passwords lead to extra time wasted on answering security questions or waiting for one-time passwords. Users who move between channels often may have to reverify across different applications or devices, offsetting the convenience of multiple touch points. And despite widespread use, passwords increasingly put users and businesses at risk. According to the 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report (via CSO), 81% of hacking-related breaches involved stolen or weak passwords.
It’s not as though businesses are blind to the need for better processes for authenticating users. Even Microsoft wants to be free of passwords. Yet many organizations are stuck in the mindset that good security means an unavoidably clunky CX and that adding steps and difficulty to your login process somehow means more secure data. Honestly, additional security steps are not only annoying for your customers — they may not be making your company any more impenetrable to malicious attacks. When 35% of people never change their passwords, requiring even more effort from them isn’t a sound security strategy; it’s a silly one. Authenticating users with friction-full processes is not only frustrating, but it can also make it less likely that customers will follow best security practices.
Gritting your teeth and hoping that your customers will stick around despite a poor UX is not a smart, successful, or secure digital strategy. What is? Deploying processes that remove friction and enhance the customer experience while simultaneously securing it.
Make the customer journey as effortless as possible to show that you value your relationship with each customer — and their data. Below are four questions to consider as you evaluate an authentication strategy that reduces friction, increases security and creates a better overall user experience for your customers:
1. Are you securing customers across every channel? Digital channels have expanded beyond websites and mobile applications as customers choose to communicate through interfaces like chatbots, virtual assistants and messaging apps. But simply offering a variety of customer touch points isn’t enough if users are forced to switch channels to access their personal information or conduct secure transactions. Ensure your authentication strategy includes seamless security that allows customers to stay in their channel of choice.
2. Are you still using passwords as your primary authentication method? Aside from the security risk of protecting data with passwords, which are compromised regularly in breaches and phishing scams, I’ve found that passwords are unwieldy and frustrating for users. Too often, time-consuming authentication and password recovery steps simply make the user experience even worse. Industry giants like Microsoft (through Windows Hello) and Samsung have incorporated voice, face, fingerprint and behavioral biometrics (some of which my company offers, but others do as well) to identify users and transfer the burden of identity verification from the user to technology. (Full disclosure: My company provides technology for the Samsung SDS Digital Identity Platform.) Consider whether your authentication system is either enhancing or adding effort to the user experience. If it’s not making it easy, evaluate where you can improve.
3. Are you exposing your customers to unnecessary risk? The rise of social engineering threats and hacking attacks means that knowledge-based authentication and certain multifactor authentication approaches can actually make your customers more vulnerable. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently released a warning about social engineering in hacking attempts. Vast troves of personal data are already publicly available on the internet or dark web, which gives fraudsters access to likely passwords or security question answers. And AI and technological advances could enable more sophisticated hackers to impersonate faces and voices. Examine your authentication processes to see if you’re using verification information that a tenacious hacker could find with a quick Google search or Facebook profile scan. If so, explore alternative information that isn’t as vulnerable to fraud.
4. Can we better balance convenience and security? It’s a common misperception that higher security requires more authentication hoops for users to jump through. Security and convenience aren’t either-or choices — they’re both-and choices. Look at exactly what you’re requiring from users at every step, as it may be that the extraneous effort you think is bolstering security is actually dissuading users from following best practices.
No business can afford to ignore that user expectations for fast, frictionless interactions are only going to increase. Convenient customer interaction is no longer something only first adopters are experimenting with, but table stakes in today’s digital environment. Consider how you can forge a better relationship with your customers, starting with seamlessly, simply and securely recognizing them in the first place.
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