FROM CALL CENTER TIMES - After 30+ Years, Has The IVR Run Its Course?

by Michael Cutlip, President & CEO, Authoriti

New technologies such as Smart PINs provide stronger security and better CX.

This article was originally published in Call Center Times.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems as we know them have been evolving since the 1980s. While the IVR has been a boon to enterprise efficiency, it is still universally recognized as a frustrating pain to callers. Many callers have shifted to chat for self-service and low risk inquiries just to avoid the IVR maze. Why not eliminate the IVR?

Today, when customers want or need in-person support for riskier transactions, there are faster, safer and far more customer-friendly technologies available that also enable them to avoid the IVR. One of the more exciting developments is in the area of Smart PINs.

Multiple Advantages

Smart PINs are packed with data, offering unparalleled simplicity, security, and resource-efficiency.  As a result, they present a great opportunity for the customer service industry: for contact center operators, for businesses and for their consumers. Smart PINs make life simple for everyone involved in the transaction chain:

  • Simple because Smart PINs work through any channel, whether a call, chat, or online.  

  • Simple because a caller can initiate a call just with a couple taps on their mobile. 

  • Simple because callers are automatically routed to the correct support desk, no more post connection transfers.  

  • Simple because the call center representative knows with certainty who is calling and why they are calling before connecting.  

Most of all, SIMPLE because the IVR and post-connection Knowledge-Based Questions (KBAs) are eliminated. 

Smart PINs are secure because they are user-originated, encrypted and digitally signed before leaving the user’s device. Secure because Smart PINs structurally link the user’s identity to the specific transaction being requested and authorized.  Criminals cannot repurpose a Smart PIN or misuse the caller’s identity.

Sure, removing the IVR and challenge questions greatly enhances customer experience, but it also eliminates significant call time now spent authenticating the caller and authorizing the engagement.  

That efficiency gain extends into the back office, too. Smart PINs automatically provide a high-quality call purpose record without post-call handling. Further, the decentralized Smart PIN platform reduces the complexity (and risk) in central servers by eliminating the stores of live PINs and customer PII targeted by criminals.

How They Are Smart

Let’s take a look at what makes a Smart PIN smart. When we say Smart PINs are packed with data, we mean they literally encompass every aspect of a transaction, in this case a caller into the customer service center. This includes: 

  • Authentication of the customer’s identity and their account data (the ‘who’).

  • The reason for their call (the ‘why’).

  • Authorization of the transaction being requested (the ‘what’).

  • How long the authorization is valid for (the ‘when’).

  • Any geographic restrictions to the transaction (the ‘where’).

When you combine all of this data into a simple PIN, and digitally sign it so that it becomes tamper-proof, the results are profound.  

A Game Changer

But what allows the PIN to have content? Innovation. Smart PINs flip the model and empower the customer to originate secure transaction instructions. No longer does a customer have to receive and return a risky challenge PIN. Since the user is originating the instruction, they can use technology and embed details of the transaction in the PIN.

The Smart PIN is a game-changer.  With content-rich Smart PINs, it’s the message that’s secured - not the channel.  As noted above, Smart PINs can be securely distributed through any channel.  Even if a criminal intercepted a Smart PIN, it only authorizes the specific transaction the originating user intended.  As a result, the man-in-the-middle risk is eliminated since cybercriminals can no longer misuse an identity.  

The STIR/SHAKEN protocol will be required in the US during 2021 (2020 in Canada).  These new procedures will improve caller authentication, but they still leave transaction security at risk because they stop at caller identity. Criminals will still be able to intercept and repurpose that identity to authorize unwanted transactions. Structurally linking the user’s identity to a specific transaction in the form of a Smart PIN provides absolute security for digital transactions.

In short, Smart PINs provide much more than just authentication of the customer – they confirm the customer’s authorization to execute a specific requested transaction.

Breaking Down the Process

Here is how a Smart PIN works for a caller into a business’s customer service center:

  • The customer selects a reason for the call and initiates the call by tapping a one-touch dialer on the screen.

  • Unseen to the customer, the business’s app automatically generates a Smart PIN and forwards it to the validation provider.

  • Upon receiving the incoming call, the business’s telephony system automatically requests the validation provider to check the Smart PIN. 

  • If the Smart PIN passes validation, the identity of the caller and the reason(s) for the call are routed to the customer service representative.

  • By the third or fourth ring, the customer service representative connects to the customer with full confidence of who is on the line and why they are calling. 

Thanks to Smart PIN technology, the call center’s customer-customer service rep engagement can be this concise and efficient after connection:

[rep] “Thank you for calling today Mrs. Smith. I see you need to change your address.  I’d be delighted to help you with that.”

  [customer] “Thank you.”

  [rep] “OK. What is your new address?

  [customer] “The new address is 123 ABC Street, Anywhere USA”

  [rep] “Great. I’ve updated your address in our system. Is there anything else I can assist you with today?”

Improved Customer Experience

As you can see, this scenario plays out with a massive improvement in customer experience over IVR-based routing, and with stronger security.  Less time is spent proving who someone is, with more focus on what the customer wants to do.  

For call centers operators looking to enhance customer experience and improve security, the cloud-native Smart PIN platform comes with another big benefit. Implementation is easy.

IVR technology has served its role well these past few decades, and there remains a place for IVRs in some scenarios.  However, new technologies and solutions have emerged now that can enhance the efficiency of your call center, the security of the data, and the experience of the customer. Consider Smart PINs.

Michael Cutlip is the President & CEO of The Authoriti Network, Inc.


The Authoriti Network was founded in 2017 to create new ways of preventing identity theft, fraud, and misuse of data.  Our founders have significant leadership experience dealing with InfoSec at-scale in the world's leading financial institutions.  Authoriti develops the Permission Code® platform, which uses customer-originated Smart PINs to give businesses the confidence that every transaction is authorized.      


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