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Safaricom introduces voice ID to access services

Jitambulishe heralds a new smart era for customer care and will protect against identify theft



The customer’s voice patterns are captured and used to create a unique “voiceprint” (similar in concept to a fingerprint), storing it as a secure string of numbers and characters.

MMobile operatir Safaricom has introduced a dynamic voice biometrics system that will enable customers to access services through a quicker and less intrusive vetting process.

Safaricom’s Voice Biometrics system known as Jitambulishe allows customers to use their voices for authentication before accessing assisted services such as resetting M-PESA PIN, and PUK requests, significantly cutting down the steps a customer goes through before they are assisted. The use of a unique voiceprint for enrolled customers will further reduce fraud and identity theft.

To be functional, a pre-recorded registration process will be done. The encryption process will ensure no reverse engineering can be used to hack into the system and pose as another person. Voice recordings are not stored – which means Safaricom’s usual strict protection of customer data is upheld.

“We are redesigning our customer care approach to remain in line with shifting trends in the market and to take advantage of emerging technologies. The introduction of Voice Biometrics will be a major step towards reducing fraud and identity theft, providing us with ways to serve our customers even better.” said Joseph Ogutu, Director – Strategy, Safaricom.

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To activate the service, the customer’s voice patterns are captured and used to create a unique “voiceprint” (similar in concept to a fingerprint), storing it as a secure string of numbers and characters. These attributes help identify and verify callers when they call for customer care.

“Our contact centre agents spend a greater portion of their call time verifying customers over phone. The introduction of this service will ensure that customers get faster and more accurate services. We anticipate that the number of fraud incidents shall also reduce as a result,” said Mr. Ogutu.

Operating the biggest customer care operation in Eastern Africa, Safaricom call centres receive over 300,000 calls a day.

Over the last few years, the company has progressively invested in technology solutions that has improved the level of service provided to consumers.

A few years ago, the company upgraded their technical infrastructure to be able to accommodate even more customers at their call centres. Now over 50% of customers are getting through to customer care agents within 20 seconds. Safaricom has leveraged on digital channels to provide round the clock service to their customers online.

The company has also embarked on an aggressive capacity expansion plan to boost the number of call centre agents in order to enhance their ongoing customer care initiatives.

In addition to customer care services, Safaricom will also offer its products and services through the Voice Biometrics system. The first service to be made available on this system is the recently launched M-PESA for the Visually Impaired solution. By dialling 100 or 234, visually impaired customers can identify themselves by their voices before having their M-PESA balances read out to them. Safaricom plans to gradually introduce more M-PESA services through the system.

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