Dort Financial Credit Union Cuts Hold Times by 58% and Escalations by 65% with Voice Authentication


Dort Financial Credit Union serves members across the state of Michigan and is a known and trusted name in communities across the state. As a new generation of credit union members joins the Dort family, the organization is committed to finding fresh ways to use technology to improve the experience of its entire membership.


Like many credit unions, Dort was hit hard by the closure of local branches during the COVID shutdown. Dan Gatfield, VP of Operations, spoke of the pressure this placed on the contact center team.

“We were consistently hitting or exceeding performance and production targets in our call center. Then, the pandemic happened, and the call center took a hit due to high call volume, and our call times and hold times reached unacceptable levels. We needed two to three times our existing headcount to handle it, but hiring was virtually at a standstill.”

For members who were used to being recognized at their local branch, the more impersonal experience of talking to a different agent by phone each time they called could be frustrating.

According to call center manager Terri Evans, “A lot of members who called often felt like we should know who they were. They would get offended when we asked them to go through the identity verification process. So, it was hard to go from authentication to a great member experience because they’re already upset.”

Even worse, if a member didn’t remember the correct answers to security questions, they would have their account blocked for 24 hours. This strict fraud prevention measure was put in place as a response to a rash of recent account takeover attempts. As an unintended side effect, it caused significant friction and distress for members who accidentally failed the questions. The verification process was untenable.

“With traditional authentication, it was taking members much too long to get through verification for even the simplest phone calls. All of those things combined were leading down the wrong path as far as member experience on the phone.”

Dan Gatfield, VP of Operations at Dort FCU


Needing a quick solution to hiring shortages, security risks, and member complaints, Dort identified voice verification to solve several interconnected challenges at once. When the team spoke with other credit unions already using Illuma’s voice authentication software, the decision was easy.

Mike Anderson, VP of Information Systems, headed up the technology due diligence. “We had heard about the successful deployment at another large credit union and began the evaluation process. It checked out from a security and performance perspective.”

Illuma Shield™ works by capturing a short voice sample from a member speaking to an agent (with the member’s permission). An algorithm creates a secure biometric AudioPrint™ upon member enrollment that is stored in the system and used to verify the member’s identity during future calls.

Because Illuma Shield™ is designed as a passive authentication method, it works in the background of a conversation rather than requiring a member to repeat a specific phrase or remember any information. Verification takes less than 15 seconds and is not vulnerable to any current fraud techniques.


Anderson appreciates the fact that Illuma made the project easy for his team. “We don’t have all the resources that maybe another credit union would, but Illuma worked with us step by step through the whole thing. When it came time to flip the switch on go live day, they were right there with us. So, it was a very smooth process for us.”

Unlike many other digital transformation initiatives, adding voice verification with Illuma required only limited part time effort from IT resources spread over just one week for a speedy and successful roll out.

“It integrated seamlessly with our new call center software. Deployment went as planned. Illuma Labs worked at our pace. All the technical calls were productive and beneficial. It was a breeze to set up.”

Mike Anderson, VP of Information Systems at Dort FCU

From the call center operations standpoint, having a trustworthy partner was essential. According to Evans, “I think it’s been one of my best experiences as far as working on a project. A lot of times, once you sign up for something and pay for it, you don’t always get what’s promised to you. Illuma stood behind what they said and delivered what they promised.”

Call center agents tasked with enrolling members and using the verification system report highly positive responses. From Caleb Duffield, “I had a member thank me the other day. She said she loved it as it made it quick for her transaction and balance inquiry over the phone.” Members are noticing that Dort Financial Credit Union is keeping up technology when it comes to providing the best experience.

Evans said the leadership team at Dort was also dealing with fewer complaints. “Escalations went down 65%. Most of those escalations had been from members not being able to get verified. We would have to lock an account if the member got their security answers wrong.”

Team member Stefanie Richter appreciates the ability to serve members better without rushing through calls. “I’m enthusiastic about the amount of time it saves. Sometimes, serving the member effectively requires a longer call. The voice verification helps to keep my overall call duration down so I can take my time with the members who require more assistance.”

After a successful rollout and healthy initial enrollment, the credit union is moving forward fast with getting members involved and protected with biometric voice verification. Gatfield and the Dort team are looking forward to growing Illuma Shield™ adoption across their member base. “We couldn’t be happier with the relationship. Our numbers are improving over time, and more than 22,000 members have enrolled in the first six months.”

Key Benefits

  • Over 22,000 member accounts enrolled in voice authentication in the first 6 months
  • 88% reduction in verification time (down to 14 seconds)
  • 65% reduction in escalations
  • 58% reduction in hold/wait times
  • Over 30% reduction in average call time
  • Zero account takeovers
  • Reduction in liability and preservation of brand reputation


“Our traditional authentication process was averaging 90 seconds. But because we were doing a more stringent security Q&A in response to an increase in fraud attempts, our average increased to nearly two minutes to authenticate members. Now it only takes 14.5 seconds to authenticate a member who has opted into the program. So that’s been great. Obviously, that affects hold times. It affects abandonment rate. All those things that we were struggling with, we’ve seen these things turn around thanks to the voice authentication piece.”

Dan Gatfield, Dort FCU VP of Operations

“We went from 5-minute average wait times down to just 2 minutes 6 seconds. So, it cut more than half our wait time because we are getting people through verification a lot faster. Our average call time was lingering around the 7-to-8-minute mark and now it’s down to 5 minutes 23 seconds”

Terri Evans, Dort FCU Call Center Manager