Consumers will abandon online public services after 7 minutes of ID checks: study

Information services provider Experian has revealed that customers are only prepared to spend seven minutes on average undergoing identity verification checks before they abandon NHS, government and other public service transactions.

This new study, which reveals the degree to which lengthy identity and security procedures continue to be a source of annoyance for consumers, comes at a time when the the government is planning to provide digital services to consumers that are straightforward and convenient. From 2014, UK consumers looking to access certain public services online will be able to choose a number of providers, including Experian, to quickly and easily confirm their identity. The new programme is also designed to give individuals quick and simple, real-time access to Government services without the need to provide paper-based proof of name and address.

Nick Mothershaw, Director of Identity & Fraud at Experian, comments: “Identity verification is becoming an increasingly important part of online operations, particularly as the process of dealing with consumers face-to-face is becoming less commonplace. However time-consuming they appear, identity checks are in all our interests, not only protecting businesses from fraud but also individuals.”

He continues: “Customers are looking for a quick, easy procedure when passing online identity checks to access services and we hope this will become a reality with the new government assurance scheme coming into play in 2014  The more straightforward the system, the better this is for both the customer, as well as provider.” 

Experian’s analysis  reveals almost half (45%) of UK adults have backed out of an online transaction after becoming frustrated over the length and complexity of the identity validation and security checks. It identified that of those who have abandoned an internet-based purchase, nearly half (47%) took their custom to a competitor after becoming irritated with the process, one in five (20%) gave up completely, while one in six (17%) tried again at a later date.

Using Mosaic, Experian’s demographic profiling, the survey found that the Elderly Needs group, characteristically pensioners in their 70s, 80s and even 90s who are no longer as physically active as they were, are the most patient, with only 32% having completely left a transaction in the last 12 months. In contrast, the Upper Floor Living group, typically young, single adults on limited incomes, was found to be the least patient with 43% saying they had abandoned one or two deals due to lengthy security checks, and 16 per cent admitting to having done so ‘frequently’.

As more business is conducted online, one in two UK adults believe transactions are becoming increasingly time consuming (49%) and complicated (53%). The Rural Solitude group, typically those living in small, isolated villages with poor access to broadband, were most frustrated, with three quarters (72%) believing verification processes are becoming more complex, significantly higher than the national average.

Tolerance lags for online gambling

While tolerance levels for public sector services were comparatively low, “identity impatience” was greatest in the online gaming environment where consumers will only endure a four minute wait before opting out.  Whilst only a short window of time, this is an increase of one minute on 2011 figures, suggesting we are more forgiving than two years ago. Tolerance levels were also low in the retail sector, with customers only willing to undergo up to five minutes of checks despite the channel’s relative convenience.

More tolerant across financial services and travel

Consumers are, however, far more understanding when it comes to purchasing a mortgage or insurance, with individuals happy to wait approximately 10 minutes and nine minutes respectively.  This degree of tolerance was also similar for transactions across the travel industry, where respondents said they were happy to spend up to nine minutes while their identity was been verified.

Sector tolerance breakdown1

Sector/ industry

Tolerance time 2013

Tolerance time 2011

Mortgages 10 minutes N/A
Insurance 9 minutes 6 minutes
Travel  9 minutes 6 minutes
Online banking 7 minutes 5 minutes
Telecommunications and broadband 7 minutes 5 minutes
NHS 7 minutes N/A
Government/public services 7 minutes N/A
Transport 6 minutes 5 minutes
Retail 5 minutes 4 minutes
Gambling 4 minutes 3 minutes


Nick Mothershaw concluded: “Our research shows that the public sector is at risk of losing users frustrated with timely checks. It is therefore vital for online public service outlets to make sure the transaction process is as fast and simple as possible, without compromising the level of site security, in order to best service consumers. Experian can help businesses optimize the process of identifying who they are dealing with, striking the right balance between security and a good customer experience. Hopefully the 2014 identity assurance programme will ensure the verification process is seamless for this sector.”


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