As technology has modernized, so too have customer expectations. We want everything to be faster and easier, with most customers having little patience nowadays for things like confusing login practices.
If a business has several platforms, for example, it can be extremely frustrating to have to use separate logins for every application. Customer Single Sign-On solutions simplify this completely so that users need only remember one set of credentials to access a business’s services. This creates a more frictionless experience and as a result, a happier and more engaged customer base.
In this post, we’re going to answer some key questions, like “What is SSO?” and how it can improve customer experience and the general authentication management on your platforms.
What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?
Single Sign-On is an authentication method that allows users to access multiple applications or websites with just one set of credentials. The most commonly used form of SSO is a social login, like the ones Google and Facebook operate. What we’re talking about here is slightly different though as it’s not connected to a social site, but rather a main corporation that has multiple online platforms.
Many applications offer several services, but having to individually login in for each can be annoying for users. Customer SSO authenticates people for all those services with a single login, creating a more seamless experience overall.
How Does SSO Work for Customers?
You’re probably wondering how this all works, especially from a security perspective. Rest assured though, there is a simple and secure user flow to customer SSO in commercial apps:
First, a user browses to the application or website they want access to. We’ll refer to this as the “Service Provider”.
The Service Provider then sends a token that contains some information about the user, such as their email address, to the SSO system as part of a request to authenticate the user. This SSO system operates as an Identity Provider, which is to say, a centralized point where authorization policies are maintained from.
One of the worries of SSO is how you can get multiple sites or applications to work together when they might have different systems or languages. The Identity Provider is in charge of protocol conversion and is tasked with preventing any issues during the transition from one platform to another. It acts as the middleman, keeping the experience smooth and worry-free.
Using the token sent by the Service Provider, the Identity Provider checks if the user has already been authenticated on another (connected) application. If they have, access will be granted to the Service Provider and the user will skip to step five of this process.
If the user hasn’t already logged in, they will be prompted to do so, and the credentials then checked by the Identity Provider. Login can be done through many different forms, with a simple username and password combination or the added authentication method of a One-Time Password (OTP). At Authgear, we also offer a variety of passwordless features for ease of use and increased security.
After the Identity Provider has validated the credentials provided by the user, it sends a token back to the Service Provider to confirm a successful authentication.
This token is passed through the user’s browser to the Service Provider.
The Service Provider validates the token according to the boundaries set up during the initial configuration between them and the Identity Provider.
The user is granted access to the Service Provider.
This may sound like a lengthy process but for the user, it’s barely a moment. If you’re still asking “How does SSO work?”, the most important aspect to understand is that it makes a single login possible by centralizing user authentication with one Identity Provider that multiple Service Providers (under one company) then link to.
Why Should You Implement SSO for Your Customers?
Implementing customer SSO doesn’t just benefit the users, it also benefits you as the service provider. Here’s how:
Less Friction for Customers
The pandemic brought a noticeable shift to the level of customer experience that users expect online. People are less patient than ever with complicated digital dealings. By simplifying the login process, something people have to do every time they engage with your services, you can start to create a more seamless experience. With customer SSO, authentication is reduced to one set of credentials that can be used at a central login portal so that customers don’t have to fuss with the confusion of multiple logins.
Recent research has also indicated how much customers value cohesiveness when they’re dealing with businesses. SSO directly improves this for companies by centralizing the login process and providing a unified experience across all its offerings.
A smoother experience for the user means a happier customer overall which only reflects better on the service provider. Increasing ease of use in this way also makes it more convenient for users to access your websites and apps which in turn, could increase their overall engagement with these products. The fewer barriers to entry, the more likely a customer will have positive associations with a provider, be willing to use them further, and even recommend them to friends. That can only be good for business.
More Insights for You
A unified login profile doesn’t just create a better user experience, it also helps businesses gather more insights into how users are operating on their platforms. Our CIAM solution at Authgear that provides customer SSO keeps all the user’s data and activities from different applications in one place.
That way, businesses can see the full picture of a user’s behavior on their sites and apps. This kind of accumulated data gives businesses more actionable insights into their customers and ultimately helps them deliver a more personalized experience. It provides a competitive edge that just can’t be ignored.
It’s so much easier to make strong, strategic decisions when you have all the information on how a person is using your different platforms. You’ll be able to see the people who are only engaging with one section of your offerings, how often people tend to engage across the different platforms, and what the overall behavior is of each demographic. That kind of data is marketing gold and can shape business positive improvements and growth going forward.
Single Sign-On Helps Save Money
Managing multiple authentication routes and databases is expensive for businesses with several platforms. Simplifying that to a single sign-on approach reduces those costs drastically.
As much as it makes the lives of your customers easier to have one login, it’s also great for you. That way profiles aren’t being duplicated and everything can be managed from one place. It cuts a huge amount of unnecessary spending and from a managerial perspective, makes things far simpler. A less disjointed system makes it easier to fix errors and implement updates, saving both time and money.
It's not just your IT teams that have to do less when customer SSO is implemented though, your help desks also get a break. You’re far less likely to have irritated customers complaining about forgotten passwords or login issues when there’s only one set of credentials they need to remember. It’s also then much easier to resolve the issue.
It Improves Conversion Rate
Getting people to sign up for not just one service, but multiple, is rarely an easy task. A great incentive however is making things as easy as possible for them to do so. The uncomplicated login process that SSO brings is a surefire way to improve your customer conversion rate, not just for one of your services, but for all your offerings.
By giving people a single login across all your platforms, it encourages them to engage with your services beyond their initial interest. Google has been highly successful in this and leveraged a simple Gmail account login to encourage people to use their other applications such as Google Docs and Drive. Think about all your platforms as rooms in a building – if you make it so that entry into one of those rooms allows a person entry into all of them, they’re far more likely to explore.
SSO is a unique tool in that it helps increase cohesiveness across your platforms so that it’s not just seamless for people to use, but makes it easier to convert customers into users of multiple, if not all, of your services.
Customer SSO Lowers Churn Rate
Annoying login processes can be a major cause of high churn rates. People get irritated and move on quickly if accessing a site or app takes too long or requires too much of them. Customer SSO directly deals with that problem by minimizing the credentials people have to remember.
There’s no annoyance over having to remember multiple passwords or forgetting which one you attached to which service – instead it’s simplified to a single login. There’s no denying how much easier that makes things for users and the extent to which it removes the friction in the login process that often puts people off. In addition, if SSO is implemented along with other passwordless authentication, such as biometric, passkey, etc., the entire login experience will be even smoother.
Password fatigue is a real issue with customers and more often than not, if someone can’t easily access their account, they’ll just move on. Simplifying access to one set of credentials helps to limit that from occurring so frequently.
Easily Implement SSO for Your Customers with Authgear
Implementing customer SSO with Authgear can help create a more seamless and cost-effective experience that keeps users interested and even connects them to more of your services in the process.