An account code is a series of characters used to identify a client, which might be an individual customer or a corporate entity. Companies often have an in-house way of referring to account codes, such as ‘account number’ or ‘Customer Reference Number’ (CRN).
However, a code may be non-numeric, and this distinguishes the term ‘account code’ from ‘account number’.
An account code will usually be generated automatically by a business as soon as a new customer joins them. They will almost always conform to a set format; for example, UK National Insurance numbers are a type of account code, and they all follow the format AA 11 11 11 A.
This makes it easier to direct customers to their account codes, simply by confirming the format of the information they have.
The Purpose of Account Codes
Account codes are typically used for a variety of practical purposes involved with identifying the customer. Codes are generated for each individual client, which avoids confusion between customers with the same name or other personal details. It also makes it simpler for customers to identify themselves to IVR systems, which are better able to recognise numbers and letters than full names.
Locating clients within a company database is also much easier, as there is no need to clarify spelling or check numerous pieces of information to establish whether the correct customer records are being viewed.
Because the code is generated by the company itself, it is guaranteed not to change, unlike other details such as addresses, phone numbers, or even names.
There is also much less risk to security involved. Personal information and financial details are subject to data protection and PCI compliance. Account codes, however, do not carry a meaningful risk of fraud as they only apply to the customer’s relationship with one institution. This means that they can be provided on correspondence or over the phone without a significant safety concern.
Account codes can also be a part of the process for how customers log in to online services. The increasing need for robust online security practices means that account codes are often part of a two-step verification process. The additional step will usually be a password, a response to a memorable question or a single-use code sent via email or SMS.
Using account codes allows auditors to view customer accounts without viewing any identifying information about the customer such as their age or nationality. This is an important consideration when delivering a fair and consistent service to customers, without the possibility of prejudice or bias.