BlockChain

BlockChain

If your business has anything to do with customers, the processes it follows to sell to them, market to them or share information with them could be radically transformed by blockchain.
Blockchain is a technology that holds the potential to revolutionize the way we all do business, far beyond its potential to change financial transactions. Enterprises everywhere seem to think so too:

  • 90% of North American and European banks are exploring blockchain technology
  • Nasdaq is piloting a blockchain-powered private market exchange
  • IBM and Comcast Ventures are backing a fund for blockchain startups
  • Gartner predicts the total business value-add of blockchain to reach $3.1 trillion by 2030


That might sound intimidating. But blockchain has enormous potential to change customer experience for the better – improving access for disadvantaged customers, making businesses more accountable, and increasing security in all kinds of business-customer interactions.

Here are some conventional processes that customer service functions perform now, and how blockchain could transform them in the future

Sending and Receiving Payments

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies use the blockchain to send money from one person to another. It’s a secure yet transparent system that operates with no need for a central bank, allowing strangers to transact without needing a third party to oversee the transaction.

Our modern banking systems are not perfect. Clearing and identity checking takes time. International payments can take a long time and usually come with high fees. Customers who are disadvantaged or disabled may not have a bank account or be able to get to a bank.
Payments made through blockchain technology could cut out these banking-related issues, letting money move freely between businesses and their customers, with no banks or payment processors needing to act as middleman. It could cut payment processing times to minutes (in some cases, from days or weeks), and completely revolutionize processes such as clearing. In fact, change is already happening – Mastercard opened up its own blockchain as an alternative payment method.

Sending and Receiving PRODUCTS

The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting bigger, and this technology combined with blockchain could allow for massive improvements in how customers pay for and receive products.

Customers commonly complain when they have paid for a product or service that they haven’t received. Those complaining customers are the tip of the iceberg of problems with dispatch and receipt of products – for every customer who complains, 26 remain silent. Those 26 customers are opportunities lost for businesses, as rather than highlighting service problems and giving companies a chance to improve on them, those customers just walk away.
For example, IBM’s Watson IoT blockchain offerings allow for goods to be tracked along each point of a supply chain, with information about the status of a package updating via GPS as it moves, and payments being released when each section of a transaction is verified as having been completed smoothly. Holding this information in the blockchain means that neither party needs to prove the delivery status of a package if it goes astray – the transaction’s status is an objective truth held within the blockchain.
In future, businesses could even have the capability to take customer funds only when a product has been verified on the blockchain as received by the customer.
This new technology gives us all the opportunity to rethink traditional business processes from their roots, eliminating business liabilities and making all kinds of processes fairer for customers as well.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has caused customers everywhere to question who holds their data, and why.
We’re all living in a new age of data insecurity and mistrust. Blockchain technology could act as the antidote to this consumer skepticism, as the decentralization of customer data could usher in radically open, more transparent customer relationships – becoming the next big differentiator for businesses.

Smart Contracts

Using the blockchain, contractual obligations can be tied to specific actions through an “If/Then” model. These actions can trigger when contractual conditions are verified through the blockchain as having been met or not met.

For example, imagine that a customer signs a contract with a cable firm. The cable firm agrees to have service available by a specific date. The transaction is held in a smart contract and recorded on the blockchain. If service is not delivered by the specified date, the customer gets a refund. Or if service is set up on or before the specified date, payment is taken from the customer, and the service begins.

Because the transaction is verified publicly and cannot be altered or tampered with, all parties are held to their contractual obligations and action can automatically be taken if they are not met.
Real distress can be caused to customers when companies don’t keep to their side of a bargain. The burden of proof often rests on the customer to chase, discuss, persuade and fight for compensation. When things go seriously wrong, cases often get referred to third parties such as complaints teams (or even consumer affairs regulators) who are needed to verify claims of contractual wrongdoing and put situations right – a layer of operations that’s often resource-heavy and complicated to administer.

But with smart contracts automating the consequences of contractual non-compliance, third parties and complex processes become unnecessary. The time and effort required to put situations right can be reduced, while leveling the power imbalance between customers and businesses. It also helps companies with great processes gain competitive advantage, especially when compared to companies who seem to only stay in business from making it prohibitively difficult for their customers to complain.

Customer Record Keeping

We’ve all heard horror stories of companies who have failed to keep customer data safe. Whether it’s personally identifiable information, passwords, sensitive health records or even information that reveals political preferences, businesses and customers everywhere are rightfully concerned about the security of customer data.

As it stands, customers have to trust that companies only hold information about them that’s reasonable and proportionate when in reality, that might not always be the case. Not to mention that each time customers hand over their personal information to businesses, it puts them at risk of identity theft.
By using systems to store customer identity information on the blockchain, with that data secured in an encrypted form that customers can disclose as they choose, businesses wouldn’t need to hold the personal information necessary for customers to pass data security checks. Companies wouldn’t have to worry about keeping that data safe, clean or compliant as it won’t be held internally, and customers won’t have to worry about excessive or unsafe personal information being held by companies.

For example, Factom intends to use blockchain to store healthcare records such as medical bills and patient-physician communications. The nature of blockchain-based records means that this information can be simultaneously secured through cryptography while ensuring that records made can never be tampered with.
In future, businesses could even have the capability to take customer funds only when a product has been verified on the blockchain as received by the customer.
This new technology gives us all the opportunity to rethink traditional business processes from their roots, eliminating business liabilities and making all kinds of processes fairer for customers as well.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has caused customers everywhere to question who holds their data, and why. We’re all living in a new age of data insecurity and mistrust. Blockchain technology could act as the antidote to this consumer skepticism, as the decentralization of customer data could usher in radically open, more transparent customer relationships – becoming the next big differentiator for businesses.
Blockchain has the potential to act as a guarantee seal used by businesses for customers fair treatment. Blockchain could allow businesses to demonstrate transparency and core values of security, fairness, and equality.

Customer Experience professionals need to be aware of the huge potential of this technology. Forbes and Fortune magazines are predicting blockchain will literally change the world, propelled by blockchain venture initiatives from some of the world’s most prominent and influential businesses.

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