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by Chandra Surbhat, Vice President & Global Head – Connected Customer Experience, Business Application Services, Wipro Limited

Investments by brands in driving unique, personalised, consistent and seamless experiences for customers across all interactions, touch points and channels, has certainly increased speed and convenience for customers. With the exponential increase in customers’ appetite to demand a better-connected experience, brands must stay relevant by adopting the next wave of disruption. Organisations are investing more to drive this further – by reimagining their business process to harness machine learning, leveraging augmented and virtual reality, digital assistants, conversational interfaces that mimic natural human interactions.

Chandra Surbhat
Chandra Surbhat

Despite adopting these technologies, however, trust still needs to be built over the course of generations and is lost quickly in the case of any negative situations. Blockchain holds the potential to shape the future of the connected customer experience, helping brands to build, accelerate and sustain trust with their customers, while significantly transforming speed and convenience. Particularly as GDPR rolls in, blockchain has become more important than ever as it secures information and data on behalf of the customer. Most of all, in an economy that depends on the customer experience, blockchain holds the key to disrupting almost every industry.

Blockchain: why it will change the system

Data is the hottest commodity of the digital world, but the “virtual” individual is owned by intermediaries. Every interaction with a bank, a government, or social media leaves behind a trail of crumbs which the individual cannot control or own. With blockchain, an individual will be able to only share information necessary to receive the service, and in future the individual’s information moves from being a free commodity to an asset which the individual controls and monetises.

GDPR has created an opportunity and necessity for organisations to drive more trust with their employees. Today, large organisations have over 100 processes sharing employee data with third-party organisations with no transparency with their employees. Through blockchain, organisations can drive transparency on information-sharing and provide an option to consent or revoke consent placing the individual in control of the way their personal identifiable information is shared or managed.

Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties directly with no central node, accomplishing this efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Each party would have access to the entire database and its complete history as well as the ability to verify any records without an intermediary.

Once a transaction is entered in the database and the accounts are updated, the records cannot be altered.Various algorithms and approaches are deployed to ensure that the recording on the database is permanent, chronologically ordered, and available to all others on the network.

How does blockchain work in the banking world?

Banks are known to use ledgers to maintain a database of every account transaction. They work as a trusted entity to supervise and check the authenticity of a transaction, simultaneously updating the ledger so that people can trade without any concern about frauds.These ledgers, however, are centralised and black-boxed. Blockchain decentralises the same record-keeping functionality by creating an ecosystem wherein a ledger is distributed across a network, and is updated as and when a transaction takes place.The updating of the ledger is managed through a consensus algorithm, thereby maintaining its authenticity.

With every contract, transaction, payment, agreement, process, task digitised that is protected from tampering, deletion and shared with all, blockchain will drive trust, speed and convenience by eliminating the need of intermediaries, banks, lawyers, brokers etc.

VAST: How to test blockchain’s impact

Speed, convenience and trust also form the key elements of the framework used to evaluate the addition of initiatives such as blockchain to drive a connected customer experience (CCX). This framework, VAST, stands for Value creation, Authenticity, Simplify and Time. Blockchain can be tested through the VAST framework to evaluate the relevance and impact of its initiative for a connected customer experience.

  • Value creation

Blockchain has enabled IT to move from the transmission of pure information to the transmission of value. An asset on blockchain will help unleash its value and enables customers to buy, and settle transactions without intermediaries.

Imagine a music company or song writer chooses to put their composition or copyright on blockchain. Now once these assets are put on blockchain, customers can easily trade with complete trust. Through blockchain the musicians and song writers can get paid directly by their fans and get better monetary value for musicians while providing instant gratification to their fans.

In Banking and Payments, blockchain can provide a reliable alternative to time consuming and expensive intermediaries.Blockchain can enable the exchange of value with greater effectiveness and with far lesser costs.

  • Authenticity

Customer experience issues today like missing luggage, food gone bad, delayed delivery of products are addressed only through monetary compensation. Repeated occurrences of such issues can break the customer trust. Moving entire supply chains on blockchain can help organisations to transparently share the exact problem area for an issue and fix it. This will be a significant boost to customer’s brand experience.

Similarly, in a supply chain or a food processing industry, goods can be tracked and managed much more efficiently by putting the whole food supply chain on a blockchain network. A third of food produced is damaged before it could reach the platesi, due to the long chain of procurement which passes through farmers, brokers, warehouses, processors, wholesalers, retailers, logistics and regulators. This results in either discarding the produce or using the foul produce in the processing of some other product, thereby compromising the end user experience. Managing this process using blockchain would allow a retailer or manufacturer to track the exact point in the supply chain, where the food had turned substandard and help them take necessary steps to avoid the experience issues. The same technology could also make an end customer fully aware about the entire process of food processing supply chain and lend more transparency to product claims of organic and geographic sourcing among other things thereby exponentially increasing customer loyalty.

Consider a second-hand vehicle market: a buyer has an ocean full of uncertainties regarding the authenticity and condition of the vehicle. Now, if the buyer can access the complete details about the vehicle, right from the contact of first owner to the latest accident and servicing, it will surely lessen the buyer’s uneasiness and will help them make an informed decision.

In a world increasingly being captured by a parallel counterfeit market, blockchain could act as an advantage to the brands by providing trusted and readily available data about the complete life cycle of a commodity, starting from its inception.

  • Simplify

Through a customer centric approach for process re-imagination and by leveraging consumer technologies, simplified experiences are created. Blockchain, with its ability to eliminate intermediaries, can significantly enhance this simplification. For electronic voting, which has been a dream for governments and citizens alike, traditional technology could provide a solution but blockchain gives citizens a view to confirm if their vote was cast and counted as well.This could also drive citizens’ participation in democratic processes on an ongoing basis for key decision making with voting being made available electronically and less expensive.

  • Time

A world where differentiation is rapidly becoming difficult, the speed of execution helps the brands in maintaining an edge over competitors.

A document such as a letter of credit, that usually takes three to four weeks to process, could be made available to customers in just few hours.In the B2B world, dramatic change can take place if the time taken to pay suppliers changes from weeks to a couple of days.

Smart contracts, that can be written in blockchain, executes as soon as the underlying agreements are fulfilled, thus eliminating expensive contract disputes and implementation challenges by taking it away from human intervention. These features would not only enhance the CCX but would also help the companies to get the maximum out of their workforce by expediting the whole process.

Driving future experience for a connected customer

With the Internet of Things (IoT), devices will need to securely communicate with each other and take decisions as well on behalf of the customer. Blockchain can be the ledger for IoT communication and transactions.Imagine a light bulb getting power from neighbour’s solar panel, blockchain can offer a moving, storing and managing value and peer to peer communication in the IoT world.

Leveraging the VAST framework, brands can frame their next series of actions to drive customer experience with the help of blockchain.

In the age of “experience economy”, blockchain has the potential to disrupt every industry. The technology should be tapped to transform connected customer experience by enhancing speed, convenience& trust.

Reference: i – IFAO – http://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/en/