Applications and Use Cases

At the End of Supply Chains, Consumers Crave a Great Experience: How Blockchain Helps

January 10, 2019

We’ve heard about enterprise blockchain applications and solutions improving everything from data integrity, data sharing, pharma trials, banking platform security, and of course supply chain; until now, however, not much has been created using the distributed, immutable ledger to improve Customer Experience (CX).

According to a 2018 Deloitte survey, 74 percent of large enterprises around the world are reviewing opportunities to improve how they manage the security and privacy of data, especially their customers’ data, using practical applications of blockchain technology.

One major intersection occurs when blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) come together, in a pairing that allows providers of smart home and smart car products to ensure the end-users personal information (from name, address, and bank accounts to location, behaviors and more).

The rise of Internet-connected devices has the potential to positively transform the way we live, where we live and work, and literally save lives. At the same time, many experts believe challenges associated with consumer privacy and data protection, as well as threats of cyberattacks on devices and the networks connecting them have slowed the growth of IoT.

This has become even more of a threat in the wake of GDPR and the recent scandals plaguing social media, credit bureaus and other “advocates” of consumer information, and new legislation going into effect, including the notoriously comprehensive 2018 California Privacy Act which gives “consumers” (defined as natural persons who are California residents) four basic rights in relation to their personal information:

  1. The right to know, through a general privacy policy and with more specifics available upon request, what personal information a business has collected about them, where it was sourced from, what it is being used for, whether it is being disclosed or sold, and to whom it is being disclosed or sold;
  2. The right to “opt out” of allowing a business to sell their personal information to third parties (or, for consumers who are under 16 years old, the right not to have their personal information sold absent their or their parent’s, opt-in);
  3. The right to have a business delete their personal information, with some exceptions; and
  4. The right to receive equal service and pricing from a business, even if they exercise their privacy rights under the Act.

With all this and more protections on the rise, manufacturers and marketers of smart home products and services need to understand then figure out how they can address the requirements, without risking massive fines and while doing the right thing by their customers.

Brian Hannon, chief commercial office at Voxpro – powered by TELUS International (Voxpro), believes blockchain holds the key. “For some, blockchain is the disruptive technology that promises to solve transparency problems by creating one version of the truth; for others, it is all hype with no great real-world application other than cryptocurrency,” Hannon said. “The transparency of a blockchain exists due to its ability to see the holdings and transactions of each public address that are opened to multiple users or systems, working as an active distributed ledger. Ultimately, blockchain enhances the interactions between vendors, partners and customers across the chain of consumption.”

Voxpro has long been regarded as one of the most creative CX disrupters in the customer service industry, working with some of the world’s most iconic brands. Powered by TELUS International, the company has innovated in Multilingual Customer Experience & Technical Support solutions as a Business Process Outsource company, as well as a digital services and strategic consulting company.

Voxpro powers Customer Operations for global brands including Airbnb, Google, and Robinhood, and has a deep interest in how humans and technology interact today and in the future, and strong opinions about how the relationship between machines and people can evolve in radically human ways.

“As IoT applications are by definition distributed,” Hannon said, “it is only natural that the two will play a role in how devices will communicate directly between each other. In fact, the convergence of blockchain and IoT is on the agenda for many companies and there are existing implementations, solutions and initiatives in several areas outside of IoT and financial services too. We’ve been studying and acting on opportunities in both worlds and will continue to rev up our initiatives in the new year.”

According to IDC, by 2019, 20% of all IoT deployments will have basic levels of blockchain services enabled.

“Making the digital ledger system an integrated part of IoT, manufacturing and digital supply chain solutions by way of the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service is one great example,” Hannon said. “Leveraging blockchain for IoT data offers new ways to automate business processes among technology partners without setting up a complex and expensive centralized IT infrastructure, so there is a growing awareness of the IT cost-savings aspect as well,” Hannon said. “Blockchain adds to connected things benefits that include audit trails, accountability, and generally better management of people’s personal information.”

Hannon is enthusiastic about the combination of blockchain and IoT for CX, referring to it as the “Customer Experience Dream.”

Practically speaking, how does this impact the actual consumer and the overall customer experience (CX)? Blockchain offers the chance to change CX for the better – improving access for disadvantaged customers, making businesses more accountable, and increasing security in all kinds of business-customer interactions, Hannon explained. This includes authenticity verification of high-end products.

Hannon offered as a use case IBM’s collaboration with the jewelry industry. The release of TrustChain, a collaboration between IBM and a consortium of leaders in the gold and diamond industries, offers customers the ability to track and authenticate its jewelry purchase, from mine to market. For enabling message exchanges directly to the customer, IoT devices are leveraged through smart contracts. These are modeled to monitor the agreement between the two parties and notify the end user when each transaction or exchange from one vendor to the next has been completed.

“Bringing full transparency to the consumer in a digital approach beyond jewelry is very real,” Hannon said. He referred to a study by Label Insight which found that 73 percent of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency.

“Providing consumers transparent insight from manufacturing practices to accounting details are all critical when looking to enhance the overall customer experience and retain loyal customers,” Hannon said. “TrustChain is just one proof point of how transparency and technology meet to provide the ultimate customer experience. Brands have the opportunity to become more engaged and open with their customers using blockchain to ensure authenticity and privacy.”

Blockchain technology is already being used for charity donations, voting systems, HR processes and retail interactions, which have in common, despite their disparate missions, making human digital interactions seamless and safe.

“Blockchain with IoT adoption in parallel allows businesses offering connected solutions to demonstrate a heightened amount of transparency,” Hannon said. “This enriches the ability to build loyal, trusted relationships between brands and customers, relationships built upon core values of security, fairness, and equality. Blockchain could even create an entirely new era of customer expectation: the expectation that customers should be treated fairly by the businesses they spend their money with, and what’s more, that the blockchain itself can act as a guarantee for that fair treatment.”

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.

Edited by Ken Briodagh



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