8 Reasons why Blockchain should be Number 1 in Your CX Strategy
How Blockchain is driving the next evolution in customer experience
With all the hype regarding cryptocurrency, the value and application of the underlying technology – the blockchain – is often lost in all the noise. The two concepts are often conflated, which detracts from the important conversations that business decision-makers should have about the role blockchain can play in streamlining their business, enhancing customer experience (CX) and delivering bottom-line growth.
Organizations such as Amazon, Comcast, CVS Health, IBM, Mastercard and UBS already play in the blockchain technology space, giving them a system of trust as pioneering implementors. The next evolution in customer engagement will be driven by blockchain; what better place to fortify trust and customer relationships than in the contact center and CX environment. The time to act is now.
Enhanced CX with blockchain
“From a CX perspective, it is going to completely change how a vendor or business interacts with its customers,” states Steve Weston, Managing Partner of SK Weston & Co, based in Washington DC.
“Blockchain technology gives both the customer and the contact center agent they interact with more control because the platform contains all the relevant information they need, and in an encrypted and secure manner.”
Weston adds that the ability to disintermediate third parties also simplifies the process, mainly because it eliminates the need to conduct research and source information from different sources. This effectively delivers instant access to accurate client data.
“The CX benefit is the ability to provide instantaneous feedback or answers to the customer that are correct and relevant at the first time of asking, which negates the need for call backs and time-consuming verifications.”
No one is really talking about blockchain in the CX or contact center space, and that might be a mistake. “Contact centers are focused on AI or RPA implementations right now which, when combined with blockchain, provide them with an innovative, leading-edge,” says Shelli Ryan, Principal of the CX Blockchain Institute and CEO of Ad Hoc. “The problem is that if contact centers - especially BPO service providers - aren’t also market-ready for blockchain in 2020 they will be left behind. Internal contact center teams might very well implement blockchain themselves, leaving BPOs in the dark.”
Broadly speaking, blockchain is an immutable digital ledger that enables secure, transparent transactions via a decentralised network. Records cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks.
The technology can, therefore, improve security, streamline onerous administrative processes, enhance governance and regulatory compliance, and augment various business processes – particularly those that require various middlemen – to boost operational efficiencies.
Blockchain's potential is immense, which is why it has caught the attention of the world's foremost tech companies. IBM's CEO, Ginni Rometty, for example, was quoted as saying: “Anything that you can conceive of as a supply chain, blockchain can vastly improve its efficiency – it doesn't matter if it's people, numbers, data or money.”
And the case for blockchain in the contact center - and broader customer experience (CX) environment - is as compelling as any other business sector.
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Faster, relevant interactions
Instantaneous access to relevant customer data and insights reduces friction, which is a powerful differentiator in the context of the modern contact center environment as operators look to meet evolving consumer engagement demands.
Shorter first-call resolution times improve customer service, while access to information can shape meaningful engagements that are contextually relevant across channels.
“Blockchain technology changes how information is stored and accessed. This has the potential to cut transaction or interaction time in half, which can significantly increase a business's customer satisfaction (CSAT) score,” says Ryan.
This enhanced service delivery also crafts meaningful customer relationships that entrench loyalty and drive repeat business. “This is the next evolution in CX that will disrupt contact center and business process outsourcing operations. BPO service providers have a slim window of opportunity to lead from the front and spearhead blockchain implementations and solutions in CX environments that will strategically position them as industry reformers,” she adds.
To better understand the role blockchain can play within specific business verticals, Weston offers examples of how BPO providers or CX departments can revolutionize their customer service delivery.
“The healthcare sector, which is probably the most complex to service among verticals today, could significantly improve areas such as claims processing from medical aid providers and insurers, which is a notoriously complex and laborious process,” he says.
According to Weston, the underwriting process requires that agents go through multiple systems to first lodge the claim and then meet the compliance and administrative requirements to obtain approval and, finally, affect payment.
“This complexity makes it very difficult to outsource these service requests to BPO providers, and it is impossible to offload to self-service channels given the current requirements. However, I believe blockchain will completely change this dynamic because everything could be stored in one location. This creates opportunities to outsource the process to an omnichannel-enabled contact center, or even empower customers through self-service channels.”
Reducing contact center costs
While the potential benefits are clear, contact center operators must consider numerous factors before implementing blockchain technology, cautions Weston.
“First and foremost, it changes the calibre of agent that operators can employ in the contact center environment, which requires a complete overhaul of their hiring strategy.” Operators could conceivably access a broader pool of potential agents because by augmenting the process, the technology effectively lowers the minimum skill and competency requirements.
With access to deeper and more accurate customer information, agents would also require less training.
“The bottom line is that blockchain can reduce overall agent costs, while simultaneously curtailing the hiring process,” adds Weston, who believes the benefits would be even greater in omnichannel environments.
Enhance omnichannel capabilities
Research conducted by Knowledge Executive in 2019 with global CX executives and directors indicates that blockchain is rapidly being adopted in the banking, telecom, healthcare and retail industries.
“Service delivery consistency and personalisation across web chat and email remains a major challenge for operators, but blockchain can effectively address these issues,” says Mark Angus, CEO, Researcher & Strategist of Knowledge Executive.
“In the retail industry, blockchain can shorten sales and support requests by providing entire transaction, service, warranty and behavioural data to agents with immediacy. Organizational silos and service issues in banks - which often have different product houses, disconnected contact centers and disparate CRM systems - can be bypassed with blockchain.”
The key to unlocking these capabilities resides in blockchain's ability to strip out complexity through the way information is verified and securely stored and accessed. This negates the need for interfacing with multiple systems and can tear down the information silos that currently exist in many applications and legacy back-end systems.
Weston agrees, and says with more effective omnichannel capabilities, contact centers can push more interactions onto these platforms, which creates additional operational efficiencies and can further enhance CX and customer satisfaction.
“As a result, expect to see more resources allocated to omnichannel capabilities, especially as operators can automate more interactions through AI-enabled bots when blockchain technology is effectively applied.”
This ensures that the more mundane and basic customer requests can be off-loaded from agents onto an automated system to reduce handling times, accommodate greater interaction volumes, and boost agent productivity.
Shifting operational model
“There is no doubt that blockchain will drive a shift in a contact center's operating model, and that margins are going to drastically improve,” continues Weston.
It's a compelling value proposition for contact center operators, who are under pressure to reduce operating costs while increasing service delivery and returns as CEOs today are acutely focused on the bottom line to deliver profits and shareholder value.
Weston says blockchain can address all of those areas simultaneously. “Businesses need to view this technology as a significant market disruptor. Those that don't embrace it will be left behind as their competitors leverage the technology to gain a competitive advantage, be it through improved margins or better overall delivery, or a combination of both.”
The blockchain roadmap
But before a business dives in to any blockchain development project, they first need to understand the technology and its precise application in their specific business.
Arun Ghosh, KPMG US Blockchain Leader, eloquently contextualised the blockchain discussion recently in an interview with Forbes. He stated: "Blockchain is not the solution to every problem. In fact, believing blockchain can be implemented overnight — and without a legitimate business need — will lead to failures, disappointed executives, and scuttled budgets. Instead, the mass adoption of blockchain requires a realistic context."
Accessing the right expertise to explain the potential business-specific benefits of utilising blockchain is, therefore, vital to ensure its relevance. “Otherwise the business is merely buying into the hype,” affirms Weston.
Based on his industry experience and engagements around blockchain adoption, Weston believes too many decision-makers still quantify its value from a technology perspective, but should rather consider it from the perspective of how the technology will revolutionise service and CX delivery.
“As far as I am aware, no one in the BPO space has assessed blockchain from this service delivery perspective because everyone is still grappling to understand the underlying technology. However, I expect that this will slowly change over time as more companies engage with experts to understand the technology and its application.”
And this is a non-negotiable precursor to implementation because adopting blockchain without a clear business objective will fail to deliver value. “There is no one-size-fits-all implementation roadmap because blockchain's potential applications and uses are so varied,” says Ryan.
“How best to implement blockchain is a question that a business must answer in consultation with a technically-proficient, CX-centric expert.”
Weston concurs saying that “you want a blockchain partner that is going to understand your business and the sector in which you operate.”
“They must also uncover opportunities to automate your business, and implement the most appropriate security protocols. Ultimately, they must be a true partner in the journey, not just another provider, because on-going education around the technology will be paramount to realise value and achieve the right business objectives.”
Weston reiterated Ryan’s market-ready, industry evolution sentiments saying that those BPO providers that get to grips early with blockchain's application in their business stand to gain a significant first-mover advantage.
“It would be wise for BPO providers to get ahead of this trend by educating themselves and finding a blockchain provider with whom they can start to build a partnership. This will position them at the forefront of the market, with the ability to disrupt the sector.”
“The sooner you start the discovery process and begin working on a strategy, the further ahead of the market you will be. The time to act is now if you want to get a jump on your competition,” he concludes.
What should your organization do to be market-ready for blockchain in the CX industry? This feature on the CX Blockhain Institute explains the what and the how.