In this post, I want to explore how blockchain technology might change the way companies deliver products, services, and the customer experience.
If you are unfamiliar with blockchain technology, Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani wrote an HBR article that describes it as “an open, distributed ledger that records transactions safely, permanently, and very efficiently.” Maybe you’ve heard of bitcoin. If so, it uses blockchain technology. Blockchain also holds the possibility of revolutionizing voting, music content distribution, and executing contracts.
As a thought experiment, I wondered how the customer experience might change as blockchain technology becomes more mainstream. What if we think of the customer experience as a combination of written and unwritten “expectation contracts?”
- Could blockchains improve service? For example, might airlines stop overbooking seats? Perhaps an airline ticket would be seen as a contract to provide a seat.
- Will blockchains create new revenue streams? Using the airline example again, might an entirely new class of inexpensive ticket arise? Something like a first-come, first-served seat. Airlines might sell these Space A (space available) seats to customers willing to take a chance that there would be empty seats after all.
- Could blockchain technology cause companies to be more truthful about their capabilities? Will companies have to shift to selling outcomes, rather than features? Today, sellers often take calculated risks that the problem of tracking the “misses” is high enough that the buyer won’t bother claiming the credit. Think of warranties. It isn’t difficult to see how an IoT (internet of things) toaster could report back that it had failed before the warranty expired and automatically transfer funds to the buyer. Sellers today assume that some large subset of customers won’t register for the warranty and that of those only a small number will claim remuneration. Or maybe companies will improve their capabilities so that their warranties are used only occasionally.
- Could blockchains create secondary and tertiary markets for products, capacity, and services? Today, someone who buys 100 batteries can sell them at whatever market rate can be established. What if customers, having bought quantity X of a service (think SAAS or PAAS) could sell unneeded fractions to other customers without involving the producer. Something like this would de-risk the purchase decision of a company by giving them flexibility to sell (or rent?) unneeded capacity. The reduced risk might also decrease transaction time (deal flow). In this model, the purchase might be more akin to a “right to use” contract.
- Will blockchains create new markets? Incent Loyalty seems to be doing just this with loyalty programs by creating a market for buying and selling [previously] proprietary loyalty points.
Blockchain is still in a nascent state as are my germinating ideas about how it might change the customer experience. The pivot point is that if you hope to stay at the forefront of delivering exceptional customer experiences, do yourself a favor and start thinking and reading about this technology now. To get started, try this article from CMSwire and this one from ConduitHub.
What other spoken or written “contracts” are companies making today that might be transformed by blockchain technology?