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Guest post from Tim Carrigan, Consulting VP at Andrew Reise.

2017 was a year that ushered in several new words into our vocabulary … fake news, fidget spinners, and of course … Bitcoin. While we will intentionally avoid discussion on fake news, Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies definitely have our attention. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a front row seat and help clients navigate some of the uncertainty and drive real innovation in their business.

Bitcoin gathered amazing interest this past year with volatility unlike anything we have ever seen. While most people were talking about the price fluctuations, others were talking about the underlying technology, blockchain. There is an amazing amount of buzz about blockchain and many are referring to it as the “next internet.” It is being hailed as a technology that will revolutionize our lives similar to smartphones, the Internet, or personal computers. Crazy right?

So what is blockchain, and how can it possibly be connected with customer experience? Pretty easily actually, but first let’s get grounded on blockchain.

Blockchain simplified

Blockchain is essentially a public, electronic ledger that keeps a running record of transactions. A set of transactions make up a “block” and that block is added to the chain of previous blocks (hence the “block + chain”). No data can ever be erased, but new data is added as new transactions take place. The key to how it all works is that the blockchain is public and no one single person or entity owns or controls it.  Rather, a multitude of network participants all keep a record and a consensus is needed to confirm and validate transactions. It’s a built-in and presumed un-hackable security. Which, when implemented creates trust, transparency, and ease of a transaction.

Real business impact

A great blockchain example is the French insurer, AXA. They introduced a new product called Fizzy based on the public Ethereum Blockchain. Fizzy is flight insurance that travelers can purchase with a payout if an insured flight is more than two hours delayed.  Fizzy monitors available flight delay data to know when to execute payments to clients.  There is no intermediary, no claims form, no claims agent, no accounts payable clerk, or anyone else that needs to normally get in the middle of an insurance claim.

Overstock.com is another example where the company announced in 2014 that it would begin accepting Bitcoin.  Being an early adopter was key for them as they garnered a lot of press time on major network news and business television programming.  Within two months, Overstock.com surpassed $1M in sales with Bitcoin, primarily from new customers.  Additionally, the average Bitcoin shopper’s order was 34% higher than shoppers using traditional US dollars (source: https://www.coindesk.com/overstock-million-bitcoin-sales-future-projections/).

Connection to customer experience

The result in both of these examples is a clear demonstration in trust, transparency, and ease of a transaction. These are also some of the key tenants involved with any meaningful effort to improving Customer Experience.

For AXA it almost seems counter intuitive to operate this way. Shouldn’t difficult claims processes and slow claims payouts help big insurers make more money?  The answer is in customer experience and building a trusted relationship.

Jean-Baptiste Mournier, an AXA representative said, “The use of a smart contract to trigger claims will add trust in the insurer/policy-holder relationship.”  He added, “Building customer-oriented offers is our definite goal at AXA. By removing insurance exclusions and using an Ethereum smart contract to trigger indemnifications, we increase the level of trust our customers can have with AXA” (source: (https://www.coindesk.com/axa-using-ethereums-blockchain-new-flight-insurance-product/).

Similarly, Overstock.com was demonstrating the power of blockchain by garnering trust, transparency, and ease with it’s customers. The end result …. the company achieved the two biggest goals of any retailer:  more new customers and a higher average spend, with this one move.

Clearly, this is a technology that will touch and arguably disrupt nearly every industry.

Additional resources

We are proud to be one of the few companies to help clients with their blockchain and customer experience endeavors. If the discussion of blockchain is new for you, it’s understandable. As such, we would like to offer this complimentary Forrester report Predictions 2018: Be Ready To Face The Realities Behind The Blockchain Hype (Forrester Research, Inc., November 2017) by Martha Bennett, Andras Cser, Jost Hoppermann, and Charlie Dai.

This blog originally appeared on the site of our partner, Andrew Reise.

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