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One of the key tenets of building a positive customer experience (CX) is the need to move at the pace of customer expectation. And in today’s market, those expectations are huge. Modern customers are savvy, working on multiple channels, from multiple locations, and expecting the same speed, ease, and reliability from every single provider and application. How does a company keep up with these fast-flying expectations, while also providing the attention and transparency our customers so badly desire throughout our supply chain? The answer might come in an unexpected form: blockchain.
For those who haven’t quite mastered the somewhat nebulous concept of blockchain, IBM defines it like this: “Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger for recording the history of transactions. It fosters a new generation of transactional applications that establish trust, accountability and transparency—from contracts to deeds to payments.” If that still means nothing to you, think of it this way: blockchain is a way to capture and track every single transactional detail of your life—whether it be money, ownership, rights, identification, or healthcare history—from one central location—safely and instantly. But, outside of keeping information safe, how does blockchain factor in to creating a positive CX—and how does that play out from a supply chain perspective? I’d venture to say there are more ways than most of us even realize. The following are just a few.
It Removes Repetitive Requests for Information
Oh, human error. It can jumble your data, ruin your data, and confuse your data—all with one missed-typed digit or letter. With blockchain, human error is dramatically reduced. Once a product has been registered, all relevant data associated with that item stays with it—no need to re-type, re-process, or re-introduce it into the system. This leads to even faster input and output, and can increase efficiencies throughout your chain.
It Maps History
Unlike word processing documents that save one new version on top of another, blockchain simply builds a history upon itself. That means there’s no disputing the information—and no losing it—over time. Once blockchain tracks it, it’s there for eternity. That’s true whether you’re tracking financial transactions, point of origin, delivery dates, or your own quality scores. How amazing to have all that information—and history—in one repository, where it can never be disputed.
It Streamlines Processes
How many passwords—or variations of the same password—do you think your employees need to remember every day? How many times do they have to log in, re-start, re-load, or sync their files? With blockchain, those annoying—and time sucking tasks—might finally fall by the wayside. Once they develop a secure profile for your company, employees can use it for every single aspect of their work lives, from email to timecards, and from copy machines to call centers.
It Adds Transparency to the Product Life Cycle
Have you ever ordered something from eBay, only to find that it isn’t authentic? How about purchasing “organic” local produce—only to find it was shipped from abroad and has been treated with numerous pesticides? The truth is, both scenarios—among others—happen every single day in the supply chain. And blockchain is one of the easiest ways to stop it. On the CX side, blockchain allows customers to verify the product life cycle of virtually anything, from designer bags to free-range chickens and ethically sourced diamonds. But on the business side, it’s equally valuable. It allows you to verify the origin, maker, ingredients, age, etc., of every supply you purchase. You no longer have to take someone’s word for your product quality. You can verify it in real time.
Some companies, such as IBM, are ahead of the curve with its SecureKeyBlockchain on the IBM Blockchain system, which is already being used in many businesses. When paired with Watson Supply Chain technology, we can see just how powerful blockchain can be in adding transparency to your supply-chain process. Still, implementing blockchain takes some effort—including a strong buy-in from every internal and external member of your chain—for effective and consistent data to be gathered.
Blockchain may be overhyped, but it’s also being underutilized in today’s marketplace. There are so many incredible use cases for blockchain in the supply chain environment. The biggest question for most companies should be merely when they hop on board to try it. After all—data never disappears with blockchain. There will be no way to hide it if you are late to the blockchain game.
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This article was first published on IBM Retail Industry Blog.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio