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Editor's note: SearchSalesforce occasionally interviews blockchain advocates and practitioners to help businesses evaluate this much-discussed technology, which is rapidly migrating to the enterprise. In this story, we speak with Vikal Kapoor, CEO of Dapps.ai.
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Implemented wisely and evangelized properly, blockchain distributed ledger technology has a chance to revolutionize customer experience management, according to a vendor who is focused on making Salesforce environments more intelligent and transparent.
Vikal Kapoor, CEO of Dapps Inc., said he believes blockchain to be "the ultimate connectivity layer." When pairing the technology with Salesforce, "companies can have a constant conversation with all the partners involved in the value chain of customer experience -- before, during and after a sale," he said.
"[The] sales cycles will no longer treat customer and company as counterparties, but like joint-venture partners in constant conversation. That means less data and more intelligence," Kapoor said. "The pursuit is no longer for more data to throw into data swamps; the goal is to craft a journey where all parties are invited to travel as equal entities."
Blockchain distributed ledgers enable a consensus about information and data, according to Kapoor.
"When you can act on agreed-to information, then it becomes intelligence, and that is true analytics -- live analytics," he said. "The customer journey is a live event, and everyone involved is invited to the show."
Blockchain proves that latency and opacity are not inevitable symptoms of large corporate culture, he added.
"Imagine marketing, finance, production and procurement all working in concert to exceed customer expectations. It's not implausible. It happens when we order our coffee from the counter and our name is written on the cup," Kapoor said. "That's not blockchain, but it is connecting the customer to the expected product."
Out of touch with CX
Without the blockchain distributed ledger, the customer experience (CX) gap remains wide "because CX is executed by many companies, while only one owns the relationship," Kapoor said.
The actual process of serving the customer is highly dynamic, but the management system "relies on stale, flawed, unstructured, inaccessible, inaccurate and incomplete data," he said. "Somehow, we got into this cycle of swallowing as much data as possible without stopping to think if the insights were aligning the company's products and services to the educated consumer."
Pre-blockchain processes leave many companies dangerously disengaged from the live flow of customer experience, according to Kapoor.
"Businesses are broken and have not been able to integrate their units and the businesses they acquire," he said. "There are Band-Aids between systems or a service layer that tries to glue these disparate systems together.
"What blockchain can do is start afresh in a new network between trusted parties to make decisions based on the same event," he continued. "This level of connectivity between any two organizations or internal groups yields collaboration that translates to lower latency; higher accuracy; improved demand forecasting; increased probability of upselling; and alignment of presales, POS [point-of-sale] processes and post-sale servicing."
CEOs benefit because blockchain's distributed ledgers can provide intelligence that is fully integrated across the customer lifecycle and not limited by data management capabilities.
"Digital transformation is increasingly CEO-driven because you can correlate your shareholder value to your digital footprint," Kapoor said. "If you don't have transparency into your footprint, you don't know what your share value is and where it is going.
"Consider how disparate internal systems are crippling the ability for all employees to meet or exceed customer expectations," he said. "Group A doesn't know the background to a call in, or has to reverify the customer each time, even if it was transferred internally. Imagine the level of opacity a vendor or partner experiences in an opaque value chain, even if partner and vendor are servicing the same end-customer."
The blockchain distributed ledger can log any business event, such as the purchase of a sofa or the prescription of a medication, in a record that is alive and available to any participants the company designates. The smart contract capability in the Ethereum protocol triggers new events automatically when the conditions are met. Businesses customize smart contracts based on their practices to optimize connection and visibility at all points.
Dapps is reimagining CX as a distributed process and living event where all parties in the value chain share equal responsibility for execution.
"We need to have a constant conversation between the customer and the company that is delivering that experience," Kapoor said.
Dapps designs customized solutions for global companies with DappServices, and also offers DappSolutions middleware with a software development kit and managed package that enables Salesforce customers to customize business applications. The roadmap for this quarter includes the release of point solutions for the DappSuite package to build on ongoing engagements in supply chain, logistics and transport.
Blockchain can also transform contract lifecycle management into a living process in which payments automatically adjust up or down based on performance against conditions that are expressed in smart contracts and that are visible to all parties in the distributed ledger.
"If you can bring life to contract terms and agree on consensus mechanisms, you now have an active system based on performance," Kapoor said. "Then you don't need the systems and checks we need now because anything paper-based, it is already stale. This frees up life."
Partners across any supply chain, physical or digital, can also use a blockchain distributed ledger to improve operational efficiency. For example, a railroad company could provide visibility into scheduling and capacities to a trucking company to enable them to optimize fleet allocation. If a truck broke down, an internet of things sensor communicating to the blockchain could trigger dispatch signals and notifications.
Kapoor said he believes there is widespread misinformation about blockchain because the conversation is dominated by bitcoin, cryptocurrency and initial coin offerings.
The adoption path might be hard to decipher now, he said, "but once the CXO gets it, pilots will turn into blockchain transformation projects, in the same way that digital transformation projects took flight when shareholders began asking CEOs about their digital spend, productivity gains and strategy."
Adoption will occur largely within company confines.
"The market leaders in most sectors have been the early adopters," Kapoor said. "The perception that blockchain always comes with a consortium is an easy way out. Businesses do not trust each other, and they shouldn't. Transparency, after all, can be anti-capitalistic. You have to have secrecy to maintain arbitrage. But inside an organization, these walls are divisions that impede progress, especially for customer-centric organizations."