Justice as a Service: The trillion dollar cure to bad customer service

For most consumers, trying to get a refund when you don’t get the service you paid for can feel a bit like playing darts with spaghetti.

Most of these types of interactions end up sucking you into a soul-crushing vortex of hours spent on hold, writing responses, and are likely to result in nothing more than a bill from the repairman for fixing the head-shaped hole in your wall.

On the other end, businesses and government agencies struggle to deal with an increasing number of customer complaint channels, and the expectation of an answer within milliseconds.

This ends up frustrating consumers and costing billions to businesses and government agencies.

$62 billion lost on poor customer support each year

In fact, according to a report done by NewVoiceMedia, businesses are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service — up more than $20 billion since 2013.

That is only the money lost due to a customer switching to a competitor. If you then add on the additional cost of refunds, legal bills and compensation, we’re likely talking hundreds of billions of dollars. As an example, for delayed flights alone, passengers are owed $3.3 billion each year in compensation.

So let’s talk about the future of consumer rights and customer support, and why companies and governments alike need to be prepared for a new consumer paradigm.

It’s a future where third party startups will automate and handle the process of enforcing contracts, terms and conditions…

…. And justice (as a service) for all

Justice as a Service (JaaS) is a new type of online service that helps consumers enforce contracts and consumers’ rights by utilizing Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and legal process automation. JaaS companies act as intermediaries and resolve disputes on behalf of consumers, often for a contingency fee.

I am the founder of a JaaS company called AirHelp. However, there is a range of companies providing the same service — solving a multitude of pain points ranging from parking ticket disputes to refunds for online purchases.

When we started, only lawyers offered this type of service.

As more and more JaaS companies started to emerge, I noticed that something bigger was happening, something that went beyond the individual startups, or the specific pain points they solved.

These were simply the first steps towards a fundamental change in how consumer rights and disputes could be handled: without the need to spend time waiting on the phone, doing the dispute response tango, or getting lawyers involved.

With Blockchain and smart contracts on one hand, and artificial intelligence and chat-bots on the other, the technology is already here. The impact on consumer rights is massive as these technologies become able to automate the fulfillment of legal rights.

How has the reception been?

The response from companies and government agencies so far has been akin to what happened when social media emerged. Initially, brands were scared that they would lose control if they went on the new platforms. The fact of the matter was just that, they were on social media whether they liked it or not. The same thing is happening with JaaS.

Justice as a Service is the evolution of the power that consumers got through social media. But, while social media only has the power to affect a dispute on a reputation/brand level, JaaS goes one step further and will actually solve your claim, one by one.

This means that not only can consumers have their justice automated, but companies and government agencies can also dramatically reduce the cost of handling disputes… and offer a great user experience in the process.

Because, let’s face it, things don’t always go as planned. Every company will have instances of delivering a subpar customer experience, but when it comes to customer loyalty, how those situations are handled counts as much as having happy customers. Now, there’s a technology that can help.

How will this affect me?

Think about the following scenario with the implications of blockchain technology:

You get a new phone plan and sign the terms and conditions through a smart contract on Blockchain. In those terms and conditions, it states that if the price drops on a similar plan, you will automatically be transferred to the new rate.

Today, many carriers won’t automatically notify you, as they will consider it your job to actively inform them about this.

However with the terms and conditions documented through a distributed ledger such as blockchain, it is very easy to setup a trigger that will automatically change your plan if the price drops.

The beauty is that this already exists through a company called Billfixers.

Build or buy?

Now, you may be thinking: “Isn’t this just something that companies and government agencies will build themselves without the need for third party companies?”

If history has shown us anything, the answer is almost certainly “no.” Imagine if, in 2005, every company who wanted to harness social media went and built its own social media management platform. Like any other industry or technology shift, it will take third party companies to build world-class products whose sole focus is getting this part of equation right.

What’s next?

We’ve only just scratched the surface of this nascent industry. Wherever there is friction and bureaucracy, tech will provide a solution to benefit both consumer and company.

The question will be whether companies and government agencies embrace the automation of consumer rights. If not, you can be sure there will be someone willing to do it for them.

By: Nicolas Brañas Michaelsen, Co-Founder, AirHelp