The growing trend of the digital age is that all customer touchpoints are rarely reached. From food delivery apps to online shopping, customer experiences increasingly take place through third-party apps and sometimes entire services that brands do not directly control.

This is a revolutionary development that raises a critical question: how should brands manage interactions with their customers when, so often, someone else is currently interacting?

This question became even more important as the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated the adoption of digital business models that rely on third-party providers and points to the importance of a new kind of thinking about customer experience that includes these third parties.

Meal delivery services, for example, used to be a niche part of the restaurant business, but home delivery sales reached new heights during the coronavirus crisis and became an important source of revenue for many restaurants.

Restaurant owners should also have a moment of verification, asking themselves, “This app became very important to my business. But I don’t own it. Does it accurately display my entire menu? Do I really know what my customer is experiencing?” It’s a question that often can’t be answered because, unlike traditional one-on-one vendor-to-customer interactions, they lack certain information to know.

For example, data such as how long people spend on the menu page, whether they find it easy to order, how high cart abandonment rates are, whether the food was delivered hot, etc.

Having an overall view of the delivery experience should not be limited to the customer either. Perhaps, for example, it is worth looking at whether stores should be organized differently to maximize efficiency for the professional shopper, which translates into faster service for customers.

It is becoming integral for companies in almost every industry to take ownership of all customer interactions, whether they control them directly or not. No one would trust business with a bank that couldn’t guarantee that its platforms can integrate effortlessly with popular third-party fintech applications such as Venmo, PayPal and Mint.

How should a company move forward with this 360-degree approach? The first step is to recognize and understand the new digital dynamics and make it a priority to understand how third parties enhance or detract from customer happiness.

No company would launch a product or app without soliciting detailed feedback on what users like and dislike about them. The same accuracy is required of any other partner that plays a role in the customer journey.

Companies can no longer afford to ignore the reality that more and more of their success is tied to apps and services they don’t own. Instead of looking at a customer’s experience from their own view, they must put themselves in the customer’s shoes and recognize that what constitutes a customer experience is much broader than they thought.

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