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PHOTO: Nathan Dumlao

As the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to play out, all eyes will be on consumer confidence. Consumer confidence is generally seen as the engine that drives economic activity. It's the degree to which consumers are optimistic about their personal finances and the economy. When the economy hits a rough patch, as it has since the onset of COVID-19, the restoration of consumer confidence is usually what propels us out of it.

Of course, this isn’t your ordinary rough patch. The need for widespread social distancing has impacted all aspects of everyday life, and in the process, has transformed virtually every business into a digital business. From retail and food services to healthcare and banking and everything in between, our new reality requires businesses to interact with their customers via digital platforms. That’s why another type of confidence will likely play an equally critical role: digital confidence.

What Is Digital Confidence?

What is digital confidence, and what does it mean to have it? Digital confidence is the knowledge you are creating and delivering the best possible experience for your customers whenever they engage with your business on a digital platform. It’s having complete confidence that your web and mobile applications will work flawlessly every single time they’re used, and knowing your customers share in that confidence.

Think back to the early stages of the Democratic primary, when the disastrous rollout of a hastily assembled voting application delayed and nearly undermined the result of the Iowa caucus. The reaction for many around the country was to declare that, when it comes to voting, applications can’t be trusted. But what about when it comes to your business? What are the risks to your business if you aren’t providing the best user experience? Are you sure your customers trust your web and mobile applications? Are you sure you trust your web and mobile applications?

It’s the last question that’s arguably most important. Yes, digital confidence is about your customers. But it’s also about you. Before you can build digital confidence among your customers, you must first build it within your own team. Let’s examine four key ways you can do just that.

Related Article: How to Handle the Crisis of Consumer Trust

Drive Cultural Change From the Top

Digital confidence is first and foremost about people and culture, and as usual, it starts at the top, with leaders who understand the importance of user experience and are open-minded about improving it. Digitally confident organizations are driven by leaders who understand that value props and differentiators today are less about features and functionality than they are about the quality of the user experience.

Poor digital experiences undermine good products. (You can see evidence of poor experiences with digital apps going viral and harming brand reputations almost daily on Twitter.) But on the other end, great digital experiences elevate average ones. The sooner leaders accept this new paradigm and put people and systems in place to support it, the sooner their organizations can begin building digital confidence.

Related Article: Why Is Starbucks so Successful Despite Its Mediocre Coffee?

Break Down Quality Silos 

Like it or not, silos are part of life and business. And, frankly, siloed pockets of people here and there throughout your organization probably aren’t as harmful as they’re made out to be. That is, with one glaring exception: quality. Building digital confidence requires a cultural commitment to quality that permeates the organization. Digitally confident organizations understand that quality is everyone’s responsibility, and they take action and align teams accordingly.

That means doing away with the dated notion of a siloed quality assurance team that is singularly responsible for defining and ensuring application quality, and instead layering quality engineers directly into agile teams where they can work side-by-side with developers and product owners. It means giving those aforementioned developers and product owners a louder voice in defining what quality means and outlining the steps needed to ensure it. And it means instilling a culture in which everyone in the organization, regardless of department or role, is empowered to speak up and has agency to drive improvements to quality whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Related Article: Building a Results-Driven Culture of Quality

Create Agility Everywhere

Agility and digital confidence go hand-in-hand. If you haven’t already, now is the time to modernize the way you develop software. That means favoring smaller, more frequent product updates over larger, monolithic ones, implementing continuous testing throughout the software development lifecycle, and continuously monitoring application performance and customer experience post-production, thus creating a continuous feedback loop through which the user experience is constantly improving.

But the connection between agility and digital confidence extends beyond just the development cycle. Agile isn’t just for testers and developers. Digitally confident organizations are agile in everything they do. That means sales, marketing, HR. Everyone is responsible for being ready to move at the speed of digital business. It’s human nature to resist large cultural changes like this. We favor the status quo because it’s safer. But as teams start to see the benefits of this more agile model, both for the business and in their everyday work, the curve to adoption and success accelerates. And digital confidence follows closely behind.

Related Article: Where Testing Fits in Your Omnichannel Experiences

Double Down on Customer Care

Remember, digital confidence is about creating and delivering the best possible user experience for your customers. They decide what that looks like, not you. Create mechanisms for your customers to give continuous feedback, and make that feedback accessible to everyone in the business. If digital confidence is owned by everyone, then it’s important that everyone knows how customers feel about your applications. If a customer voices a concern, make sure it’s heard. If users tell you your application experience is falling short in a given area, make sure you improve it.

Resist the temptation to characterize any customer issue or concern as “small.” After all, the road to digital confidence is traveled with small steps. Take enough of them though, and the rewards will be large.