As businesses search for new ways to build stronger relationships and drive increased levels of user satisfaction, customer (CX) and employee experience (EX) are taking centre stage in Singapore.\nIrrespective of size, stature or sector, loyalty is fast becoming a leading priority for technology executives that understand the importance of CX to a brand. Meanwhile, EX is emerging with equal importance, as the digital age fundamentally changes the relationship between employees and employers.\nHowever, CIOs remain challenged to create an effective experience strategy in partnership with other key stakeholders, as the line between business and technology blurs.\n\u201cTechnology is changing at such a rapid pace that every touchpoint within a technology product or service needs to be taken into consideration,\u201d Credit Suisse director of Bank Solutions and Workspace across Asia-Pacific, Lea Angelin-Linker, said. \u201cCX and EX is all about identifying those touch points against your client base.\n\u201cThe challenge is to ensure these touch points provide a unique experience for the customer, whilst remaining consistent in design.\u201d\nAngelin-Linker \u2013 in overseeing end-user technologies such as productivity solutions, desktop and media services \u2013 also emphasised the importance of organisations \u201cinstilling the idea\u201d of CX and EX in each layer of design and technology in a business, in order to maximise user potential.\n\u201cIdentifying and investing in a dedicated CX organisation that ensures CX is considered at the very start of the design process will help build the right path,\u201d she said.\nCX can best be defined as a customer experience journey from A to Z across a company\u2019s product and service portfolio, according to FlexTrade director of IT, Jesslyn Wong.\n\u201cNew channels are moving from traditional brick and mortar to cloud-based and public internet-based services,\u201d she said. \u201cMeanwhile, EX can be defined as an employee's experience with how IT as an enabler is assisting them in their daily tasks.\n\u201cTo enhance experience levels, organisations must ensure all verticals and towers are working in a unified operating model and, if possible, include automation and business process efficiency optimisation. Stakeholder engagement and participation is also crucial.\n\u201cHaving high redundancy and availability, being Agile and having to automate a lot of the manual processes as well as instilling the mindset of empowerment to both the customer and employee when having touch points with IT services is key.\u201d\nIn Singapore and the wider ASEAN market, CX investments continue to rise as businesses focus on meeting ever-changing customer expectations, as well as providing a different level of experience to drive loyalty.\nWorldwide spending on CX technologies was $US508 billion in 2019, an increase of 7.9 per cent on 2018. According to IDC, CX spending is expected to reach $641bn by 2022 thanks to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2 per cent.\n\u201cCustomer experience has become a key differentiator for businesses worldwide,\u201d IDC research manager, Craig Simpson, said. \u201cNew innovation accelerator technologies such as artificial intelligence [AI] and data analytics are driving the differentiation for businesses to succeed in their customer experience strategic initiatives.\u201d\nIDC defines CX as a \u201cfunctional activity encompassing business processes, strategies, technologies, and services that companies use, irrespective of industry, to provide a better experience for their customer and to differentiate themselves from their competitors\u201d.\nAccording to the analyst company, the CX use cases expected to account for the most investment throughout the forecast are customer care and support, followed by order fulfilment and interaction management.\nThe use cases that will see the fastest spending growth over the five-year forecast period are artificial intelligence (AI)-driven engagement, interaction management and ubiquitous commerce.\nImportance of experience\nSpeaking as CIO of the Accountant-General\u2019s Department \u2013 a division under the Ministry of Finance in Singapore holding responsibility for the delivery of financial and accounting related activities \u2013 Paul Loke said one of the key failings of IT projects in recent times was a \u201clack of user centricity in service delivery\u201d.\n\u201cIn simple terms, we, as technologists, tend to neglect the user experience, which in turn poses a barrier to both customer and employee use of our systems. Looking at CX and EX, the two are separate yet almost inseparable from each other,\u201d he said.\nIn short, Loke said Singaporean employees seek the \u201csame relevant, convenient and engaging experience\u201d they have from a personal perspective and want this replicated on the job.\n\u201cBear in mind, this is not about giving either segment unlimited choices, but giving a set of options that delivers an experience that is targeted, matters and experiential,\u201d he said.\n\u201cAs much as we want to build brand loyalty and a superior experience for our customers, the same should be applied for employees so they can achieve their full potential and drive business value.\u201d\nIn assessing potential roadblocks to deployment, Angelin-Linker said filtering through data and prioritising data can become challenging in certain scenarios.\n\u201cThere is a need to be quite specific in terms of what your customers are seeking,\u201d she said. \u201cInvestments in CX also are not high priority for technology \u2013 however, there is a shift occurring. Costs in managing various omni channels can run high if not managed at the initial design phases.\u201d\nLoke said the rise in consumer services was impeding the work of CIOs in Singapore. This made it difficult to deliver a differentiated experience for the customer (CX) and led to the rise of shadow IT within an organisation (EX).\n\u201cCustomers are constantly bombarded by a variety of options from competitors, and creating a simple, easy and intuitive solution that delivers relevant services (personalisation) at the appropriate time,\u201d he explained.\n\u201cEmployees then bring the same service experience expectation to the organisation, and will, with the best of intentions, leverage external platforms to \u2018get the job done\u2019, while neglecting the governance and cyber security ramifications of doing so.\n\u201cA simple example could be the use of Google Docs for collaborative work, which facilitates cooperative and more rapid edits, but potentially exposes the document to the worldwide audience.\u201d\nLoke said organisations can enhance experience levels by undertaking usability studies as part of product development.\n\u201cA usability study goes beyond simple focus groups and user engagement, and involves having interviews and sitting side-by-side with the customer or employee to walk through and map out the entire user journey to understand the pain points.\n\u201cOnce we understand the pain points and concerns, we can follow up with design validation and usability testing, which can be done with simple paper prototypes before moving to digital prototypes and A\/B testing. All of this allows us to validate our hypothesis and deliver a truly enhanced user experience,\u201d he said.