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Gamification Comes to the Contact Center
Game techniques keep agents happy, engaged, and better equipped to handle interactions.
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When customers have problems that require them to contact customer service or support, they expect to experience that company at its best. That's not always easy, given that at most companies, front-line employees are often disengaged from their jobs.

A recent Gallup poll found that more than 70 percent of all U.S. workers are either actively or passively disengaged from their work. It's a particularly problematic situation for contact centers, where employee turnover is much higher than in most other industries.

"Answering support calls and working between ticket numbers and resolutions quickly gets repetitive and boring," says Vikram Bhaskaran, director of marketing communications at FreshDesk, a provider of online customer support and help desk software.

That prompts many agents to seek employment in other fields, but it also affects those who stick it out in their current jobs. "When support reps are bored or [un]motivated, they start making little errors, like typos or sounding irritable, without realizing it," Bhaskaran says. "Worse still, agents start sounding like lifeless robots reading out scripts."

The financial impact of such employee disengagement is staggering, costing the U.S. economy $370 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a recent Gallup poll. Additionally, disengaged workers are absent from work more often than engaged workers, more likely to engage in theft, have more safety incidents, and deliver poorer customer service, Gallup found.

Because disengaged contact center workers have such a negative effect on morale, customer satisfaction, and overall financial health, it is imperative that management regularly takes the pulse of employees and then finds ways to ensure that workers are properly engaged. One way they can do this is with gamification--borrowing from video games the principles of virtual challenges, contests, and quests for the purpose of racking up points, advancing to higher levels, or earning rewards. Gamification can be used as a means to get contact center employees more passionately involved with the companies for which they work. And that can be applied across the board, whether the contact center is in Miami, Montreal, Moscow, or Manila.

"People have fundamental needs and desires for reward, status, achievement, self-expression, competition, and altruism, among others," Scott Buchanan, head of solutions marketing at NICE Systems, told CRM magazine's sister Web site SmartCustomerService.com recently. "These needs are universal and span generations, demographics, culture, and gender."

The shift toward more competitive and engaging customer care environments through gamification is further validated by analysts. Gartner, in a recent report, called gamification "a powerful tool to engage employees, customers, and the public to change behaviors, develop skills, and drive innovation." The firm also predicted that by 2015, more than 40 percent of the top companies would be using gamification to transform their business operations.

The Conference Board expects gamification to become far more "pervasive" in 2014, which certainly comes as welcome news to providers of the technology, who are finally starting to see it pick up steam.

Badgeville, one of the leading providers of gamification technology, reported record growth in the third quarter of 2013. That growth, it said in October, is being fueled by demand from both new customer signings and expanded relationships with existing customers.

Founded in 2010, the company has more than 200 customers, including Phillips Electronics, American Express, CA Technologies, Citrix, Restaurant.com, and Ask.com.

And within just the past few months, Badgeville signed key partnerships with IBM, Oracle, and Verint Systems to bring its 

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