• January 1, 2014
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Gamification Comes to the Contact Center

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contact center activities come down to three basic metrics: speed of resolving an issue, accuracy of the response, and customer-reported satisfaction scores. However, he adds that contact centers should also periodically gamify other objectives, such as updating knowledge base entries.

Gamification, Bhaskaran mentions, can be instituted as a long-term strategy or implemented for shorter durations when managers see a need for improvements. "In the long term, gamification ensures processes and work flows do not end up getting monotonous over time. In the short term, gamifying tactical objectives allows the whole support team to step on the pedal and solve a temporary issue right away," he explains.

Set clear improvement goals

One of the trickiest parts of an implementation, experts advise, could be determining the targets to be achieved. While setting lofty goals might appear to be a good motivator, employees will react negatively to unrealistic goals.

Ideally, a target should stretch employees to achieve a higher level of performance, but still be based in reality, using established industry best practices, the experts suggest. The goal must be consistent for all employees and across all customer interactions and then it must be clearly communicated to all employees.

When managers notice a slippage in one area, it is a good idea to implement contests to bring that number up again. Here, managers need to determine what percentage improvement is needed to close the gap between the current level and the benchmark.

Other special contests can be held monthly, quarterly, or yearly as needed or desired, Sims says. "You can implement [any contest] quickly, and you can easily change up what you reward for from one week to the next."

But, he and others caution, contests can lose their motivational power over time without personalization, transparency, and immediate feedback.

The (lower than expected) cost of gamification

And the good news is that it doesn't take much to motivate and engage employees: For most, a kind word and public recognition go a lot farther than a hefty bonus, according to the "2013 Employee Recognition Study" by Make Their Day, an employee motivation consulting firm, and Badgeville. In the study, 70 percent of participants reported being motivated more by recognition and virtual rewards than by financial incentives, such as pay raises, bonuses, or company stock options.

In the same research, formal recognition by peers and supervisors was found to be the top draw. Other common rewards include online badges and titles or access to privileges like special parking spots or free lunches. Only 14 percent identified gifts or financial compensation valued at more than $1,000 as their preferred rewards.

According to Bhaskaran, some of FreshDesk's clients have offered gift cards and direct incentives to the top performers on their support teams, and a smaller number even tie the salary of support agents to their monthly game scores as a variable component on their paychecks.

"On a longer scale, though, intangible rewards, like seeing their names on top of a leaderboard and competing to win badges and bragging rights, are great motivators," he says.

Sims likens gamification to posting an employee of the month photo on the corkboard in the break room. "But we enable it to be digital and real time," he says. "You reward people for what they're doing and make it clear what they need to do next" to advance in the game.

For gamification to be an effective motivator, companies need to make all of the results public so team members can see where they stand compared to their colleagues, Bhaskaran advises. "Publishing scores for the whole company to see is probably not for everyone, but it definitely adds transparency and trust," he says.

This aligns with the Make Their Day study results. In that survey, 69 percent of employees said being recognized individually rather than as a team was more motivating; 76 percent were motivated by praise from their colleagues, and 88 percent found praise from their managers to be a big motivator.

That's why most gamification solutions offer a leaderboard feature. Freshdesk Arcade, for example, enables businesses to display a leaderboard of top performers in specific categories, such as speed in resolving an issue, accuracy in response, and customer-reported satisfaction scores, as well as the agent with the most overall points as the most valuable player.

Bunchball's Nitro solution also offers custom leaderboards that can be displayed publicly on dedicated monitors or TV screens. Or, with a single click on the user console, agents can see their current point totals, how many points they need to reach the next level, and the rewards toward which they are working.

Managers also have access to robust analytics and expert reports that can provide insight into what motivates service and support teams and to which challenges they respond the best.

Badgeville's Sims says posting the results to lighted displays where everyone can see them doesn't hurt, but notes that Web portals with real-time dashboards cost nothing to install and operate and can be just as effective.

Quick ROI is possible

With most solutions now available in the cloud, the gamification apps themselves can also be very affordable, onboarding can be accomplished more quickly, and ROI can be realized in much less time.

Products from Bunchball, Badgeville, FreshDesk, and other vendors are software-as-a-service platforms rather than individual applications. As such, they can be easily customized to fit the individual needs of each company and enable the businesses to track behavior and activities across their Web and mobile properties. This also comes in handy, since every deployment will likely have different audiences and goals.

But for all their differences, there are some universal similarities.

Gamification "offers an easy and effective way for service organizations to engage and focus agents who daily face high volumes of calls and ever-increasing productivity goals...and drive desirable behaviors that help cut costs, keep agents engaged, and improve customer service" says Joe Fisher, vice president of products at Bunchball.

Bhaskaran agrees. "The metric that really matters in the contact center is making the customer happy. Gamification makes sure that agents stay happy and focused, which means at the end of the day, customers are happy. And that's what really matters from a strategic point of view," he concludes.

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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