With Gamification, Contact Centers Can Be Fun
It’s no secret that contact center agents can have thankless jobs. They spend their days dealing with other people’s problems, and satisfying customer demands is constantly becoming more difficult. The workflow often varies dramatically. The hours can be challenging. The pay is usually modest. The rapid pace of technological evolution means they need to continuously update their skills. And a pat on the back or words of encouragement might not come often enough.
As the work becomes tedious and job-related tensions mount, agents’ energy levels drop, they become disengaged, and they take days off. Productivity falls, customer complaints rise, turnover becomes a real issue, and overall department performance diminishes.
This comes at a time when data collected by Saddletree Research and the National Association of Call Centers suggests that contact center employee engagement has never been more important. That research concluded that addressing issues like job satisfaction, career development, and agent turnover are paramount for customer service executives.
Companies are not blind to the issues, and many are now trying to inject a little fun into the drudgery by incorporating gamification into the contact center. Many view it as a natural progression as changing employee expectations increasingly alter the workforce. “Outside of the contact center, agents are accustomed to real-time insights, instant gratification, and interactivity,” says Chris Bauserman, vice president of segment and product marketing at NICE inContact. “So it’s only natural that agents expect the same at work.”
This especially applies to Millennials, who are gaining mass in the workforce. With more than 75 million individuals in the United States, the Millennial generation makes up the largest U.S. cohort. By 2030, millennials are expected to make up 75 percent of the U.S. workforce.
With numbers on their side, Millennials also pack a lot of power when it comes to setting their own workplace preferences and requirements. Technology is an integral part of their lives, and they expect it to be present in their jobs.
As the labor pool evolves, contact center executives must accommodate the needs of Millennials, and this is spurring the growing interest in gamification.
Thought the term itself lacks a precise meaning, gamification typically involves bringing interactive video game principles into the contact center. Elements such as competition, rewards, and recognition are woven into contact center business processes.
The idea is not new. “Twenty or more years ago, the belief was that agents would perform quicker and more efficiently if work was turned into a game,” says Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting, a research and consulting services provider focusing on contact centers.
Gamification was quick to take hold in some industries, with airlines at the forefront. They started off by offering free travel and expanded into other areas, such as merchandizing.
Contact centers developed their own spin on this theme. “Many contact centers still employ manual gamification methods—think a whiteboard in the break room where agents’ scores are updated by hand on an ongoing basis,” Bauserman points out.
Modern digital and mobile platforms have since emerged, enabling companies to engage with agents in much more dynamic ways.
Competition is a central element of gamification, and it typically comes in three forms: self, peer, and team.
Self-competition focuses on each individual’s performance. In the contact center, it could be linked to lowering call handling times or abandonment rates, or increasing customer satisfaction ratings or first-call resolutions, for example. In other cases, the employee might need to meet certain goals in a set time frame, where, for example, the company runs a special promotion and wants agents to close a certain number of sales during it.
In each case of self-competition, individual strengths and weaknesses are identified, and improvement goals are set. Coaching and training are integral, ongoing parts of these assessments. When the employee reaches the goal, the company recognizes the achievement in some way, traditionally with raises, bonuses, or other perks.
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