Gamification Making Inroads in Providing Effective Motivational Tools for Contact Center Employees
When you think contact center gamification what do you envision? Is it agents blowing away bad guys or smashing up cars on their monitors between calls? This is a common misconception that does not do justice to sophisticated tools that can have a significant impact on improving productivity, increasing employee satisfaction and diminishing attrition rates. While encouraging friendly competition, keeping track of scoreboards and earning badges are an integral part of the process, gamification does not involve playing any kind of computer games.
What gamification does is introduce the challenging and fun aspects of gaming into tedious work tasks. It can be deployed across the enterprise and in some cases, small and medium businesses. The objective is to influence desired behaviors among employees. Beyond the competitive and recognition aspects, gamification also creates a social collaboration environment, delivers notifications and alerts, offers live guidance within training courses, and provides analytics and performance reviews.
Industry perception is rapidly evolving. In a recent report, “Gamification: A New Approach to Tracking and Improving Agent Performance,” call center analysts Ovum states “There is a clear fit for gamification in the contact center, where agent attrition rates are high, agents are unmotivated by repetitive tasks and new hires need to get up and running quickly.” The report predicts “Gamification will be a growth market among contact centers.”
Gamification pioneers and a key workforce optimization vendor are all leveraging the technology to develop effective strategic initiatives for contact centers. Rajat Paharia, Founder and Chief Product Officer of Bunchball, sees gamification as ‘Motivating people through data measure with rewards and recognition’. Paharia, who launched Bunchball in 2005, and is thought of by many as the “father of gamification,” notes “Smart companies have been using some of these techniques manually on an ad-hoc basis, but we’re transitioning gamification into an online performance enhancement system.”
Bunchball began in the b-to-c arena. Its first customer was the TV show “The Office” for whom they created a successful online viewer engagement program. The company also has many implementations in B-to-B enterprise environments. In 2009, Bunchball entered into an agreement with LiveOps virtual call center services group. The goals were to:
- Improve the sales performance of the company’s 20,000 virtual agents
- increase participation in eLearning programs
- Connect the geographically disparate agents to a vibrant community
- Provide a transparent, centralized location to showcase agent accomplishments
Bunchball transformed the existing LiveOps “MyWork” community into a motivational social hub where agents earned reward points for increased call conversion rates and the demonstration of specific skill attributes consistent with company objectives. Employees were able to track points on leaderboards and earn badges. Perhaps most important of all, Bunchball empowered agents to complete additional e-training and certification, and connect with their managers. The immediate results after ramping up were impressive. LiveOps’ agents exceeded the company’s expectations by raising both customer satisfaction ratings and LiveOps’ Net Promoter score. The program has enjoyed continued success and is still being used.
While one of numerous markets served by Bunchball is contact center, it is the sole focus of attention for PlayVox, a company with roots in Chile and Colombia. Their collaboration platform has been built as a standalone solution to manage and motivate people in contact centers. Founder Oscar Giraldo, who established the click-to-call firm Arcaris, saw an opening in the contact center’s high attrition rate. “Gamification is all about talent management. There were no companies devoted to using it as a training and behavior modification tool for contact center personnel,” he said. “Our mission is to make contact centers a more transparent and meritocratic environment, and a more meaningful place to work.”
One early PlayVox adopter, social media deal promoter Groupon LatAm, experienced improved internal communications, and better quality management due to more rapid feedback and increased employee engagement. Giraldo noted, “Surveys taken “before” and “after” implementation at Groupon showed higher satisfaction among agents.” Since this initial success, PlayVox, whose target is centers with between 50 and 500 seats, now has an office in Sunnyvale, CA and has turned its attention to increasing its presence in the US market.
Gamification has also created opportunities for workforce optimization solution provider Verint. In a recent press release, Verint announced that some customers of its popular Impact 360 WFO software suite are using the solution’s comprehensive set of employee data to understand the current state of contact center teams as part of their business gamification initiatives. These customers are taking advantage of the suite’s game mechanics to encourage specific behaviors and achieve targeted customer experience and revenue goals
Mike Bourke, Director, Contact Center WFO Practice for Verint said “Gamification is enabling customers to gain real-time feedback and input—this is the very reason why it’s gaining so much attention in the market right now. It’s also a critical component in creating positive customer experiences. Organizations are using desktop gadgets that keep key scores current to create more competitive cultures which are driving motivation across contact center and customer service teams.”
Not surprisingly, he sees gamification and WFO as complementary solutions. “Gamification, at its core, is about capturing statistics, communicating status and rewarding behavior. This is also what WFO is all about; using the data and metrics available to create visibility across management teams and supervisors, reward good behavior and interactions, and create coaching and learning opportunities to meet company needs. Where gamification is most influential is in helping to make training more fun and engaging. The other piece is to offer incentives and rewards, such as extra breaks, higher agent rankings, better schedules and more. Some of these can automatically awarded through the WFO solution.”
Quoted in a recent CRM magazine article, Gartner Research Vice President Brian Burke placed gamification in the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’, in their Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies, with the expectation of reaching the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ in 5-10 years. Gartner expects that gamification will enter the ‘Trough of Disillusionment’ within the next 2 years, driven primarily by the lack of understanding of game design and player engagement strategies, resulting in many failed applications.
Industry analyst Donna Fluss of DMG Consulting also sounded a cautionary note. “While gamification is an interesting concept, application within the contact center market has been limited. To realize the potential benefits, solutions need to be geared for the contact center and accompanied by proven best practices.”
As with any new customer service tool, a poorly designed system will be doomed to fail. In its recent report Ovum stated, “Contact centers that adopt gamification need to ensure that they are benefitting from their investment by tracking its impact on agent performance and customer satisfaction.”
To determine the efficacy of gamification, centers should analyze performance scores and metrics, including
- Cases closed and time taken to resolve queries
- Individual task completion for agents
- Time taken to get new agents up and running
- Completion rates of online training courses
- Agent satisfaction rates
With proper planning, execution and ongoing assessment, it can be a win-win proposition for agents, manager and customers alike.