A Risky Game: Gamification in the Contact Center

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Life - GamificationIn the past few years, there has been significant discussion about gamification as a potential tool for enhancing workforce productivity. Most people have an initially positive visceral reaction to the idea, because we have all experienced the thrill of winning at a challenging game and know how motivating it can be.  Using gamification in the contact center environment seems especially appealing because it has many of the elements that could make “gamifying” the workplace a real success: repetitive tasks that can disengage employees, numerous workers that make possible the creation of competitive teams, the opportunity for individual achievement, and potential personal recognition among peers and superiors, to name a few.  Although we may want to embrace gamification as a panacea for the contact center, the technology is in its infancy, and there are a host of unknowns along the way.

A recent Gartner Hype Cycle places gamification at the Peak of Inflated Expectations with the likelihood that it will enter the Trough of Disillusionment within the next two years.

The novelty of gamification brings with it the risks of any new and untested technology.  Gartner estimates that by 2014, 80% of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily due to poor design.  For example, an agent could become fixated on winning at the game while he or she fails to meet essential KPIs like average handle time.  In addition, it is likely that the novelty of the game will wear off, and rewards could become unsustainable. Agents may lose interest if increasing rewards are not incorporated into the game, and this might be costly if awards are economic or tangible.

Gamification certainly has the potential to yield improvements in levels of agent engagement and associated customer experience scores, but recent use of the term “gamification” has been all about automated but experimental ways of doing what good managers have done for years: align employee goals with enterprise goals.  The challenge that good managers have had historically with goal alignment in the contact center has been the lack of detailed information about agent performance at an individual and team level.  The difficulty has not been the creation of a virtual contest or simulated reality in which agents can play.  A good leader can easily create an environment of competition and excitement, if real-time performance vs. goal metrics are fed back to agents. What is sorely needed in most contact centers is flexible access to performance data summarized in manageable and actionable form, and this requires a robust performance management tool sourcing data from workforce management, ACD, speech/text analytics, CRM and other systems.

Aspect has seen numerous examples of improved customer experience, lower AHT, higher sales conversions and better employee engagement by implementing performance management KPI dashboards. One recent implementation of Aspect Performance Management Software allowed Hayneedle, a leading online retailer, to successfully “gamify” their contact centers by using hourly updates on sales performance to stimulate competition among agents. No separate gamification system was required. Their success was rooted in good management and good data.

It will be interesting to see who the winners and losers are as some contact centers rush to implement nascent gamification technology.

One thought on “A Risky Game: Gamification in the Contact Center

  1. Gamification is not new and has been used in call centers for decades. Almost immediately after the first call centers became operational in the 1970’s, agent KPI’s were improved via incentive programs. Contact centers hold contests, offer games, update leader boards and award badges. Only recently have these practices been deemed “gamification” and proclaimed the next big thing. Gamification drives sales, increases customer retention, improves adherence, increases quality, eases the on-boarding process, improves compliance, reduces new-hire turnover, encourages the mentoring of agents, recognizes peers, collects more money, improves FCR and enhances numerous other metrics.

    That said, there is no point in setting up agent incentives or gamification without good data or in using data that misdirects the efforts. The only thing accomplished is automating a faulty application.

    The new gamification players are missing the most significant component of gamification. They believe that the game process is the end solution, earning small wins, yielding badges and provides social recognition. They believe that a game is sufficient motivation in itself; however their game processes do not include random intermittent reinforcement. Random intermittent reinforcement is the motivation that keeps already learned activities interesting and exciting.

    The only thing new about “gamification” is the name and that it’s now being applied in the consumer marketplace. The often quoted Gartner study was not focused on Call Centers and has no validity when comparing gamification successes or failures within call centers. It also took the erroneous view that gamification was a new idea.

    There is a lot of gamification material, research, white papers, case studies on our web site.

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