"Gamification" — the introduction of game mechanics into normal business operations — has been used successfully by some industries for decades.

Back in the 1960s, S&H Green Stamps, which were distributed by supermarkets to shoppers who could redeem them for various prizes, were wildly popular among American housewives. In the 1980s, with the increasing sophistication of computers, numerous loyalty programs were introduced by airlines, car rental companies and hotels — and they appear to be here to stay. Today, businesses in a wide range of industries employ gamification techniques to motivate both employees and consumers, and customer call centres are no exception.

Common Pitfalls

However, not all gamification applications are born to succeed. Implementing a successful program takes careful planning and execution. Key to this effort is ensuring that company goals, employee goals, and consumer goals are all in alignment when structuring a gamification program — and to refrain from designing a program that is fun for consumers but does not help the company achieve its objectives.

Starting Gamification

For banks, insurance companies, and other corporations employing large call centres, the goals of the major stakeholders — companies, employees, and customers — don’t always align. For example, if a company and agent share the goal of reducing average call times, and unscrupulous agents resort to hang-ups as a means to terminate long and complicated calls, the agents and company will meet their goal of shortening customer wait times, but the customer goal of problem-solving will not be met. In this example, an effective approach might be to design a reward system for agents based on their quick and effective handling of calls, as rated by their customers and supervisors, which will incent them to try harder to solve problems and satisfy customers.

Companies are best off thinking creatively about how a rewards system could be used to help motivate both employees and customers, and how to apply software solutions that capture the metrics necessary to employ gamification techniques. Customers could engage more fully by rating their agents’ handling of their calls or receiving special offers at the completion of service calls. On the agent side, if the program results in competitive gains versus peers, points accumulation, specific rewards or recognition, or in some cases, even just bragging rights, it should have a good likelihood of success.