‘Gamification’ is one of those buzzwords that gets thrown around both by people who know what it means and by those who do not. In the contact centre industry, where employee engagement is known to be problematic, it’s something many managers know they should be doing, without really knowing why, how, where, or when, or indeed what it actually is. It’s time to set the record straight on what gamification is, and what it is not.
Gamification is just an empty buzzword
Depending on who is using the term, and how it is used, this may very well be true: There are a lot of people out there talking about gamification without much understanding of the concept. But don’t let that dissuade you; gamification is so much more than a buzzword. Defined as the application of game dynamics and mechanics to real-world tasks and processes, it is less of a single, monolithic thing and more of a way of thinking.
As an example, consider the contact centre company CaLLogix. They implemented gamification strategies as part of a wider wellness program, through which they reduced attrition by 50% and absenteeism by 80%! The lesson to take from this is that gamification is used properly when not thought of as a single thing, but when considered as part of the whole, and when used as a guide for implementing strategies across the business.
In contact centres, you’re working with people both within and outside your company. People have needs and wants that must be met in order for them to remain happy and engaged. Games are designed to meet those needs and wants. We should learn from them.
Gamification has no place in serious business
This myth is understandable; games are usually marketed as entertainment products, after all, and you generally indulge in such things outside of a work environment. However, you should be careful not to judge this book by its cover.
A core problem in contact centres is employee engagement and motivation. In 2014, Gallup told us that 51% of workers across all industries were “not engaged”, and as many as 17.5% were “actively disengaged”. We all know that the state of employee engagement in the contact centre industry is even worse than this wider average.
According to a Skills CFA report, our industry suffers from an average annual attrition rate of 24%, which in some cases can be as high as 43%. This is costing the industry a lot of money. Without engaged employees, business suffers. Engagement is the entire purpose of games and gamification, so sometimes a bit of fun is exactly what you need to get your serious business really rolling.
Game based learning and gamification are just fads
It is often the case with buzzwords that they fade away as quickly as they are built up. However, if this were the case with gamification then it would be one of the longest living fads in our society already.
Examples of the use of games and game mechanics to make the ordinary and dull less so is quite old are everywhere. Scouts have badges, militaries have medals and ranks. You did a good job in sales? Here, have a bonus. Employee of the month? That’s an example of a badge mechanic, which is a gamification concept. And that leaderboard? Everyone knows the concept, it’s been commonplace in contact centres – especially outbound-focused contact centres – for as long as they have existed.
These are all game mechanics, techniques we use every single day to make the ordinary more engaging. In the words of Mary Poppins:
“In every job that must be done
there is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game.”
Only young people play games
The idea that games are solely the domain of young people is a common one. And it follows from this idea that gamification therefore will only be motivating to young people.
This is, of course, not true.
Let’s start by putting to rest the young-gamers myth: According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average game player age is 35 years old. Your average gamer these days is hardly a teenager living in their parent’s basement. In fact, chances are a majority of your contact centre agents play games in their free time. The question is, how is this relevant to the industry?
Fundamentally, games are systems that engage people in learning experiences. Challenge is a necessity for engagement in a game, and challenge requires learning. This is what make games useful to us as an industry: The main competitive advantage of localised contact centres is quality and competence, represented by our agents’ skill and knowledge, which makes training a key industry issue.
The problem is that training and onboarding is traditionally one of the most expensive practices in contact centres, often requiring the agent to be taken ‘off line’, requiring a doubling up of staff or providing a lesser service to the public – perhaps going so far as to suspend it – for the duration of the training. In a business where staff is the greatest cost to begin with, and customer service is the basis of the entire business, neither of these options are sustainable or indeed good options at all.
Here, gamification shines: Gamified training solutions can be decentralised and automated with relatively little effort, and allows you to combine your employee engagement efforts with your training.
There’s no evidence that gamification works
Already, we have mentioned several case studies that hint at gamification’s effectiveness. For a few more, we can mention telecommunications company Telus, CRM developer Salesforce, professional services network Deloitte, and even Microsoft; they have all deployed various gamification strategies to great effect, more than proving these techniques in the field
The most recent example we’ve come across comes out of Norway, where entrepreneurs building the extension to the national airport of Gardermoen outside Oslo have turned to games to familiarise the staff with the new facilities and the changes to the old. We haven’t managed to find an English translation of the report from the Norwegian TV2, but here’s one statement from an assistant duty manager Jonas Østvold at OSL regarding dropping down from first to second place:
“Renovations be damned… I have to play from home to score more points!”
To be clear: This person is willingly engaging in work training exercises at home, outside of his working hours. We can think of no clearer evidence that gamification definitely works.