Since the beginning of the year we’ve been hearing more buzz about gamification in the service center. While the buzz hasn’t yet reached the level surrounding “Social CRM,” it’s following some of the same patterns of confusion. Some in the industry claim that gamification will have agents delivering service through virtual worlds while others write about gamification in terms of using something like a Kinect controller with business applications. At Avanade, we see gamification not as a way to distract employees from their work, but as a way to engage them with it.
Games require a great deal of attention, specialized knowledge and teamwork. The most popular games consume hours of playtime every week and can rival school and work for the level of attention and dedication that are put into them. If we can build contact center applications that command the same level of passion and attention that computer games have, we can make the sometimes repetitive, dull jobs often found in contact centers much more interesting. At first it may be easy to dismiss this idea: games are fun because they have great graphics, because they get the adrenalin pumping, because they are immersive, right? Wrong, people play games because they like to win.
We humans love to accomplish new feats and master difficult tasks. Games give us the ability to challenge ourselves within a wonderfully artificial environment. Card games, board games, bowling and massively multi-player online games all provide an even playing field with a set of well-known rules that define what you are allowed to do and what it takes to win. They allow us to compete with others, or just with ourselves, to get that satisfying sense of accomplishment. The conflict that we endure in competition brings us closer to our team mates, to our rivals and to anyone else who has ever played the game. Win or lose, we set goals to do better next time and we practice to perfect ourselves.
Our jobs are very different: the rules are written down in large policy documents that are rarely read and offer no information on how to succeed on the job. Goals placed in front of us are often ambiguous and the rewards for attaining them unclear. We may like our co-workers but we often work in isolation from them; achieving team goals leaves little sense of group accomplishment.
The gamification of business applications allows companies to create the artificial environment of a game — complete with rules, clear goals and clear rewards. We’re providing tools that allow players to practice and to perfect their skills with their team mates. In the contact center, Avanade builds systems that let service center agents earn points for resolving cases as well other activities supporting business goals, such as contributing to the knowledge base, mentoring new agents and taking additional training. Gamification provides a system that focuses agent attention on what is important and publicly rewards them for their achievements.
By introducing a clear goal and rewards system into the service center, we’re also giving managers a strong tool for adjusting agent behaviors. When phone lines are busy, additional points can be earned for taking a high volume of calls. When the phone lines are slow, agents are given additional points for answering e-mail. When a crop of new agents is brought to the contact center, additional points can be earned for mentoring. In this way, gamification gets the enterprise focused on the same goals from management to employee and, ultimately, to the customer.