Gamification is a hot topic in business these days. For owners looking to bring an incentive plan or a rewards-based system to customer relations, developments abound.
"Gamification is not about turning work into a game, but is instead about offering a new means by which employees can be better engaged through performance quantification, rapid feedback loops and a sense of progression," says Adam Holtby, research analyst at Ovum, who tracks and reports on company IT service management.
What business area could benefit most from gamification? Company help desks, where daily grinds and repetitive challenges can sorely affect customer relations. Let's look at what the game-style approach is, and where it's going next, in the workplace.
Why Badges and Rewards?
Small-business help desks might get a few hundred calls per month. Larger firms can see tens of thousands and more.
No matter the model, what's certain is that a portion of the work that help-desk employees do is the same thing, over and over again. And making those same moves every day can lead to employee disengagement, which in turn leads to unhappy customers. Nobody wants a reputation for having a "helpless" desk.
The game, as a tool in these environments, is about restructuring the way workers react to their jobs. With a badge or an award for those who complete a high volume of even unchallenging tasks, for example, the concept is that motivation rises and customer service is improved upon.
"Gamification encourages higher-quality customer service," says Chandar Pattabhiram, vice president of Worldwide Marketing at Badgeville, a company that builds gamification platforms for enterprises.
"Technology … can reward help-desk representatives for resolving tickets quickly, ranking high on customer surveys, and even helping other help-desk employees [by] collaborating on the right answer," Pattabhiram says. "In this respect, it helps the customer because they get better and faster service. It also helps the employee stand out within the organization."
Case Study: Friendly Competition
Research firm Gartner recently issued a report on gamification that captured ways that employees did just what Pattabhiram describes. Gartner's subject (the name is withheld in the report) used real-time leader boards and notices about new accomplishments for motivation. Employees could even "like" and "follow" high-achieving analysts.
"The buzz even extended into after-hours support," reads the report, "where nightshift workers inquired as to how to attain badges, because they did not have the same call volume as their dayshift counterparts."
But what are the quantifiable results from generating all this good feeling? The Gartner study takes us deeper into those details—describing turnaround-level performance improvement.
- Call abandonment rates fell from more than 30 percent to less than 10 percent.
- The average speed at which employees answered call problems fell from about five minutes to less than one minute.
And the good news for smaller shops?
The company in question achieved all this without spending a single extra dime. They couldn't, especially at first, because no new budget was assigned to the help-desk improvement mandate.
In a scenario that many small-business owners can relate to, the implementation of the new program was a manual rollout and largely a volunteer-based effort. The motivation and momentum then built from a sense that "the friendly competition among analysts improved the work environment, making what often was a dull job far more interesting."
Gamifying Your Help Desk: Next Steps
There are some key steps you can take in building a better help desk at your own organization, and you can start by using successful strategies from the Gartner case study.
1. Involve your primary players. Even before they're playing the game that you want to introduce, bring the key participants in your help-desk setting to the table. Buy-in comes from a group of positive changers working from within your staff. It's a more persuasive approach than simple top-down pressure.
2. Challenges breed participation. Start with simple challenges to get people involved before moving to more meaningful transformations. Creating a journey out of challenges ensures sustainable engagement in the change.
3. Personalization makes achievements meaningful. The rewards must be meaningful to the players, and that is key to successful gamification initiatives. Personalizing the electronic badges—the art, badge name and real-time notification tagline—creates a sense of connection with the organization, mission-critical applications and the end users who depend on them.
4. Encouragement is time sensitive. To change behaviors using gamification, the players must receive near real-time feedback that demonstrates progression. Transparent goals that are aligned with business outcomes and a short feedback cycle are essential.
Finally, all this feeds into a collateral goal. No longer are your employees left to wonder about their performance based on an annual or biannual review. No matter what size your business, you're creating touch points with your workers all year round.
"The delivery of consistent and relative feedback to employees has long been a challenge," Holtby says. "Delivering regular and relative feedback can help steer individual behaviors."
The game brings many wins: Happier customers, happier help-management staff and a business that's grown closer on the inside—because working together has become a kind of play.
Read more articles on customer service.
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