Gamification Means Playing to Win

Brian Burke is a Gartner analyst with a focus on gamification. Back at the beginning of 2014 he wrote a short blog post that I reread the other day. I can’t say I agree with everything in it, but there’s one point that he makes that is I think vital.

Gamification is not useful for making people work harder, but it can be used to encourage people to work better.

Now, that’s a statement that’s not just true about a gamified workforce, it’s true about any program you use to motivate and reward your employees. The principle is a lot like hitting a baseball well. You don’t try to hit the fences. You focus on the individual mechanics of hitting: how to stand, how to shift weight, and so on. Execute the mechanics well and the hits will come.

Many companies get this wrong, even companies with sophisticated gamification systems in place. They run contests, give out badges, and establish leader boards for “hitting the numbers”: for the results. X% FCR and Y ASA and Z% upsell—things like that.

I think that’s the wrong approach. Yes, you want positive numbers for all those things, but programs that reward for hitting numbers are inherently flawed. They’re not motivators. For one thing, the same best performers generally win—since there’s no skills improvement and no program to pinpoint weaknesses in the agent’s process. For another, it’s an invitation to cut corners. An agent’s top performances when it comes to first call resolution rate may be at the expense of wrap up time or upsell.

Don’t figure out ways to get your agents to work harder. Figure out how to get them to work better. Now, “better” really means two things: how well they handle calls, and how well they comply with your business policies and processes. Both of those are important to profitability: the former makes you money and the latter saves you money. And, within each there are all sorts of mechanics that need to be done well.

Consider First Call Resolution—the Big Kahuna of call center metrics. Rather than offer a badge to the people with the best numbers, break FCR down into its constituent pieces. Maybe it’s product knowledge, analytical skills, use of and additions to your knowledge bases, and so on. Those are the mechanics of FCR. That’s what you want to develop, that’s what you want agents to achieve, and that’s where you give out your badges and build your leader boards.

And far as compliance with process, think about training, call wrap up, shift flexibility, and so on. Employees earn badges for completeness of call logs, for attending or viewing training and cross training programs, and even for their promptness and attendance. These are the things that help you keep control of your costs; these are the areas where you give out your badges and build your leader boards

Agent success is the sum of the parts: it’s the mechanics. By designing gamified programs that focus on those mechanics, you develop agent skills and technique.

And that’s the best way to help agents hit their numbers.