A friend of mine recently made a statement to me. He said, “If I go to Hell when I die, I know exactly what I will have to do for eternity – customer support.”
He speaks with experience, because he was a customer support rep for about two years in “another life.” During that time, he was lethargic, hated getting up in the morning, called in sick a lot, and sent out about a dozen resumes a week.
Lack of Engagement
We all probably understand why customer support is not a beloved job.
All day long, listening to complaints from upset, frustrated, and often angry customers. And the issues are getting more complex now, because customers can solve the easy problems themselves by getting on the company website and following the troubleshooting solutions.
By the time the customer gets a live person, moreover, he has had to go through several layers of prompts, increasing his frustration. It is no wonder that polls now show that customer support personnel are some of the least engaged workers on the planet. Sigh.
One solution to the lack of engagement, and one that promises to engage customer support staff much more, is gamification.
Introducing a gaming environment to the support department, employers are finding, can increase motivation, engagement and greater happiness on the job. When support personnel are happier, they tend to make customers happier too.
The conceptual framework behind gamification is to add some fun to as many aspects of the workplace as possible. Here are just a few strategies you can deploy at your company.
More Effective Training
As customer service tasks become more complex, there is a need for more complex training. Traditionally, training occurs in “sessions” with white boards and smart screens and a trainer at the “head of the class.”
Some trainees are able to stay alert, pay attention, and master the skills. Others are bored, distracted, and do not master so well.
There has been a move recently to individualize training, so that new hires can go through the process at their own pace. Training modules are presented digitally, and “students” must work through them, complete the exercises, and then pass an examination before moving on to the next module.
In fact, learners are reported to remember 90% more "if they do the job themselves, even if only as a simulation”. So, that’s an essential step 1.
Now speaking on motivation. The core gamification elements, which boost learners motivation are:
60% prefer leaderboards to foster competition.
89% say they feel more engaged when an e-learning app features a point system.
Favorite gamification techniques include: progress to different levels, scores, avatars, and virtual currencies.
While game architecture varies, many companies are designing 3D immersive environments which simulate actual experiences that a trainee must work through successfully, using critical thinking and problem-solving.
When levels replace modules, the entire experience is changed from a psychological standpoint. And given that most of today’s trainees grew up playing video games, this type of training is just a “natural” as over 75% of people are gamers (whether they admit that or not).
Gaming is all about competition, and when friends game together, they compete. Gaming takes competition into the workplace, but it need not be cut throat.
Companies already run contests within various departments all the time. In a customer support department, with a gaming venue, there can be multiple contests running concurrently fast handling time, or best customer feedback, with scores, for example.
Recognition for high scores can be provided daily or weekly. In fact, research shows that employees will indicate more satisfaction with their jobs when they receive recognition for their accomplishments. And to repeat, happy employees in a customer support department translate to happy customers when they come for resolution of problems.
When people play videogames together, they watch each other’s moves and strategies and they learn from one another.
While gamification in a customer support environment is more of an individual activity, there will be top scorers.
Part of the recognition for those top scorers is that they are asked to share their successful strategies with their co-workers a.k.a. how did they talk out that angry client out of making a chargeback.
This puts them in the spotlight and serves to “pump” them up. The other obvious benefit is that others in the department have some new strategies to use as they deal with customers.
The Psychology of Rewards
Children are motivated by extrinsic rewards almost exclusively. As children mature, they begin to learn to praise themselves internally, along with extrinsic physical rewards.
Mature adults tend to be more motivated by intrinsic reward (recognizing and praising themselves for their accomplishments), and eternal reward that does not have to necessarily be a physical reward. For instance, look at smokers who are trying to withdraw using electronic cigarettes. When they accomplish a goal of not going back to smoking for say some days or weeks, they feel some satisfaction and fulfilment, and that reward motivates them to accomplish more.
Recognition for their accomplishments, especially when done publicly, is a huge motivator.
Gaming in the workplace is not about having fun. It is designed to engage employees, to give them more job satisfaction, and to motivate them to provide better customer service experiences.
In that respect, gaming is incorporated to meet business goals. And in addition to the goal of a better customer experience, companies may very well retain their good performers.