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How can gamification support customer and employee onboarding?

10th Aug 2015
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For any business, sales and bottomline are often the priority in terms of long-term strategy. However, with long-term benefit in mind, customer experience is also key in ensuring that a brand gets goodwill, resulting in satisfied customers, return sales, and good brand equity.
There are several techniques in ensuring a good customer experience. While it can come in various forms, one such way is providing top-notch customer support throughout the sales cycle: before, during and after the actual sale.
To this end, one strategy in ensuring a good customer experience is through the proper training of employees to directly or indirectly deal with customer concerns. In line with this, a gamified environment can play a big part in ensuring learning becomes an interesting and integral part of the onboarding process for both employees and customers.
The onboarding process takes place whenever a new customer service representative joins the team, and when a new user starts using a product or service. For employees, the onboarding process is designed to teach them the necessary knowledge and skill required to be part of the customer service team. For a consumer, the goal of onboarding is to prepare the customer to take full advantage of the products or services they just acquired.
Onboarding can be done several ways: through meetings, videos, written manuals, lectures and computer-based solutions. Oftentimes, these tactics are boring, and these don’t keep the end user engaged. Remember, if you want people to work hard to champion for your brand, you will need to get them actually excited about it, and not bored.
So how can gamification support the onboarding process?
The onboarding process
The term 'gamification' may actually misleading, says Gal Rimon, CEO of enterprise gamification platform GamEffective: “Gamification should not merely be about play and games.” Rather, gamified activities take root in a person’s natural desire to succeed, in order to ensure that otherwise boring tasks become interesting.
For instance, to be effective, onboarding activities should be based on exploration. These should start slow and move easily, and be fun. Your customer service representatives will be exploring rules, procedures, guidelines and other information important to the sales and customer service process. Thus, an exploration theme will also train their troubleshooting and problem-solving skills.
It’s critical to make the experience fun, or else users won’t be motivated to do well in the game, or to continue with the game. Our brains release dopamine when we encounter something we enjoy. When we get a dopamine rush, we want more and more of it, hence why things we love become addictive. Fun triggers dopamine, making the player want to excel in the game, and making them want to come back for more.
For employees, this translates to having a desire to succeed in business goals, which often results in personal satisfaction, happiness and elevated productivity. Excelling becomes “business as usual” for them, resulting in an enjoyable activity at the same time.
Rimon adds that because humans are creatures of habit, success becomes a motivation for excelling in the work that we do, and can do wonders in implementing change management. “Gamification uses intrinsic motivation, which is a much stronger driver of long-term engagement. It also uses sophisticated game mechanics and takes a long-term approach to behavioural changes and employee work-habit creation.”
However, using game mechanics to improve customer service centres isn’t always straightforward - in some cases, rewarding actions can even be counterproductive, resulting in shorter call times yet worse customer satisfaction and problem resolution.
An example of a success story is Yahoo!, which sought to create a noticeable and sustainable change in customer service through gamification. One of the goals of the project was to improve team motivation and performance and not pit employees against each other by using simplistic rewards.  Yahoo was particularly keen to see improvements in not only productivity, but also quality of service and customer satisfaction.
Vikram Subramaniam, VP customer experience at Yahoo, explains: “Once we started productivity – as measured by average handling time – shot up right away, but the service quality measures we were tracking hadn’t improved as expected. We immediately re-calibrated our game mechanics and were able to immediately see how quality measures improved while keeping the previous productivity gains intact."
Using regionally dependent sports narratives, the company was able to increase customer service key performance indicators (KPIs) by 10% in just two weeks. Nearly a year after implementation, the team was still reporting high employee engagement, with good results. 
Using gamification with customers to improve experience
Beyond sales and support, gamification can also be used to improve the customer experience by directly engaging with customers. For instance, this can involve giving rewards, points or freebies for reaching certain milestones. As earlier mentioned, gamifying the onboarding process can also help customers learn more about your products and services. 
Alternatively, you can reward customers for using self-service channels, like your website, rather than phoning the customer service department. This reduces the pressure on your support staff, while also resolving the customer’s issue in a more timely manner.
Gamification provides many benefits to the customer experience, including: decreased complaints, increased loyalty and product knowledge, and better word-of-mouth. Consider this: 95% of customers tell others about their bad customer service experiences, and that 70% of people rely on friends and family for product/service recommendations. Thus, it’s critical to do what you can to improve their experience as customers.
Businesses interested in gamifying their customer service and support teams should first start by identifying goals, creating the tangible reward system, and then move onto developing the platform with a partner. Spend time and effort on planning and implementation. Getting it done right will make all the difference in the game’s success.
Daan Pepijn is a cloud computing, web security expert and blogger. His current interests include enterprise automation, cloud-based security and solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].
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