Gamification: Driving employee engagement in the sales and service depts
As organisations increasingly strive to enhance the customer experience, having highly engaged and skilled employees in your contact centre or sales team is becoming ever more crucial.
Yet research by Gartner found that just 29% of contact centre employees feel engaged at work, while 52% are unengaged and 19% feel disengaged; and according to the Contact Center Association, each disengaged employee costs their employers around 46% of their pay in lost productivity.
For brands looking to drive employee engagement, gamification can be a really good starting point.
Gamification is the use of game mechanics in non-game activities. The aim is to enable companies to engage more with their employees, by providing tailored learning and performance improvement solutions that influence behaviours and develop skills, in a fun and exciting way.
The figures would suggest that many contact centres have already realised the benefits of gamification techniques for engaging staff – a 2013 report by NICE Systems revealed that 88% of organisations run contests on whiteboards and by email. However, over two-thirds do so less than once a month.
One of the key advantages of gamification is that it is continuous, rather than sporadic. Frank Palermo, senior vice president, technical solutions group at Virtusa, says that gamification taps into something that is instinctive in all of us, on an ongoing basis. “Tying in these concepts around gaming and behaviour really helps because this desire to compete, improve and excel is innate in human behaviour – and using that to leverage this continuous improvement capability is what is exciting about this whole space.”
Plus, as gamification recognises an employee’s contribution on a continual basis, rather than quarterly or monthly, it makes it far more appealing, adds Neil Penny, CTO at Sunrise Software. “This is something that can be used continually, which is more interesting to everybody, and certainly starts to align people with the objectives of the company and makes everything more visible,” he remarks. “You can align it with your key performance indicators, so it can engender collaboration, competition and of course recognition – and all that leads to better employee motivation and engagement.”
Skills such as objection handling and closing techniques can be developed far quicker in the frontline workforce with gamification, remarks Maninder Kapoor Puri, executive vice president - people supply chain and service excellence at Firstsource. “Practical objections and rebuttals, up-sell and cross-sell techniques can be gamified in a fun way, which can help the sales team feel more empowered and confident in converting every potential opportunity into a sale.”
Understand your people
No two organisations are going to be the same in how they apply the mechanics of gamification, although the mechanics themselves are probably quite similar. Some may find that weekly challenges for the best customer satisfaction scores may work for them, and for others it may be something completely different. The important thing to remember is that management have to understand their players and introduce something that is appropriate and will engage them, advises Penny.
“If you do it in a way that is aligned solely with the interests of the business, you risk alienating the people actually contributing. So it’s important that gamification is implemented for both the players and management; and whether the recognition and reward is virtual or physical, getting that balance correct is very important.”
One of the most common applications of gamification is onboarding. Staff turnover is extremely high in contact centres so leaders have to look at ways to speed up the onboarding process, encourage the right attitudes and ensure people are productive as soon as possible. “This is where badges used in gamification can work really well,” comments Palermo. “People can continue to engage in the game and get to certain levels or achievements along that journey; and you can make those achievements transparent and visible to the wider organisation, so there is a sense of accomplishment and peer recognition, which drives more energy around going further, faster.
“We have seen some good results around onboarding, where things that might take 20 weeks are being cut down to around 10 weeks, in terms of getting a new agent from introduction to levels of productivity.”
Gartner recommends enabling new agents to “sign up for ‘quests’ that could challenge them to get 100% adherence during their first week, handle 25 calls and score more than 80% on their evaluations”.
But it doesn’t have to stop at onboarding. Gamification can also be linked into learning and development, where managers can track an employee’s training and skills over time. “It effectively improves employees’ ability to contribute because they can apply their knowledge to their day jobs,” remarks Penny. “So you can move people along and develop them, through the rewards they will get at the end of it. Better knowledge is what most people want but sometimes giving them a reason to go for it is a little bit more interesting.”
Puri adds that, in a contact centre environment, gamification can significantly speed up the learning process. “Gamified learning acts as an effective ‘steroid’ during practice sessions, and helps ensure quicker performance outcomes compared to traditional role-play based practice sessions.”
One other area where gamification can boost engagement is through innovation. “If you gamify the innovation cycle, you can create a virtual environment where people can put forward ideas and create challenges, which people engage in, and in some cases that idea gets explored,” comments Palermo. “This is where employers can provide transparency, and employees can communicate and collaborate better, so there are much higher levels of engagement.”
Making the most of gaming
Gamification techniques give employees a sense of achievement, tie into reward and recognition schemes, and make everyday tasks more exciting, fun and collaborative, so it’s easy to see how they can drive staff engagement. But how exactly can managers ensure gamification is introduced successfully so that everyone gets the most from it?
Penny shares the following tips to introduce gamification into the workplace, which represents a three-step methodology to successful implementation. .
- Don’t assume everyone understands the concept of gamification and make sure to position it as a motivational reward and recognition system rather than just another fad.
- What’s in it for the players? Linking rewards to something tangible like cake and coffee, or even monetary gain, will grab their attention.
- Recognise that not all players are the same – challenges and rewards need to reflect differences in roles and function.
- Don’t commit to promises of rewards you can’t keep – a sure-fire way to demotivate your team.
- Wait until everyone is familiar with gamification before introducing more complex, longer-term goals and rewards.
- Go slowly to build up confidence and keep players keen – start with simple challenges and rewards that encourage healthy competition between players such as ‘highest weekly customer satisfaction rating’, ‘lowest service level agreement stats’, ‘lowest number of re-opened incidents’ or ‘highest number of approved knowledge base articles submitted in a month’.
- Decision criteria for determining winners should be based on measurable statistics such as being ‘rated 5 out of 5 by a customer’ rather than just ‘closing 10 incidents a day’.
- Make first-time rewards attainable to keep new players motivated.
- Create tiered rewards that motivate players to continually do better.
- Mix it up – apply different rewards for different service desk groups at different times but make sure players are competing against colleagues performing similar tasks.
- Don’t be ‘out-gamed’ – minimise the opportunities to cheat by keeping rewards criteria clear and strict.
- Align gaming scenarios with business objectives to keep them real and meaningful – after all, gamification is all about supporting the business!.
Monitor and Iterate
- Continually review the effectiveness of your gamification techniques – is everyone participating? Are there enough rewards and challenges to keep players interested in the long term?
- Listen to staff feedback – more often than not, they will know what works, what does not and come up with fresh ideas.
- It’s an evolving process – constantly tweak and roll-out new challenges and rewards to keep up momentum.
Businesses also have to recognise that not all agents have the same needs is crucial, advises Palermo.
“Their needs tend to be fairly distinct, so you have to design a system that can be personalised. Every company has its own culture, and you have to think about how people will take to the transparency that gamification provides; you are publishing results, you have leaderboards, badges and so on, but what is the effect on employees who aren't achieving? Also, don't make it punitive in any way - it's about making sure that employees feel it is a positive tool.”
Penny stresses that it’s important to continually review the whole process - including the challenges and rewards, who is taking part, and who is winning - and ensure you keep it varied.
“It can be uninspiring to have the same people winning the same challenges and getting the same recognition all the time, so ensure you continually monitor it to make it more interesting. You also need to give people the ability to see what is ahead of them and what they can aspire to – there has to be longevity in the game that drives people forward continuously.”
Lucie trained as a journalist in 2003 and began her career in journalism as a Reporter for SecEd magazine, a weekly publication for secondary school teachers, before moving on to become Deputy Features Editor for General Practitioner, where she wrote, commissioned and edited numerous features for the business section of the magazine. She has...