Gamifying Customer Satisfaction: Motivating Your Front-Line Sales and Support Teams through Rewards and Challenges

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Sales force automation can be redundant and tedious. For sales departments, targets are often quantitative – dollar figures, new leads percentage and conversions. For customer service departments, targets usually involve the speed at which customer complaints and concerns are resolved. With other metrics, such as key performance indicators (KPIs) and return on investment (ROI), enterprise employees may sometimes find their work dull and boring. Going after figures and metrics might turn key personnel into pencil-pushers who are only out to improve quantitative metrics. This could mean losing sight of what’s important: customer satisfaction.

Gamifying the performance of sales and support teams can be a wonderful way to bring back the excitement of doing business. “Gamification in the workplace goes against conventional thinking to provide several benefits to the business, including skills development, innovation, and transparency,” says Gal Rimon, co-founder and CEO at GamEffective, an enterprise gamification platform. However, he says it is not all about fun and games. “Game mechanics alone don’t make human motivation – what matters is the ability to tie in game mechanics into a method of modifying behavior and increasing a sense of engagement and meaning in the workplace.”

Thus, a gamified business environment is not only a means to gauge performance, but rather it is a means to motivate people to work even better. However, it’s not just about numbers and achievements. It’s an ongoing process that enables people to learn, innovate and take new perspectives on their work. A gamified environment also leads to innovation and even ideation – something that works in line with the wisdom and the power of crowds.

Skill Development

As humans, we are constantly learning. To stay competitive in the current employment landscape, no matter the industry, learning more skills and continuing to hone your skillset is critical. Gamification addresses basic human behavior: we all strive for satisfaction. It is something hard-wired in our brains. A gamified environment can stimulate learning, in order for participants to get ahead, in terms of achievements.

It is not always a competition for output, however. For instance, Microsoft used gamification to build a stronger bond between senior managers of consulting businesses and to use the platform to deliver content while fostering learning. The process involved a car racing game with 100% engagement. The game ensured employees had to cooperate as a team to win. In the process, teams engaged in discussion to get the right answers, and collaborated to correct wrong ones.

Better Ability to Innovate

While the intelligence of the individual is worth celebrating, the wisdom of the crowd is making people better and smarter every day. Research indicates that by the end of World War II, knowledge doubled every 25 years. On average, human knowledge is now doubling every 13 months, and IBM says the Internet of Things (IoT) will eventually lead to knowledge doubling every 12 hours.

Gamification builds upon the popularity of many crowd-powered platforms, such as Kickstarter, Quora, and CrowdMed to make the wisdom of the collective group stronger, thereby also improving the individual. “Gamification can provide the shared goals and simple rules that will guide a group of people towards collective action,” says Gartner’s Brian Burke. “Applied to innovation, gamification can motivate people to share their ideas within a community, vote up the best ideas, and encourage people to build upon the ideas of others.”

Innovation also leads to ideation. An example that Burke cites is Quirky, which encourages users to submit ideas for consumer products. The best selected, then eventually made into actual goods for sale. Even better, the crowd collaborates to determine the price and product name. The reward comes in the form of “influence points” given to users who participate in the process. Even Starbucks has used a “My Starbucks Idea” concept, in which customers are encouraged to submit, vote on, and comment on product ideas.

Improved Transparency

A recent survey found that 99% of companies used some sort of short-term incentive program, while only 28% say they use team incentives. Team-based incentives work better because people are more likely to take them seriously. But for them to work, social proof and transparency must be part of the equation. When gamification comes into play, all members of the team can see each other working toward the common end-goal. Thus, the social powers necessary to change behavior are more effective. When an employee sees his or her coworker working hard and doing well, he or she is more likely to want to do so, as well.

While gamifying the work setting may be misconstrued as unnecessary competition, it can, in fact, foster teamwork. “What’s most impressive is not only the fast results and teamwork,” says Yahoo Vice President of Customer Experience, Vikram Subramaniam, citing how his team’s engagement was still high even after a year of introducing a gamified platform. It’s no wonder that retailers and brands leverage gamification for driving up engagement and productivity.

Longer Attention Spans

If anything, gamification provides a solid way of addressing our ever-decreasing attention spans – a result of the recent technological advances that have put computing and communication tools within easy reach. Smartphones, social networks and pervasive Internet connectivity have changed the way we access and demand content. This has, unfortunately, resulted in shorter attention spans. Gamification can encourage micro-learning, which breaks down learning activities into bite-sized pieces that are easily rewarded – again stimulating our basic need for satisfaction and positive reinforcement.

For businesses, the biggest impact of gamification involves productivity. By doing their jobs better and with more motivation, employees are also likely to extend the same desire for customer satisfaction. This benefits the company, adding goodwill value to the brand and helps building the business with motivated sales and support staff.

Lori Wagoner
Lori Wagoner is a marketing researcher and strategist who works with small businesses and organizations to help them gain online visibility. Feel free to strike up a conversation on Twitter @loridwagoner.

1 COMMENT

  1. This post offers some great internal applications of gamification, and I’m a big fan of gaming for multiple stakeholder uses. As I wrote in a post on this subject last year re. how the use of gamification has been growing:

    “This trend works well for building more strategic, bonded relationships with customers. It enables companies to more effectively communicate with customers, socially engage with them, and generate additional insight on their evolving needs and wants. Studies have shown that gamification can lead to a 100% to 150% increase in engagement, as measured by such as involvements as online community activities.

    Gamification expert Gabe Zichermann, recently offered several tips, or ‘new rules’, for more effective application:

    – Help people learn new skills or develop capabilities
    – Overcome short attention spans by enabling consumers to quickly move from stage to stage in games
    – Offer opportunities for sharing, such as informal communication about a preferred product or service
    – Combine both offline and online experiences, where virtual and in-person activities can be worked into gaming
    – Make progress and proficiency, rather than winning, the goal
    – Longer-form games, though they may require more practice and skill, may generate greater loyalty for some brands

    The intent, as in most of gamification, is to stimulate and involve the customer. And, at the same time, the vendor develops valuable data and insights about customer interests, setting the stage for future product development, targeted communication, and service decisions. Leveraged well, gamification in engagement and loyalty programs can dramatically enhance the level of customer-vendor bonding behavior.”

    As you point out, what works with customers works with employee groups as well, especially with those who touch the customer.

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