Playing the Consumer Game – How to Use Gamification for Improving Your Customer Service


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Gamification is a strategy that’s been turning a lot heads lately and can now be traced in the mainstream of corporate management. Despite its growing popularity, managers are still in the dark about how to effectively use gamified tactics to their benefit – not to mention the tricky question of customer service. Here’s an overview of how gamification has been used so far for improving customer support – both the good and the ugly – and some examples of customer service areas that can greatly benefit from some gamified strategies.

Why Gamification?

Gamification is basically an application of game mechanisms and dynamics into a non-gaming context, such as project management, marketing, training, recruitment and, finally, customer service. The main goal of any gamified activity is to foster engagement and motivatiion, helping subjects to focus on their tasks and accomplish their goals more efficiently. Gamification can also be used to overcome specific challenges or improve enterprise issues ranging from consumer loyalty to team collaboration.

Gamification will work everywhere where motivation and engagement matter most. This means that it can be used in customer service in twofold way – to motivate company employees to provide better customer support and improve the customer experience by gamifying certain elements of the support process.

“Technology […] can reward help-desk representatives for resolving tickets quickly, ranking high on customer surveys, and even helping other help-desk employees [by] collaborating on the right answer […] In this respect, it helps the customer because they get better and faster service. It also helps the employee stand out within the organization,” says Chandar Pattabhiram, vice president of Worldwide Marketing at Badgeville. (

Whether you’re interested in just one of those aspects of customer service or both of them, you need to make sure that the game is well-designed before implementing it. Gartner predicted that by 2014 over 80% of gamified processes will fail due to reasons, such as poor design or inefficient rules. ( That’s why you should always consider checking with a trained coach or a specialized company before you do anything rash and hurt the quality of your customer service.

In order to have a clear idea about how to apply gamification in your customer support department, you need to know what industry experts identified as its main advantages and drawbacks. Here’s the good and the ugly of gamification employed in customer service.

Gamification for Customer Service – Common Criticisms

Not everyone agrees that gamification can work for customer service. One of the earliest criticisms probably comes form Kathy Sierra, a game designer who shared some thoughts about the dark side of gamification in a 2012 edition of Wired.

“One could argue that customer service is crap work and therefore anything to make it more tolerable is good, but this is no path to improving customer experience. You cannot incentivize caring. You can, of course, incentivize things like how quickly they get a customer off the phone,” she said. (

Her criticism stems primary from the fact that gamification replaces intrinsic rewards, such as autonomy or relatedness, with extrinsic ones like points and badges. Since great customer support is all about the intrinsic rewards and values, she fears gamification will automatize the task at hand and negatively affect customer experience.

If you’re considering applying gamification to your customer service, you need to be aware of the recent findings in both psychology and behavioral sciences, as well as have a firm grasp on the values involved in the job of a customer service representative.

The Good Side of Gamified Customer Service

Now that we’ve covered the ugly, it’s time to focus on the potential benefits gamification can bring to customer service. Here’s why gamification is actually worth considering – it can improve enterprise aspects tied to consumers, workers and internal, as well as external relations of whole companies.

Among the main benefits of a gamified customer service are:

  • Increased consumer loyalty – great customer service will drive consumer engagement with the brand and boost their loyalty.
  • Brand visibility – if your customer service is great and really fun, people will be more than willing to share this news all over the place.
  • Improved product knowledge – playing a game, customers get to know your products better and are later able to share their awareness of your brand in their own networks.
  • Less complaints – a gamified experience will work as a calming agent to customers, who now have very high expectations for hearing back from you (a research study by Lithium Technologies showed that 72% of consumers who left a complaint on a brand’s Twitter account expect a response within 1 hour!) (
  • More leads – gamification can help you to introduce consumers to new products or services that are relevant (for instance, based on their previous searches).
  • Analytics – if your gamification strategy is aimed at directing consumers towards a custom platform, you can easily see whether it’s successful by measuring unique page visits, time on site, depth of visit, user participation and page views per user.
  • More fun – even though it’s hard to measure, you’ll be able to see its effect on customers as it improves their overall experience, as well as the experience of your CRSs (for example, when users wait long to be connected and then tend to snap at customer support reps).

Possible Applications of Gamification

If you’re interested in all the above (and you probably are!), gamification might be something worth your interest. Here are some ideas on what aspects of your customer service could use a revamping with some gamified tactics:

  • Waiting on hold – first, you can try rewarding your customers for waiting on hold. All it takes is a simple program like the one developed at AMEX, “Tweet Your Way to Savings”, where you will send key messages and hashtags to customers waiting on hold. When customers tweets using the hashtag, you reward them with points, miles or special promotions.
  • Self-service channels – if you feel customers could easily solve some non-urgent issues on their own (using your insightful FAQs, website, forums), reward them for their effort in looking up a solution with miles, points or special discounts.
  • Measuring employee performance – if you’d like to see which customer service representative works better then others, you can usually count on your gamified software to provide lots of practical analytics. Those programs will show you how much time it takes to assign a support ticket, how fast your employees react to this ticket and send a response, as well as how long customers have to wait for resolving the issue. Some software will publish a weekly or monthly leader boards with the names of fastest and most efficient employees on the very top.

Applying gamification to customer service is easier than ever. There’s a wealth of ready-made software available for customer service, such as UserVoice (, Zendesk (, Badgeville ( or Freshdesk ( that helps not only in improving customer experience, but also measure the performance of your employees.

Considered from this perspective, gamification helps with much more than just plain brand-customer interaction – it has the potential to serve as the core of developing a efficient strategies for spreading brand awareness and fostering consumer loyalty.

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