Turning Agents Into Players: Gamification Enhances Rep Development and Engagement

All work and no play makes Jack a dull agent – and quite possibly an unmotivated and unproductive one, as well.

While customer care isn’t all fun and games, in many progressive and high-performing contact centers, fun and games definitely factor in. These centers have discovered the power of gamification to enhance agent development and engagement.

Gamification is the use of game design and game tactics to inspire employees to learn new skills and/or change behaviors to achieve business objectives. According to Gartner, “Humans are ‘hard-wired’ to enjoy games, and have a natural tendency to interact more deeply in activities that are framed in a game construct.”

With gamification being shown to enhance employee skills, knowledge and enthusiasm, it’s no surprise that it’s starting to take off in contact center circles. After all, higher-performing and happier agents can only lead to good things from a cost and customer experience standpoint.

But like any potentially powerful tool or trend, gamification must be well understood, implemented and managed in order to achieve desired results. Rushing through a gamification initiative could actually end up causing pretty much the opposite of what it’s intended to deliver, bringing about agent disengagement and dissention, hindering performance, and damaging customer relationships.

Give Agent Training and Coaching Some ‘Game’

One of the best ways to safely tap the power of gamification is by incorporating it into agent training and coaching. Games help to make training less of a ‘pain in the class’ for agents – breaking up the monotony of traditional instruction – and have been shown to accelerate the learning process as well as increase long-term retention of training content.

Many centers purchase or create games where agents earn points (or badges) for answering training questions correctly, completing a training module, or for showing proficiency or improvement in a key skill area. Points may be redeemable for small prizes, preferred schedules, time off, et. al., or may just be used to spur some healthy competition among trainees and to create opportunities for supervisors/managers to publically recognize agents who win as well as those who make notable progress.

Incorporating gamification into coaching is similar. Using fully customizable game software, supervisors can create engaging little games that help agents to learn the specific skills they show to be lacking. Supervisors can send such games directly to the agent’s desktop following a coaching session, or, in certain instances, even use the game to serve as the actual coaching itself. Since every agent has different coaching needs, coaching games are less about competition with the group and more about self-competition and improvement.

Use Gamification with Care in Incentive Programs

Some contact centers incorporate gamification into their agent incentive programs – creating games based on the key call objectives agents aim for. Unfortunately, some centers do so without first thinking through their strategy.

Let’s take a center that creates a game where agents earn points for the number of calls they handle. Such a game could very well entice agents to speed through calls and not provide the level of service customers expect and deserve, all in an effort to get to the top of the leader board. The “winning” agent(s) might earn some extra cash or a prize, but the customer – and the company – ultimately loses.

This is not to say that using gamification to inspire agents to improve key performance metrics is a bad idea, but managers need to make sure that the games drive desired behaviors, not just agent competition and straight productivity numbers.

Play at Work Works

If your contact center has yet to embrace gamification, I recommend you at least look into how it can drive positive results – particularly in the areas of agent training and coaching.

If I were a contact center manager being challenged to engage, entertain and continually develop my agents, I’d definitely be saying “Game on”.

 

About the author

Author of Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact. He has written hundreds of feature articles, case studies, blog posts and research reports on contact center best practices trends and challenges. He is founder and principal of Off Center, which provides a variety of resources to educate, inspire and entertain contact center professionals. Levin is the former editor of ICMI’s pioneering publication Service Level Newsletter, as well as its highly regarded follow-up journal Call Center Management Review.

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