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It's a Game, It's Fun… It's Work?

What do gamers and your employees have in common? A lot more than you think

Be honest. What comes to mind when you picture a gamer? To speak on behalf of many of us, the typical stereotype is of a socially awkward man who never grew up that lives in his parents' basement whose social interactions are primarily online with other gamers via his handsome avatar.

Right? It turns out that we're wrong. Today's gamers include millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds. In fact, nearly three-quarters (72%) of all American households play computer or video games (Entertainment Software Association). And the number is skyrocketing thanks to the popularity of games on mobile devices and social networks: Ten years ago there were between 150 million to 200 million gamers. Now, there are over one billion gamers globally.

Why should you care? The reality is that your workforce is likely made up of a bunch of gamers. Your employees are spending their free time and money playing games. What if there was a way for you to tap into this interest AND improve your business?

Enter gamification. Gamification is taking what's fun and addicting about video games and applying it to every day tasks to make them more engaging. With the huge popularity of social games on Facebook and applications such as FourSquare, businesses are also now beginning to experiment with gamification to not only capture the attention of consumers, but to engage and motivate their own employees.

The numbers are pointing towards gamification being the next big thing for IT. Gartner predicts that by 2014, more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.

What does this look like? There are countless ways that games can be applied to work environments to increase employee engagement, change behavior, and ultimately impact the bottom line. Consider how games could improve project management, programming, employee training, customer service or sales effectiveness.

An easy example to visualize is the call center, notorious for focusing employees on performing mundane, repetitive tasks that oftentimes involve an unhappy customer on the other end. There is little camaraderie or collaboration. Creating energy in a call center has always been a challenge. You can give extra incentives for certain key performance indicators, but oftentimes those incentives result in only a temporary upswing in agent motivation and performance.

What if we looked at the entire idea of incentives differently? What if the call center became a game and the operators were the players? With the average age of a call center worker being 23, the adoption of new technology and a gaming culture is a natural fit. Here's how a call center can be gamified:

  • Avatars - In order to participate in the game you'll need an avatar. Your avatar would participate in the game along with other agents. The concept of the game would be simple. Complete a mission - the agent's task - and earn gems or badges.
  • Leader boards - You'll have your eyes on the leader board where you'll be working in teams to accomplish goals and joining in some friendly competition. The leader boards also help to make clear milestones to reach for professional advancement.
  • Badges - Badges can be earned for helping a peer, successfully handling a certain number of cases in a row, receiving a thumbs up on a knowledge article, or handling a certain number of calls for the day. The badges appear as you earn them and co-workers will see them on your team's leader board.
  • Gems - Gems can be earned for larger tasks or achievements such as making employee of the month, receiving customer accolades, or publishing a knowledge article. Gems can be used to purchase items for your avatar. Over the course of time, successful agents will have a more "blinged out" avatar representing their accomplishments.
  • Social - Game achievements can also be shared socially across the company. Peers and members of the leadership team can "like" or comment on the your success.

The game provides a fun alternative for leadership, encourages peer-to-peer recognition and becomes a long-term solution to increase call center productivity.

Beyond modifying the agent's attitude, the additional upside is the impact this will have on the centers KPI's (key performance indicators). A gamifed agent will be inspired to increase his or her number of calls per hour, decrease average handle time and increase community involvement.

Sound far-fetched? Check out companies like Bunchball, Badgeville and Bigdoor Media. They are already doing this for businesses you know.

It sounds like work could be starting to become a lot more fun. What business processes or tasks in your organization could be improved by gamification?

More Stories By Joel Dubinsky

Joel Dubinsky is Service Cloud Practice Lead at Model Metrics, Inc. He established and leads the Service Cloud practice for Model Metrics, the enterprise cloud computing services provider. Given the increased transparency of the business/customer relationship afforded by social technologies, Model Metrics' Service Cloud practice guides customers through deployments of next generation customer service technology, enabling companies to listen to and participate in real-time conversations with their customers across phone, chat, email and social channels.

Joel has nearly a decade of experience with cloud platforms. Since joining Model Metrics as a practice lead, hel has designed and launched new Service Cloud platforms that transform contact centers in both the B2C and B2B space.

Joel is a Salesforce.com Certified Administrator and Certified Consultant, and has spoken at industry conferences including Dreamforce and Cloudforce. Leading the Service Cloud practice at Model Metrics, he continues to extend the benefits of the cloud to meet the needs of today’s enterprise.

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