I am not comfortable with the term “gamification” used in the context of business applications. It sounds as if employees are officially allowed to play games while working and thus take their attention away from the task at hand, which in a contact center is serving customers. So I was skeptical when Uptivity recently wanted to brief me about gamification capabilities it recently announced for its suite of workforce optimization products. I was doubtful that gamification will help companies in their quest to optimize performance from their contact center agents.
The gamification capabilities built into Uptivity’s suite enable managers and supervisors to set targets for agents. The targets can relate to standard metrics such as quality scores or average handling time or to customized metrics such as perfect attendance over a given period. They can be applied on an individual basis, to a team or to the whole contact center or business. The Uptivity system helps users set up rules so that if someone meets a target, the individual is credited automatically with the prescribed score. In addition managers or supervisors can manually accredit individuals for meeting a target. The scores can be accumulated over a fixed period (after which they expire) or on an opened-ended basis; either way they are combined and converted to a reward. These can take various forms such as a simple “gold star,” a performance badge (on a wall board or an electronic scorecard) payment, time off or priority in selecting shifts. The gamification system comes with reporting capabilities that allow managers or the individuals themselves to track performance, and the results may be shared publicly – for example to recognize those who achieved gold stars – or kept confidential. Overall the system allows companies to automate the process of setting targets, measuring performance against targets and issuing rewards to those who reach those targets, and do it in a relatively lighthearted way.
I have long believed that bad metrics produce bad results; that is, if you set a metric that doesn’t relate to business goals, agents will work only to that metric, and the company won’t meet the business goal it desired in setting it. An obvious example is setting a target for average handling time and linking a reward to short times; agents will do all they can – including in my experience putting the phone down on customers – to meet it, often to the detriment of the customer experience. The opposite is of course also true: Set the right metric and you’re likely to get the right result. My benchmark research on the agent desktop and customer service identified five key goals for improving customer service agent performance. These can be achieved through a mixture of common standard metrics – such as to reduce average handling times – and others that are less obvious to measure – for example, increasing the skills of agents. Thinking again about this, I can see how companies could use the Uptivity gamification capabilities to motivate agents to deliver on all of these, such as by rewarding them for passing online training courses. So I admit that gamification can play a role in motivating agents to deliver on key business objectives. I recommend that companies take a look at how it could help them meet business objectives. Think of it not as permission to play games at work but as a fun way to motivate agent to achieve goals but also earn rewards and recognition.
Richard J. Snow
VP & Research Director – Customer