Gamification deployments are fast becoming more common - and more expansive. Business leaders now realize there are virtually no limits to how or where gamification strategies can prove valuable, as this approach has the potential to dramatically increase customer engagement and customer experience management in numerous capacities.
Of course, for gamification to deliver on this promise, it needs to be deployed correctly. This recent white paper, for example, dives into the issue of how to use gamification to improve contact center performance. In this article, we'll take a look at an even more fundamental issue for achieving gamification success: Should gamification be fun? The answer may not be as straightforward as you'd think.
To answer that, you first need to address the basic question of why a company should pursue gamification in the first place. Gamification's value lies in its potential to encourage desired behaviors among a given group. Many companies use gamification to train employees more quickly and effectively - in the white paper highlighted above, for example, you'll see how contests can motivate agents to achieve better performance. To see how these types of gamification programs can deliver results, check out this blog post.
Other organizations focus their gamification efforts on customer engagement. Forbes contributor John Rampton explained that gamification can be particularly useful for B2B companies that need to train and explain to enterprise users how to best utilize a given product. A gamified experience has the potential to be much more engaging, and therefore effective, than a traditional product demo or user guide.
That's why businesses have embraced and continue to embrace gamification. The next question is, how can organizations get gamification right?
What Makes Gamification Work?
This is where the element of fun enters the picture - and it can get complicated. There is a very basic tension inherent to gamification strategies. On the one hand, gamification's effectiveness is predicated on the idea of making users - be they employees or consumers - want to engage in the behavior the company desires. For that to happen, the "game" part of the gamification program needs to be fun and satisfying for everyone who participates.
The problem that many companies face here is that if a business leans too heavily on the "fun" side of the equation, then the game may come to dominate and the effort will lose its focus on the real objective of encouraging the right kind of user and customer engagement. In other words, it's very possible to make gamification too much fun.
Say, for example, a company implements gamification in its contact center by rewarding points to agent teams for completing calls in below-average times, improving first-call resolution rates and so on, and these points show up on a big, communal board and can be redeemed for free dinners and movie tickets. That will probably motivate agents quite a bit. In fact, if the rewards are tempting enough and the competition fierce enough, agents may start to focus more on earning points than what really matters: improving customer experience management. They may rush through calls or distract their rival colleagues, and the end result is bad for the business as a whole.
At the same time, though, if the gamification effort isn't fun enough - if the rewards aren't all that appealing, etc. - then there won't be enough user buy-in to make much of a difference.
This can be a difficult balance to achieve, but it's absolutely essential for maximizing the value of gamification programs. So what factors should you consider to make sure your gamification effort is fun but also remains focused on your ultimate engagement objectives?
1. Identify Goals
The easiest way for a gamification strategy to get off the rails is if the fundamental goals are not fully fleshed out and clearly identified. Without firm, established targets, a company may naturally shift the balance increasingly toward making the gamification program fun, as that will lead to greater engagement. But unless customer engagement is the goal in and of itself, then this should not be the primary guiding light for the gamification strategy, either at its inception or as time goes on.
2. Use Customer Engagement Analytics
With the goal or goals identified, the next key to ensuring the right balance between fun and results is to closely monitor customer engagement analytics. After all, it is difficult, maybe even impossible, to develop the perfect motivation system at the onset, without any data to work with. Basic results - such as the number of participants, the rewards meted out, etc. - will provide useful baseline insight, but more thorough analytics are necessary to see precisely how users are engaging with the gamification strategy. Are the incentives encouraging the desired behavior, or do people seem to be solely interested in collecting badges or other rewards?
3. Constantly Reassess
With the analytics in hand, you'll be able to reassess how the gamification program is working, then make subtle changes. Critically, this should happen on a continual basis. By fine-tuning along the way, you'll be much better able to strike that ideal balance between fun and effectiveness.
Tell us: What strategies are you using to make your gamification fun and engaging without losing sight of your goals?