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Using Gamification to solve business problems

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By Martin Conboy

gamificationChildren have always been taught games to help them learn, adopt appropriate behaviours and adapt to life’s challenges. Brian Burke, research VP for Gartner, highlights how gamification uses game mechanics and game design techniques in a non-gaming context to solve a range of business problems and challenges[i]. It’s a tool to engage employees, customers and the public.

Gamification has proven to be successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviours, develop skills and solve problems. Gamification is currently being applied to customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, and a range of other areas. It has the potential to redefine the nature of BPO and outsourcing relationships, and the value they deliver to clients and providers.

However it is not without its challenges, toward the end of 2013, Gartner released a report predicting that 80 percent of gamified

Gamification has proven to be successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviours, develop skills and solve problems.

apps will fail to meet their objectives by 2014. The report cites poor design, including meaningless points and badges, as the top reason for the failure of these applications.

This isn’t exactly surprising. Gamification is approaching the peak of its hype cycle, and, as a result, it’s being tacked on to applications even when it doesn’t make sense for a particular business. Many apps are adding badges and other game mechanics simply because they could appeal to potential investors (or because current investors insisted they be added).

What is gamification?

The oldest examples of gamification are frequent flyer programs that airline companies offer as a part of their customer loyalty programs. Gamification was a term that was first coined in 2003 by Nick Pelling, but did not gain popularity until 2010[ii].

Gamification harnesses the basic desires and needs of users (such as competition, status, altruism, and collaboration) to help them reach their goals and objectives. Typical elements of game playing (i.e. Point scoring, competition, badges, rules of play and winning) are applied to other areas of activity, such as marketing, customer engagement, employee training and education, innovation management and so on.

Innovation Management

Gamification is playing a key role in innovation management. Combined with crowdsourcing it allows organisations to engage a target audience and leverage the collective intelligence of the crowd to generate and develop ideas. According to Gartner[iii] the increasing sophistication of innovation game design along with broader target audience participation and more organisations engaged with this approach, will result in an explosion of gamified, crowd sourced innovations by 2020.

Employee Performance

Organisations have been using game mechanics to improve employee performance for some time now. Most contact centres run

Consumers are tired of participating in dozens of brand-based loyalty programs where the rewards are small and the investment in time is significant. They start out with a simple three or four questionnaire and then take the reader down a long and torturous path of more and more questions and most people just end up with respondent fatigue and just give up.

competitions based around performance and / or number of sales. Unfortunately most of the games designed are crude and rather limited, producing varied results at best.

Most current applications of game mechanics, as you will find in your average BPO contact centre, rely on monetary or other extrinsic rewards and competitive game constructs, where success is limited. These games reward a few top performers, while the rest of the team’s performance lags and continues to fall behind.

Gamification uses the currencies of social capital, self-esteem and fun, as opposed to extrinsic rewards, as motivations for improved performance. It’s based on collaborative rather than competitive games that maximise business outcomes, rather than rewarding a few top performers.

Customer Engagement Platforms

Gamification has the potential to revolutionise loyalty and marketing applications. Consumer brands such as Samsung, Nike and Pepsi are leading the way. And though big brands have the resources to develop customised gamification applications, there is a tremendous opportunity for coalition loyalty platforms to develop that aggregate loyalty programs from many retailers, services and brands.

Consumers are tired of participating in dozens of brand-based loyalty programs where the rewards are small and the investment in time is significant. According to Gartner[iv], by 2020, a small number of dominant coalition loyalty platforms could emerge, driven by a number of factors:

  • Cross-brand sponsorship and participation — Loyalty platforms are attractive to consumers if many of the retailers, services and brands that they already use are part of the program.
  • Aggregation of points and levels — By aggregating points, rewards can be more significant, and players can level-up by virtue of their total program involvement, rather than involvement with a single loyalty marketing program.
  • Levels are broadly recognised — Becoming silver or gold member provides recognition and entitlement across the brand network.
  • Players become loyal to the platform and the brand community — Brands that are not part of the community become “outsiders” and less attractive to consumers.
  • Points become a transferable virtual currency — Points can be broadly exchanged for goods, services or other rewards, and can be transferred to other people.
  • Platform consolidation will occur through network effect — Multiple customer engagement platforms will consolidate to create a small number of dominant platforms.

Combining gamification with big data

The benefits of gamification can be greatly magnified when combined with big data analytics. Big data allows business to capture and analyse customer behaviour[v]. The insight gleaned from this analysis can be used to design games and activities that generate more engaging experiences for customers, measure the performance of those games and activities and identify areas for improvement.

All in all it’s about increasing loyalty by creating an enjoyable experience that connects with the user above and beyond the extrinsic rewards such as money.

[i] http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/gamification/
[ii] http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification.
[iii] http://www.gartner.com/doc/2226015?refval=&pcp=mpe.
[iv] http://www.gartner.com/doc/2226015?refval=&pcp=mpe.
[v][v] http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification#how gamification and big data are driving.


March 17, 2015
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