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Winning with gamification in the contact center

Employees are tired of boring PowerPoint presentations and training manuals as thick as a brick. They want engaging, immersive tools that elevate their learning and productivity, regardless of whether they're new to your contact center or a long-time team member.

The demand for a new approach to learning and training has grown out of the media-rich experiences we live in our day-to-day lives. Think of your smartphone and its myriad apps: Your coffee shop loyalty app gives you gold stars for each purchase and lets you exchange them for free products. Your language-learning app prompts you to keep your streak of daily Spanish lessons going. Your step counter encourages you to get your 10,000 steps in every day, challenging friends and co-workers in the process.

These gamified experiences are emerging as a valuable ally in keeping workers engaged, and in today's competitive talent market, engagement is of utmost importance. Last year, management consulting firm McKinsey released a report that tied engagement to job satisfaction and employee retention. Even better? "Satisfied call center employees are significantly more likely to stay and to refer their workplace to a friend," said the report, Boosting Contact Center Performance Through Employee Engagement.

Undoubtedly, gamification is a powerful device that can improve the quality of learning and increase productivity among staff. "Gamification enables us to drive performance in a way that team members can relate to and rally behind," says Chuck Koskovich, Chief Operating Officer, TELUS International. "It also serves as a simple way for employees to see how they're doing via highly visible and immediate reporting."

A gamified work experience

Using principles of gameplay at work isn't new. Managers around the globe have loved using tools such as leaderboards, for instance, to measure employee performance and track the progress and achievement of goals and objectives. Why gamification is just making waves now is because of its convergence with visual and storytelling features of mobile game design.

A 2018 research paper, Gamification of Employee Training and Development, established that training material enriched with gamified content and visual elements helps engage employees better than old pen-and-paper methods.

But, there are so many applications for gamification beyond new employee training. For example, certain devices, like wearables, can be challenging to understand without in-depth knowledge of the technology. In order for agents to adequately answer customers' questions and troubleshoot problems, they need to understand how the product works. A five-level game that tells players the technical "story" of the product, complete with a quiz at the end to test their retention, can help build product knowledge in an engaging way.

As another example, many customer service teams have certain sales targets or KPIs they are aiming to achieve each week. A gamified leaderboard, complete with points and levels, can be used to encourage agents to maximize their performance. At the end of the month, agents who earned points over their targets can exchange them for prizes, and bragging rights.

“We are finding that using these tools and practices allows us to drive learning and in turn, performance in ways that are more relevant to our team members," says Koskovich." It allows us to use a simple, reward-based systems, in a fun way."

Three key reasons for using gamification in your workplace

Here's a look at three critical factors that demonstrate why using gamification to deliver training and enhance performance tools continues to be such a successful practice.

1. Storytelling matters

Most people naturally relate to, understand and remember narrative stories better than instructional material. To prove this, the authors of the Gamification of Employee Training and Development paper incorporated elements of game fiction into a training program, while still keeping its original bullet points and slideshow presentation. "[We] found that training satisfaction was more positive for gamified narrative training content than for the original content despite meeting fully identical learning objectives," authors Michael Armstrong and Richard Landers concluded.

2. A visual medium for a visual age

Blame it on smartphones; our adoption of visual mediums has accelerated since the dawn of the iPhone and all its shiny apps. This has influenced learning, according to the report, Beyond Millennials: The Next Generation of Learners by Pearson, a publisher and resource provider in the education industry. It states that both Millennials and Gen Zers like to be shown, not told, how to do something,

Gaming design repackages old-school teaching and communication methods with visually appealing UX/UI elements that emulate our smartphone experiences. This is especially helpful when it comes to individual and self-guided learning. But be careful — simply adding a gamified layer on top of old, boring material can only get you so far when it comes to any benefits you may realize. Content is king, and it must be on point before starting to add all the 'bells and whistles'.

3. Better performance through goal setting and tracking

Gamification isn't simply a fun way to engage employees at work. When challenges are presented — ones that can be overcome with focused effort — gamification be incredibly handy at improving performance, note Armstrong and Landers.

Think of a leaderboard measuring an important KPI — say, sales, First Call Resolution or Average Handle Time — that is viewable by all employees. This approach can inspire friendly competition among staff. "It also helps agents identify areas for improvement, and used in conjunction with coaching, can help deliver better results by immediately highlighting areas for improvement," says Koskovich.

You'd be hard pressed to find someone who sat through and enjoyed an eight-hour lecture on achieving performance goals. Gamification breaks down learning and goal-setting into digestible, relatable morsels — and today's contact center agents can't get enough.

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