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The spectacular rise of gamification, from a commercial non-starter in 2002 to a USD 2.17 billion global industry in 2017 belies the persistent confusion about what it is and what it can do for business.

Great concept, ugly word

‘Gamification’ is a ‘deliberately ugly word’, coined in 2002 by  Nick Pelling, to describe his brilliantly simple, but commercially  premature idea of applying the user-interface of game design to “turbo-charge all manner of transactions and activities on commercial electronic devices – in-flight video, ATM machines, vending machines, mobile phones, etc. ….”  His concept went nowhere in the day and you have to wonder if a more elegant product name wouldn’t have perhaps improved his chances of success.

Nevertheless, when the time was right a confluence of market forces, technology developments and a small chorus of promoters gave the concept traction around the world. And as a matter of interest, in 2011 the weird, ugly word, ‘gamification’, was short-listed for the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year.

What is it?

First, you need to get past the word ‘game’. Gamification is not about playing a game  or turning work into a game in the casual, carefree sense of the word. The Playa definition: Gamification is the application of game design elements (components, mechanics and dynamics) to non-game or real-life activities. In a business context, it’s about integrating the elements of game design into digital and physical business systems and processes. Ultimately, gamification is about using and analysing data to move behaviour.

How does it work?

Games of any sort appeal to our intrinsic human desires for personal achievement, social status, self-expression, community, closure and competition. Gamification works by creating a ‘game-like’ user experience that generates ‘player-like’ engagement with the job at hand. The purpose is to enhance the way people—employees, customers, partners— interact with your business. Think of gamification as an accelerant that integrates with core business activities. It’s not an end in itself and it’s not a fix for operational issues like poor inventory management or sloppy administrative systems.

What can it do for your business?

Gamification can be integrated into a vast array of systems and processes to motivate action, change behaviours and entrench the engagement that adds real value to your business. Here are five easy ways to start.

  1. Tap into the competitive nature of sales and channel teams by gamifying activities like product training, cross-selling, meeting targets and cold calling. There’s nothing like a leaderboard to stimulate the competitive drive to win and brag about it. Real-time dashboard stats can help management spot the need for a little extra motivation or supportive intervention.
  2. Increase customer interaction with your website by gamifying actions like watching videos, reading articles or writing product reviews. And make it fun!  Gamifying and rewarding these activities offers priceless access to direct, candid customer dialogue, giving you a chance to show a human side to your business and strengthen customer relationships.
  3. Customer support is no day at the beach and it’s important to keep your contact centre agents engaged and motivated to deliver consistently excellent service. Gamify your processes, add real-time performance monitoring and instant feedback then watch your service delivery stats fly.  Set up sprint competitions for faster response times, reduced call duration, improved first call resolution or whatever specific behaviours you want to reinforce.
  4. Enrich your loyalty program with competitions, challenges and game elements that support deeper customer engagement. With real-time monitoring and feedback you can open the door to the sort of genuinely personalised, immediately relevant customer dialogue that keeps loyal relationships alive and thriving.
  5. Boost the effectiveness of HR management on every level. Gamify participation in your health and wellness platform and integrate game elements into your existing learning platform. Make it easy for employees to access all of the benefits your company offers.  Improve the efficiency of your on-boarding process with a gamified introduction to your company and support new employee productivity by setting goals and clarifying performance expectations up front.