Gamification: the use of features and concepts (e.g. points, levels, leaderboards) from games in non-game environments, such as websites and applications, in order to attract users to engage with the product. - McMillan Dictionary
Customer service: all interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter. - Business Dictionary
Introducing game mechanics to buyer-vendor interactions increases retention by providing fun. It’s the new hype and everybody wants a piece of it.
Gartner predictions state that 50% of companies will gamify their processes by 2015. Customer Service In the Cloud says:
By 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application.
Gamify to drive participation and engagement
Devoted communities built around products and services help them grow. An abandoned brand page or forum can bum a company out. Arguably the best example of a ghost-town is Google Plus. Even though the service provides amazing features like hangouts, you don’t log in because everybody’s playing Farmville-like games on Facebook, right?
It’s simple psychology, really. People have the need for self-expression, achievements and goals. They want to compete, score points and be rewarded for their efforts. As they grow (level up), they desire more perks, but for that, they need to play ball with the big boys - climb the leaderboard, so to speak. This is true both for private and career life.
Brand involvement goes a long way when gamified, boosting retention of customers and making them happier. It’s easier to quit a service that doesn’t promote a long-term relationship. It’s hard, and even a bit nostalgic, to delete a LinkedIn profile which says that it’s 100% competed. This is why telco companies offer better prices for people prolonging their contracts.
Remember: acquiring a new customer involves more costs than keeping an existing one.
Having fun is what it’s all about - thought leaders know it
There are quite a few outstanding examples of gamification out there. From software suppliers to sports and financial institutions - everybody's doing it!
Everybody hated Clippy, the office assistant from Microsoft Office. Well, not any more. He’s the office hero now, teaching you how to actually use MS Word. It’s ridiculously fun, and just goes to show that what Lisa Loeffler, leading researcher and analyst at Convince & Convert says, is true: “We might hate the players, but we don’t hate the game”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSTZbtlKiiU Clippy - The Ribbon Hero
American Express uses an app to promote itself via Twitter, rewarding customers by special deals or offers. Tweet your way to savings, they say. The more you do it, the better the deals. Just like gathering resources in a real time strategy game, don’t you think?
How did Nike+ iPod get runners spending hundreds of dollars on their hobby, when all they need is a decent pair of sneakers? They gamified the run itself. Not only can runners track their pace and performance, but they also can share that information with their fellow sportsmen, compare, and even dare to go further and faster next time. In result, whole cities around the world compete with each other. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NemoP2F9hxs Go men, go women!
Foursquare, the “check-in” mobile app, alongside Starbucks, award badges for visiting coffee houses. There are no freebies involved - only the sole satisfaction of visiting more of those than other friends on Foursquare. It’s somewhat like the ever popular fashion of collecting Hard Rock Cafe T-shirts. Only this time, it’s online and competitive.
CSRs and customers - the role playing game
You already know that each interaction between your customer service representatives and customers in an opportunity you cannot afford to waste. In Layman's terms - a game. Imagine that hand in hand, customers and CSRs struggle with the forces of evil (uplugged printer), eventually freeing the princess (plugging in the printer), and living happily ever after (buying more toner).
- Reward customers for self-service - If they log in to your forum and help one another, promote them with special perks, say how insightful they are, make them feel a valued member of the community around your product. Incentivise chatter by titling participants with seniority or experience badges.
- Ensure the time customers spend on hold is fun - Did Youtube ever seem to take forever to load that Lady Gaga video? Scroll the progress bar all to the left, hit your arrow keys: left, then fast up. Play snake when on hold. Genius!
- Empower agents - Supporters are key players. True, they can be rated by customers (kings!) but it’s them who put on the armor and fight the dragon. Give them a dashboard where they can compete for ratings or satisfaction levels, and make sure you incentivise them with i.e Donut Day, or other fun office events. Quality and satisfaction will go off the chart!
Like everything, gamification has its price. To provide a happy and playful environment, you will need to sacrifice short term benefits, and focus on developing meaningful relationships. Always be sure your customers leave your store with full pockets, ready to come back some other day. Be advised though: do not gamble away your profits or authority. After all, it's you who deals the cards!