Gamification – Good, Bad or just plain Ugly?

We all know that stress, mental health and other workplace problems are on the increase, so is there a need for more Competition (Gamification)?

Gamification is a word that is overused today in business, but it’s out there and the clever marketeers have convinced many companies that its good for business, but at what cost and what are the dangers.

Unless very carefully executed with the knowledge of SCARF (see video link below) and how the human brain and the chemicals (hormones) in it exists, the chances are Gamification will have a competitive element to it and in the case of contact centres and customer care centres that’s bad for business.

According to the Harvard Business Review who conducted several studies, they found that when employees interpret their arousal from a competition as anxiety, they are less likely to select creative behaviours to solve problems and much more worryingly are more likely to be unethical.

Let’s look at what being unethical could mean in a contact centre, here are just a few examples I can think of:

  • Taking short cuts to lower AHT – Anyone measuring that?
  • Giving heavy discounts to close deals.
  • Over promising to gain new customers, taking commission and then going to work somewhere else.

A good, well it was really not good, example of this was when Well Fargo staff delivered higher sales numbers by secretly creating millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts, Ouch!

So, what do you look for when using Gamification in an environment where people have been asked for “care” for others (customers)? Well in my mind you don’t, you simply use the Neuroscientific Principles of SCARF to make sure people feel safe and supported (cared for) so they can do what they do naturally.

But what if you have already opened the Gamification / Competition box already. Well, you could just stop, or you could take a fresh look at whether what you are doing will negatively affect any of the SCARF elements.

Status: If failing to complete tasks is likely to make good people feel like they are not good enough, then you may want to change the way these tasks are scored, reported or worded.

Status is a big driver for Fight or Flight, Adrenaline production and stress so if your Gamification is making people feel dumb or not good enough its time to take a second look. By the way just scoring agents and then rewarding them will create a lowering of Status for some of your team, that’s fine if you want those people to leave you, but if what you are scoring is not crucial for their role you’ll be going in the wrong direction.

I’m going to skip to the last SCARF element because myself and Danny have spoken about SCARF in more detail in the past –

Fairness: You know where I am going with this one. Any form of competition, gamification, league table, reward scheme MUST be measured consistently, must drive the behaviour you want and must be considered to be FAIR by anyone you want to keep on your team. Inclusion is so important so if you have some team members that do an amazing job because they show a great deal of empathy, that is still a thing in CS right?

Anyway, sorry, if those empathetic employees are a little less likely to appreciate being compared to others, or measured via your shinny Gamification software you may find yourself losing them to your competition simply because they feel you are being unfair in the way you measure them, or simple feel they are measured too much.

This topic leads nicely into Trust, but that’s for another blog. Take care of yourselves and the people who look up to you.