3, January 2017
Reward plays a central role to learning is perhaps a known truth. However why humans strive in their evolution to continually learn is not explained in the Reward-learning equation. It happens so that the regions of the brain that are responsible for rewards, pleasure, and motivation are all coexistent in the same brain region. We are pleasure /reward seeking by nature simply because of our default dopamine (a neurotransmitter chemical) levels. Curiosity happens to also target the same brain region thus increasing the dopamine secretion levels and thereby also the learning process, as they are all interlinked. The very existential survival is pleasure and reward and hence cannot be extricated from life.
The root word Game means amusement or fun, directly linking it to the pleasurable activity or indulgence. What is fun differs from person to person. Gamification is, therefore, the act of involving individuals to experience in a fun way to memorize, learn things over time and be rewarded for doing so.
Boredom is an unpleasant transient state and we will not go into all the sources of boredom but sight robotic monotony or lack of any activity is one of the causative effects. So in both cases, we could assume since there is unpleasantness that dopamine levels are not optimal in explaining unpleasantness to activity relationship. When a process, product, promise or service doesn’t meet the expectation set forth by the brand then it is inevitable that one would receive similar pattern and type of grievances at the customer service center that would tire out the contact center agents who are at the receiving end.
As much as we focus on CX end we need to truly ask, are we doing enough to help improve AX (Agent Experience)? Arguing that we provide tools to help improve their productivity and be able to handle more calls is making them more like a commodity machine. What results out as performance will also be a cognitive commodity not creative or compassionate.
Before AI-powered Virtual assistants end the misery of human agents, during this transient period we could do something about it in our own nice way, both in the arena of technology design as well as in adoption. Gamification as a goal in the contact center is not necessarily to pick one winner among the group unlike traditional competitive games but its true purpose lies in providing a relaxing learning environment to ensure the critical mass reaches a level of competence so all can be rewarded. Gamification drives agent behavior through a set of predefined rules that promotes a particular behavior and occludes the rest.
While Gamification can be employed to any organization and to any workforce, the focus here is specific to Contact Center where it is seldom deployed as it is seen as yet another cost item. Today even where it’s employed, it is designed to drive compliance as compared to boosting agents performance to cross sell/up or improve collections, which are revenue generation activities.
Linking this back to reward is key to the outcome of Gamification. Rewards should be designed to provide for performance vs completion, boring vs intrinsically interesting tasks, milestones vs the end goal for continual agent engagement in the game and more so for collaboration, rather in addition to individual achievements. What is interesting to hook you to a game is not the complexity but the quicker learning curve, not the addictiveness but what impression it leaves you post-game, not that is very factual but of narrative type, not the levels but gratification through intermittent scoring.
Scoring is an intricate element that helps in adoption, adaptation, and perception of the game and the stickiness with its players. Scoring as in conventional games need not be mere numeric points, it can be additional tools, knowledge-based resources etc. It is fundamentally different compared to conventional games, if an agent is doing badly in a game he needs to be given more tools in form of tips, suggestions, call guide etc so as to assist in salvaging the situation but be rewarded for the effort and the pursuit to resolve the problem at hand.
Numeric scoring could be a CSAT or NPS based on the performance of the agent or any desired goal as set forth by the organization, where the game closely mimics a real life type scenario for cross-sell/upsell or simple accruement of points that can be redeemed against say a gift voucher, 1/2 day paid holiday, flexibility to choose shift hours for that week or next etc.
By use of other technologies like NLP, Speech Analytics & scoring models, whichever is the interface to the game (text or voice), we could automate scoring, creating a close to real life environment for the agents. We could look at trends, behavioral patterns, perseverance, compliance, tenacity, knowledge, etc and for example could create archetypes for classification of agents within the contact center. Gamification is a continual iterative process and subsequent versions of the game can be designed keeping in mind the archetypes from an earlier version and improving the areas weaker against each type.
Mimicking the real life use cases however in a clever fun way onto the game’s script is the very foundation of its success. This should pike the curiosity to get hooked and make the game easy to score & win initially while increasing the level of thinking and action, subsequently when playing at higher levels. What it typically does to the human mind is that it pushes the agents to go back wanting the experience of that winning state while at the same time looking to achieve it effortlessly.
In order to prevent gamification itself NOT to become addictive we need to employ what some psychologists call hedonic adaptation (it is a tendency to return to relatively a stable state of equilibrium post a high or a low) by ensuring restrictions are placed to what level or amount of time the game is available or accessible to the agents so they don’t get bored or addicted.
Lastly Gamification could be potentially designed also for various role plays or to level up your current role and responsibilities preparing for a career growth as compared to the conventional games which purposefully force you to lose with near misses and exploit the quirkiness in your brain believing if ‘I play it the next time I will surely win’, also known as the Monte Carlo fallacy.
On the power of how games can play, change and alter the brain read “Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal“, her biggest dream is to have a game designer win the next Nobel Price for Peace.