Smartphones, tablets, social networking and instant messaging; the way we talk to each other has changed massively over the last decade, and it is no secret that consumers - especially those who have grown up with these new technologies - want to be able to communicate with businesses using these same methods.
To say that the contact centre industry has been left behind would be an understatement. In spite of major investments in new technologies, the contact centre has struggled to manage huge volumes of customer interactions across multiple channels. This issue is not just affecting customer satisfaction; it's impacting all aspects of the business, from agent motivation and employee retention through to revenues and the bottom line.
Time and time again, research has shown that contact centre staff engagement is on the decline. It's no wonder customer satisfaction suffers when their first (and sometimes only) interaction with your brand is through a disillusioned agent
Technology is part of the problem
But you can't just solve the problem by throwing more advanced technology at it. In my experience, that typically creates one of two equally unsatisfactory scenarios: either expensive integration projects attempt to bolt together legacy technology but fail to adequately track and manage customers' communication across multiple channels or new technology simply focuses too heavily on automation and fails to reflect the contact centre's internal business processes. As a result, frontline agents often end up disillusioned and demotivated, because by itself, technology does not do a good job of creating engaged employees or loyal customers.
So how can you make the most of technology with an approach that helps to motivate agents and increase customer satisfaction at the same time? The answer is gamification, the systemised process of applying gaming mechanisms to business processes.
Putting people first
Gartner predicts that by the end of 2014, 70 per cent of the world's 2,000 biggest companies will have deployed at least one gamification application. And it's no wonder why. More and more aspects of our lives and interactions are being turned into games. We're all familiar with networks like Foursquare, but have you ever stopped to consider all the other gameplay-based applications that are designed to keep you hooked?
Call centres are already familiar with the principles of gamification because game-based recognition and reward has been used in this industry since day one. Gamification draws on those same principles but takes things to a whole new level. With gamification, you can convert your existing activity and data into points and rewards and use those to provide incentives for your staff, boosting morale and performance, which ultimately benefits customer experience and satisfaction.
The call centre has another advantage when it comes to applying game-based working. The vast majority of call centre agents belong to "Generation Y", with 46 per cent under the age of 30. For this generation, game-based digital interaction is often seen as a way of life, so they will be able to easily adapt to this new way of working.
Reaping the rewards
Early implementation of gamification in contact centres is already having a significant impact. An example of a company that has seen the results for itself is NS&I, one of the largest savings organisations in the UK with over 260 front-line call centre staff. To measure the impact of deploying gamification, a trial group was established and measured on its average call handling time (ATH). Before the deployment, this group's results were measured at almost 3.5 per cent higher than the rest of the operation but following deployment this dropped by almost two per cent. Similarly positive statistics were seen across all other metrics, including customer satisfaction.
Could gamification save your business? What differentiates it from just another technology in an already saturated contact centre? The answer is engagement. When it comes to changing behaviours, gamification can be very powerful, so before you start, it is important to think about the kinds of things you want to encourage. This comes back to having the right building blocks in place and creating a very clear link between people, performance and business outcomes.
Gamification works alongside technology to empower agents and enhance their skills, rather than replace them, and this is the most important point. Gamification is a fantastic tool for motivating agents and achieving greater customer satisfaction, but it is just that: a tool. It will only work if it supports clear operational goals and if your leadership team embraces it with enthusiasm. Remember, for a call centre to be truly people-centric, it must recognise the needs of people, not just technology.
Jaime Scott is managing director of Evaluagent