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Gamification: When Employees Win, Customers Win Too


September 5, 2014

Gamification: When Employees Win, Customers Win Too

Home > Blog > Gamification: When Employees Win, Customers Win Too

The exact definition of gamification is up in the air, but according to Gartner analyst Brian Burke, gamification is “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.” In the business world, gamification uses elements like leaderboards, badges, levels and rewards to encourage specific employee behaviors.

We love to compete. Basketball game, pie eating contest…doesn’t matter what it is. We want to compete and ultimately win, but we’re not opposed to getting second or third. Why? Because there’s nothing like the feeling of (partial) success. In a gamified workplace, employees are competing against their colleagues—and themselves.

Getting more industry specific, call center employees could compete to have the fastest call resolution time, the most answered calls, or the happiest customers, or try to trump yesterday’s performance altogether—the possibilities are endless. (The reward opportunities are endless too. Leveling up, badges, recognition, actual tangible rewards like giant stuffed bears…you get the point).

Ultimately, businesses are powered by the customers and maintained by employees. In the service industry, if a customer wants something like shorter wait times, the business should do everything it can to fulfill that want by getting its employees to address that want. Gamification is one way of doing that. Encouraging employees to carry out certain actions for a reward benefits not only them but the customer as well.

One example of this employee/customer relationship is Omnicare, where gamification initially didn’t take off. When helpdesk professionals at the company were introduced to a leaderboard system ranking them by speed, they were pretty cynical about it (understandably) and started leaving. In response, customer satisfaction dropped and wait times went up.

The company ended up revamping their gamified system under a challenge-based, achievement-unlockable format, letting each employee work at their own pace and each earn their own rewards. Employees weren’t penalized for doing their job; instead, everyone was winning. Employees (and customers) were happy again.

Target approached things a different way. When the retailer started rating cashiers on how fast they rang up, most responded positively to the system, wanting to achieve the best score and transaction time. Customers indirectly benefited because the checkout process didn’t take as long. In these two cases, different kinds of systems (ranking vs. gaining experience) for different employees (young people vs. professionals) both succeeded. It depends on the system and the employees.

So, is gamification really necessary? You could argue that employees providing customers with a better experience is a reward in itself, since they know they’re doing their best work to satisfy the customer.

Ultimately, employees should be rewarded for achieving their #1 mission—making the customer happy; at OneReach, we’re pioneering the what we like to call “the smiley face index” to measure that.


It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Whenever an agent solves a customer’s problem, they earn a little smiley face (seen in yellow above). The happier the customer, the more smiley faces the agent earns. In this example, the agent has a goal of 50 smiley faces per week and is rewarded once they reach their goal.

Customer satisfaction never looked so fun.

Photo by Flickr user Menno van der Horst.

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