Customer Service Isn’t a Game… But Should It Be?

Written by on June 14, 2016

Have you ever questioned a family member’s morality over a game of Monopoly? Or watched a person break down and tell their friends how they really feel because of a Scrabble disagreement? While not every player goes directly to jail, games do elicit strong emotions across the board. More than one family gathering has ended like a battle scene in Game of Thrones because of them.

Let’s set aside the fact that your brother-in-law might have cheated at Uno. (If he’s like mine, we can assume he did.) What deserves our attention is the degree to which games engage people. Games spark our ancient and innate sense of competition. They focus our attention and make us become suddenly passionate about things like small plastic hotels. In short, they make us really care about outcomes.

Incidentally, the business world also cares deeply about outcomes. Interest in gamification—which Gartner defines as “the use of game mechanics to drive engagement in non-game business scenarios and to change behaviors in a target audience to achieve business outcomes”—has been on the rise long enough to have passed go and collected $200 many, many times.

Gamification to Improve Employee User Experience

There are many compelling business cases for implementing gamification in a customer service context. Customer service games, for example, are very effective at teaching specific skills to service agents.

After training, gamification adds an element of fun to what can otherwise become a monotonous workload. The value of this shouldn’t be underestimated—agents who have fun at work are likely to have higher job satisfaction.

“But how does that help me?” asks a skeptical voice from the boardroom. Well, job satisfaction is strongly related to a lower rate of employee churn, and lower churn equates to lower training costs, more experienced agents, happier customers and more money in the bank.



Agent leaderboard in Freshdesk showing top agents for overall
performance, first-call resolution and time-to-resolution

Gamification also helps motivate employees. When it’s integrated into a company’s help desk software solution, gamification can turn a complex and intricate job into a series of short-term goals that reward employees with:

  • More frequent feelings of accomplishment
  • A healthier perspective and appreciation for their many contributions to the company’s overall success
  • Greater motivation to focus on each individual service and support success

However, for all the attention given to the benefits of gamification for service and support agents, departments, and even whole companies, there is another group that stands to benefit—yet has received far less attention. (And no, we’re not talking about virtual agents…that would be foolish.) We’re talking about customers. Gamification of (internal) customer service processes can greatly improve the (external) customer experience.

Gamification to Improve Customer Experience

Customers have a long list of things to dislike about the way companies handle customer service. When calling on the phone, for example, they really hate it when agents sound overly scripted. They prefer natural interactions, with agents who sound human and sound like they genuinely care. Imagine that.

Companies have devised many tricks to try to make their agents sound more personable, using tactics such as repeating the customer’s name and empathizing with their situation. For the most part, customers perceive these as the transparent attempts that they are. These are tricks, not games, and customers are tired of getting played.

“But we need the scripts to ensure consistency!” shouts the same pesky voice from the boardroom. This is actually a fair point. Consistency is important, and a lack of it quickly detracts from the company’s efficiency and from the customer’s experience.

But don’t despair—gamification can save the day once again! Choosing and comparing customer service software with integrated gamification is a big first step towards ensuring consistency and minimizing the use of customer-experience-killing scripts. Service agents get to focus on the many smaller goals required of a service interaction, but are still free to speak to the customer like an actual person.

In this scenario, instead of reading each scripted line in sequence, agents are given a group of small tasks or “quests” to accomplish in each interaction. For example, they might be tasked with logging an accurate description of the problem and determining the best next action. But they’re still given the freedom to guide and shape the conversation naturally. They get to engage the customer while still completing the tasks to ensure completeness and consistency.

With properly designed gamification, agents can become more focused and more engaged. They care more about each individual outcome, ultimately improving service. We’ve known for a long time that this is a win-win for service agents and even the voices in the boardroom. But with conscientious design, games make it a win-win-win by allowing customers to have the conversations they want. Everyone goes home happy—and sans battle scars.

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