Contact centre agents frequently view their work as repetitive and unsatisfying but turning toiling on the telephone into a game may modify this perception and give service levels a boost.
The call centre sector represents big business in Australia – it employs more than 250,000 people, across a gamut of industries, according to latest data from CX Central.
Call centre workers are the frontline face – or voice – of the organisation that employs them but for most individuals who take on the gig, it’s a stop-gap or stepping stone job, not a long-term career. Annual staff turnover rate is around 40 per cent, with individuals spending between one and three years in the gig, on average.
While yesteryear’s call centre has evolved into today’s contact centre – typically supporting multiple forms of contact including social media, email and live chat – more than 70 per cent of interactions still take place over the phone, according to the 2018 Australian Contact Centre Benchmark Report.
Despite concerted efforts by organisations to push customers down self-service channels over the past five years, this figure has continued to hold steady.
While the economy is digitising at a rapid clip, when they have a problem, customers still want to be able to pick up the phone, talk to a human being and have it sorted out.
Given this, minimising employee attrition, improving the productivity of agents and lifting service levels are imperatives for companies which want to get maximum return on their contact centre investment.
Playing the game
Introducing gamification to the call centre environment can improve employee engagement and boost their performance across key metrics.
A trend which emerged earlier this decade, gamification refers to the introduction of elements of game playing, such as points scoring, ranking against other ‘players’ and the prospect of rewards, to non-game activities. It has been employed across a range of industries, including health and wellness and education.
Applied smartly in a business context, gamification can drive sales and boost employee loyalty by making workaday routines and tasks more interesting and fun.
It’s a modus operandi which resonates particularly well with the younger generation who make up a sizeable proportion of Australia’s call centre workforce. Some 42 per cent of trailing millennials – individuals aged between 14 and 27 – play computer games at least once a week, as does 35 per cent of the population at large, according to Deloitte’s Media Consumer Survey 2017.
Unlike many of their older compatriots, millennials commonly expect a job to be more than a means of generating an income. They want their work to be meaningful and they seek to be engaged as they toil. Gamification can be a way of delivering on these expectations and exacting increased commitment to the role and the organisation in the process.
Making the rules
All games have rules and working out the best rules for your organisation’s ‘game’ is the key to using gamification effectively in a call centre environment.
This is likely to start with identifying a specific goal. It could be higher sales, an improvement in Net Promotor Score or increased adherence – that is, encouraging agents to be punctual and take their breaks at scheduled times to prevent calls banking up.
It’s important agents are scored on something they’re able to influence directly, not a vague corporate objective or a group goal. If the rules aren’t transparent, or employees don’t feel they’re involved in a fair fight, they are unlikely to engage with the game
A framework of rules can also be a mechanism for providing performance feedback to employees in a way that feels fun, rather than oppressive.
Lining up to play
While gamification is relatively new to the Australian call centre landscape, early adopters are enjoying encouraging results. QPC’s client list includes a market leading price comparison site and a national debt collection agency. The former is using gamification to encourage its agents to secure sales and the latter to motivate staff to obtain more commitments to pay from defaulting debtors.
We have a further 19 customers which plan to run proofs of concept in 2019. Other emerging trends of recent years, such as chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), have garnered only a fraction of this interest. It seems reasonable to surmise that the buzz around gamification comes in response to a real business problem – a human resources issue which traditional strategies for motivating and engaging employees have not succeeded in addressing.
Call centres are here to stay – but the boredom and burn-out which has historically been associated with working in them need not necessarily be.
Organisations which are open to using gaming technology to engage with their vital frontline staff may save money on recruiting and training their replacements and see their productivity and service levels improve to boot.
Written by: Scott Chambers, APAC Managing Director for QPC