Interactions 2024 - Las Vegas

Getting Gamification Right

Telecom customers’ operating systems, devices and service plans change frequently, and call center representatives are constantly challenged to stay up to date. T-Mobile’s customer service teams are no exception, and when the global wireless network operator’s employees were struggling with a legacy knowledgebase, the company turned to a social knowledge-sharing platform.​

A knowledge-sharing platform only works if it is used, so T-Mobile incorporated gamification to enable problem solving and foster participation. “Players” earned points for using the system correctly and awards for contributing their own knowledge. The interactive platform drove both competition and collaboration between team members, and T-Mobile saw substantial results: Participation among employees in the knowledge-sharing platform increased by 96 percent, contributions by 583 percent and responses by 783 percent.

Defining gamification

Gamification applies video game mechanics in non-game contexts. It can be used at individual and team levels, at home or at the gym, in the classroom or in the workplace. In business settings, it is generally used to engage employees and improve performance. It scales well and makes work increasingly fun.

Gamification, however, isn't about turning everything into a game, as the author of the "The Gamification Revolution", Gabe Zichermann, told CIO magazine1. It's about using the best ideas from games, like loyalty programs and behavioral economics, to drive the behavior that businesses want to encourage in their employees. When tied to relevant KPIs and employee goals, gamification helps companies incent the type of behaviors that drive results.

“Gamification engages people at an emotional level, which is far more powerful than typical transactional engagement strategies,” explains Brian Burke, author of Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things2.

Most managers are now aware of the benefits of employee engagement, but many have struggled to drive it. A Gallup study found that only 30 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work3. That same report revealed that employee engagement improves a long list of metrics: customer ratings, profitability, productivity, turnover, shrinkage (theft), absenteeism, and quality.

Gamification, when applied correctly, can increase engagement dramatically. For example, researchers at Finland’s University of Tampere identified a positive link between reward badges and increased work activity4, and psychologists have demonstrated the cause-effect relationship between video game stimuli and the pleasure circuit associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine5.​

Many companies are already using gamification to teach employees processes and procedures, improve productivity and reach revenue goals. At Hyatt Hotels, the goal of gamification is to establish on-the-job goals, reward customer-service employees and provide incentives6. At Xerox, gamification is used to train new hires to its sales teams7.

The basics of gamification

As with reward badges, most of the techniques used for gamification are simple. They include features like level progress, points and scores, real-time performance feedback, progress bars, activity feeds, team contests, virtual gifts, avatars and an online marketplace. These same tools appear in video games and board games alike. Each is designed to lead employees to an end goal.

To succeed, gamification must accomplish three key objectives:
  1. Motivate. People are driven by intrinsic motivation (for example, a personal interest or a sense of accomplishment) and extrinsic motivation (prizes, praise, and recognition). Gamification can develop both to motivate employees to perform at higher levels than ever before.
  2. Entertain. Gamification keeps participants engaged and entertained. A survey found that 23 percent of employees waste time at work because they’re bored8. Employees who are engaged and having fun will stick to the task and accomplish more.
  3. Compensate. Rewards and compensation are essential to successful gamification. A reward can be as simple as a virtual thumbs-up or as significant as a major bonus. People naturally seek out recognition, and compensation increases their commitment to a project or goal.

Aligning gamification and performance improvement

Gamification is much more than rewards and badges; for any gamification project to succeed, an organization needs to align the goals of players with those of the business itself. Reliable and relevant metrics connected to the company’s top priorities keep management informed about ROI and performance, whether the goal is to boost first-call resolution (FCR) rates or reduce average handle time (AHT). Large-scale, successful workplace gamification needs to be adaptable and serve a real purpose.

When organizations get gamification right, the effect is powerful: up to a 25 percent increase in productivity, a 90 percent reduction in training time and a 70 percent reduction in the cost to onboard a new hire9. Providing agents with goals, real-time feedback and rewards that matter can transform the performance of your organization.

Adam Aftergut is a product marketing manager for NICE Performance Management, the leading software solution used by contact centers to improve customer satisfaction scores (CSATs) while reducing contact center operational costs.

1 Rich Hein, “How to Use Gamification to Engage Employees”, CIO Magazine,
2 Biran Burke, “Gamify: How Gamification Motivates People to Do Extraordinary Things”, Amazon,
3 “70% of U.S. Workers​ Not Engaged at Work”, Gallup,
4 Juho Hamari, “Does gamification work?” Gamification Research Network,
5 David J Linden Ph.D. “Video Games Can Activate the Brain's Pleasure ​Circuits”, Psychology Today,
6 John Brandon, “3 enterprise gamification success stories”, CIO Magazine,
7 John Brandon, “3 enterprise gamification success stories”, CIO Magazine,
8 Aaron Gouveia, “Wasting Time at Work 2012”,,
9 NICE, “Gamification: Engage and Motivate Your Employees,” /engage/eBooks/Employee-Engagement--Gamification-25