If you believe that all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy, chances are you haven't experienced game mechanics in your workplace.
Although games have long been part of our daily lives, the application of game design to reward and encourage certain behaviors within the workplace and with customers has been steadily rising in the last two years.
Badgeville CEO Kris Duggan took some time out to answer a few of our questions on the headway gamification is making in businesses, what this spells for employee and customer engagement and what the future of game mechanics might look like.
Siobhan Fagan: How did you come to game mechanics?
Kris Duggan: When my co-founder and I first came up with the idea for Badgeville, we were looking at a few key trends that were colliding. First, web analytics had not changed for many years, and there was a missing opportunity for business to get a deeper look into user behavior. At the same time, social gaming companies were rising to success due to their great ability to drive user behavior using game mechanics and behavior analytics.
As a serial entrepreneur and sales executive, I've spent my career learning new ways to encourage performance across many different types of employees. We realized that providing a powerful SaaS platform where our customers could track user behavior and reward this behavior with game mechanics could drive substantial benefits for business.
SF: Do game mechanics work for everyone?
KD: Yes, but different game mechanics work for different audiences. A sales team may be motivated by highly competitive game mechanics, while a product team may be best motivated using collaborative gamification programs with reputation mechanics.
The most important part of a gamification program is to understand which mechanics will work for your audience. If you don't strategically think about this up front, you risk hurting your program versus helping it. Our customers come from virtually every industry, with audiences ranging from youth and teens to senior executives at the world's top corporations.
SF: How are game mechanics effective in ways that other engagement methods aren’t?
There are many different engagement methods available. However, few have such a direct and measurable impact on ROI compared to gamification. Fundamentally, game mechanics and gamification look at the key user behaviors that matter to your business and create programs to incentivize these behaviors. You can offer places for your users to engage, but without a gamification program, it is very challenging to encourage consistent and continued engagement.
SF: Do game mechanics change the way that people work?
KD: Game mechanics do not necessarily change the way people work, but they can very successfully encourage adoption of new business processes. For example, you may have invested in a modern CRM system which offers a wide range of functionality that would help your team become more efficient. However, just because the features exist, doesn't mean your employees will use them.
Gamification enables business managers to create a program that calls out the features and actions that they want their employees to perform and offers an easy way to both track these behaviors and reward them. Using gamification, our customers see adoption of enterprise software increase 20 percent or more. Through our partnerships and integrations with Salesforce.com, Yammer, IBM Connections, Drupal, Jive and Microsoft SharePoint, among other leading enterprise software platforms, we've supported many different audiences within enterprises, and can attest to the value of gamification for all employee and customer audiences.
SF: Do game mechanics create long term customer loyalty or more short term effects?
KD: This depends on how the game mechanics program is implemented. If you just add a few simple badges, you could say that you added game mechanics to your experience, but this would not add up to long-term loyalty. You need to think through your gamification program in the same way and depth that you would define a more traditional customer loyalty program. Our customers work directly with Badgeville Producers who consult on best practices to drive long-term value and customer loyalty.
SF: Are there situations/scenarios when game mechanics are not appropriate?
KD: If you have a bad user experience you can't fix these problems by adding game mechanics. Game mechanics make good experiences and good management great. You should assess the quality of your company and these experiences before adding game mechanics. If you have a good experience and want to see increased adoption, usage, retention and engagement, then game mechanics and gamification is a perfect fit.
SF: Critics suggest that by introducing game mechanics into the workplace, we are devolving into a society where people can’t do necessary and perhaps less than fun tasks without having a game interface laid over it. How would you respond?
KD: We are living in an era of distraction, with nearly unlimited options of how to spend every moment of our day. In fact, millenials are less loyal to their employers than ever, and this trend is likely to continue. The question that we should be asking is not if game mechanics will make employees expect this experience in their CMS, CRM, HCM, LMS, ERP, collaboration and other key enterprise software programs, but what will happen if we don't.
While the reward aspect of gamification may create an expectation for such positive feedback to complete less "fun" tasks, much of the value of gamification comes from helping define the specific actions you would like the customer or employee to perform as a "mission," and guiding them through this experience.
It's important that we view gamification not as turning everything into a game, but instead a powerful strategy to drive behavior that your customers and employees are not doing today. These mechanics will become a necessity to every business, with Gartner estimating 70% of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application by 2014.
SF: If a company needs to gamify multiple parts of their workflow, does that point to a larger problem in the company that game mechanics perhaps cannot solve?
KD: Not at all. In fact, many of our customers are scaling their gamification programs across their company. The ideal gamification and behavior management program has a consistent reputation system that tracks a user behavior (regardless of whether they are a customer or employee) across all of that company's digital touchpoints -- their website, their mobile apps, enterprise applications and other digital experiences. The deeper the program is tied to all of these experiences, the more powerful it will be in creating a more efficient, engaged and profitable business.
SF: What do you see as the future of gamification in both the customer facing and the employee facing sides?
KD: Gamification as a term and concept is limiting to the true value of this industry. Businesses will turn to Behavior Management programs which encompass game mechanics, as well as other engagement mechanics and data solutions to drive customer and employee behavior. The data side of these programs will become increasingly important, and programs will shift to provide relevant real-time experiences to reward and engage all audiences.
The future of gamification also will be heavily influenced by the growth of the mobile market, with more and more real-time behavior being able to be collected by businesses about both their customers and employees, which can then be incentivized and encouraged.