How Gamification Makes Customer Service Fun

One company is using gamification to change the customer service paradigm from frustrating to fun -- and customers are loving it.

Think about your last online or over-the-phone customer service experience. You're probably cringing. The scripted chat messages, fruitless attempts to circumvent the dreaded "Press 3 to connect to Billing" phone tree system.

This traditional customer service experience is process-oriented, tedious, and it leaves customers frustrated and dissatisfied, says Girish Mathrubootham, founder and CEO, FreshDesk.

Gamification

But the paradigm is shifting, as companies like FreshDesk incorporate gamification to help drive happier, more satisfied employees and, most importantly, customers, he says.

Shifting the Customer Service Paradigm

"The whole paradigm is changing from what used to be a one-to-one conversation between a customer and a company to interactions with multiple touchpoints," Mathrubootham says.

[Related: How to Use Gamification to Engage Employees]

"You can access your billing and usage statements online. You can engage with companies via social media. And customers aren't satisfied with wading through phone trees or having to get through a scripted interaction -- think 'Have you tried restarting your machine?'-- anymore," Mathrubootham says. "So we set out to change that."

FreshDesk uses gamification to incent employees to provide fast, effective and fun customer service for helpdesk ticketing, automation and customer forums, says Mathrubootham. The model for the solution was Apple's Genius bar, he says.

"Our first thought was, 'How do we make this more fun and more engaging for the people providing the support?'" Mathrubootham says. "Obviously we wanted happy customers, but what we realized from talking about models like Apple's is that happiness is contagious."

If the customer service agents are happy, engaged and invested in delivering quality support, then they will pass that onto customers. And gamification can be a great way to increase this engagement and satisfaction both from an agent and a customer standpoint," Mathrubootham says.

[Related: 5 Key Benefits Gamification Brings to Your Business]

FreshDesk focuses on resolving customer support tickets, first and foremost, says Mathrubootham. The gamification within the solution awards points for quick issue resolution, for levels of customer satisfaction and other metrics, he says.

In addition, agents can 'level up' based on specific achievements. For instance, contributing to the solution's online knowledge base to help both fellow agents and customers with issue resolution, Mathrubootham says. Agents who submit five or more articles each month gain bonus points toward their scores.

Becoming a Speed Racer

"We incorporated different skill levels for the agents to shoot for, and they compete against each other to gain 'trophies,'" Mathrubootham says. One such skill level, he says, is designated "Speed Racer," and recognizes the agent who accumulates the most points for quick issue resolution.

[Related: Students Learn to Win With Gamification]

While their core metric is level of customer satisfaction, Mathrubootham says, speed, efficiency and low instances of recurring problems are all included in that satisfaction, which is why agents are "scored" on those areas.

Mathrubootham says the FreshDesk gamification approach, which is an optional package available to clients who sign up for the whole solution, is getting rave reviews from the approximately 2,500 clients who're using it, and interest is quickly spreading to the rest of their almost 17,000 customers.

However, for some long-time customer service professionals, the solution is antithetical to everything they've learned about customer service over the last 15 to 20 years, says Mathrubootham.

"In some respects, it's been very polarizing," says Mathrubootham. "Some of the older-generation folks, who've been doing this their entire career, are really upset. They've said 'You are not taking this seriously. You're way outside of the professional requirements of customer support. This is not a joke!'," he says. "But the younger generation loves this, and our customers overall are thrilled," he says. "

A lot of companies claim they want to engage their customers, make them more satisfied and increase interactions, but the hard part is getting everyone on board and have a methodology to do that," Mathrubootham says.

"This is what we've found works. The mechanics of gamification work, because it gives people a measurable way to earn the respect of their peers," he says.

Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at sflorentine@cio.com Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.

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