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Can You Motivate Call Centers Operators With A Box Of Cracker Jacks? Maybe You Can

August 21, 2014

I think there is a close relationship between a box of Cracker Jacks and gamification. I’ll explain.  

 But first, what is gamification? There are many definitions, but for purposes of this article, gamification is the immediate reward of being allowed to play a five second online game of chance in return for the accomplishment of a specific goal.  I need to emphasize that the goal must be specific and measurable. For example, average handle time, attendance, customer resolution, wellness and etc.

If you think this idea seems a little bizarre, it is well founded in solid academic literature. For example, in 1974 two researchers published the results of their study wherein employees were allowed to draw a card from a deck every day they came to work on time. Specific and measurable! The results of the daily card draw were posted in a highly visible place and at the end of the week; the high poker hand was awarded $20. Absenteeism was reduced by 35 percent. Now, ask yourself this question. Would it have been as exciting to simply get a set number of points for every day you came to work on time? Or, did the element of chance contribute significantly to the excitement and success of the program?

In a more recent study, two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study wherein customers in a department store were told at the point of purchase they can buy the item for 90 percent of the sticker price, or they could play a quick spin the wheel game and have a 10% percent chance of getting it for free. But if they lost on the 10 percent chance, they would have to pay the full sticker price. Ninety percent chose to play the game.

To test these results in a call center environment, I conducted a study and gave 300 operators in a large call center the option of receiving 10 points for every call they handled that met company goals, or playing a quick online game that would immediately award them up and to 5000 points. They were told that ultimately the game would average 10 points. Ninety-nine percent of the operators chose to play the game.

A key consideration to this model is that everyone gets to immediately play and win when they achieve their goal.  This is in contrast to the proliferation of spin the wheel and raffle games, which only award a few winners.

Now, if you have any doubts about this gamification application, think about cracker jacks. I ask you, has anyone in the history of the world ever consumed a box of cracker jacks without first checking to see what the prize was? Would cracker jacks be as successful a product if you always got 10 points or knew in advance exactly what the prize was?  And therein lies the compelling nature - allowing people to play games as a reward.  

Think about it. 




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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