Avanade Explores Benefits, Risks of Adding Gamification to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Call Center Solutions

Any CIO knows that an enterprise system is only as valuable as its level of user adoption.  Measures of user experience and engagement can be difficult to harness, but the concept of gamification in the enterprise has already started changing the mentality of  IT departments by disrupting preconceptions about superficial contests and silly prizes give way to more legitimate use cases.

In the CRM realm, Microsoft global partner Avanade is charting a path to gamification for Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the call center with an approach that attempts to keep the best qualities of gamification while maintaining management controls. Poorly planned incentives, un-targeted challenges, and meaningless goals can run the promise of gamification into the ground, and cost the IT department its credibility.

According to Avanade's director of software and cloud services Barry Givens, Dynamics CRM in the call center is the perfect place to demonstrate how to implement gamification correctly.  But doing it right means planning, thoughtfulness, and careful management.  "There need to be many ways to win that are blessed by management and that allow managers to communicate what is important," Givens explains. 

Imagine a call center team whose goals change as call center conditions change, perhaps monthly, weekly, or even daily.  The goal one week may be to boost call volume by twenty percent; later that month, it may become hitting a new customer satisfaction level.  If managers can dial those goals into the call center application with visible queues and point tracking at the time that they are valid - and also dial them down again when they became less important - it should send the teams and the individual employees the message that management is offering a clear vision of success at any given time.

Contact center work makes up 30% of Avanade's CRM business, Givens estimates.  They offer their own IP to clients on top of the call center add-on toolkit for Dynamics CRM through custom desktop interfaces, connectors, and, going forward, gamification initiatives.

The gamification features that can be integrated into Avanade's call center IP so far largely involve tracking the accumulation of points by individual and by team, and displaying a leader board as teams race to reach a goal.  One concept that Avanade has rolled out to one client's regional call center puts teams to work with the "gamified" goal of constructing local landmarks like buildings and bridges on a computerized scoreboard. As they add points through specific activities for both themselves individually and their teams, the structure on the scoreboards grows toward completion.  A completed building indicates a team's consistent work together toward shared goals, as well as their achievement of whatever incentives the company has identified.

But in addition to the scores, employees working in their main call center application see a list of the opportunities available to earn points and for how long those opportunities will last.  For example, there may be an opportunity for the next hour to earn points by handling more than five calls in under two minutes; it's an example of something that may not be critical to the long term success of the business but can make the work more interesting in the short term and give employees a chance to show off their skills.

Some of the more sophisticated techniques already in the Avanade gamification toolkit could be drawn directly from the realm of cognitive psychology.   In one example, a call center employee asks the caller to respond to a short satisfaction survey after the call.  Then both the caller and the employee answer the question, "How satisfied were you with the support you received today?".  Traditionally, a higher score by the caller would be the end goal for the employee.  But Givens says that Avanade's clients are seeing a more meaningful benefit from getting the employee to provide the most accurate guess of their caller's experience.  This self-awareness, and the ability to get better at predicting a caller's true sentiments,  is what leads to better, more engaged call center staff, they find.

So what's in it for the employee? With any enterprise gamification model it is up to management to choose the appropriate incentives, of course, but Givens says Avanade's clients see improved clarity around professional advancement opportunities as the most appealing incentives for employees working in an industry where the work can quickly become dull and dispiriting.

"The most exciting opportunity is to enable managers to communicate what is important for staff to do, how to impact the level of success," says Givens.  "It's thinking about how agents can win and advance their career and get excited about it."

About Jason Gumpert

As the editor of MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason oversees all editorial content on the site and at our events, as well as providing site management and strategy. He can be reached at jgumpert@msdynamicsworld.com.

Prior to co-founding MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason was a Principal Software Consultant at Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), where he implemented solutions, trained customers, managed software development, and spent some time in the pre-sales engineering organization. Jason has also held consulting positions at CSC Consulting and Monitor Group.

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