Article

How gamification is leveling up customer service

Done well, gamification can improve customer service agent and team performance. Here's what you should know before implementing your own gamification program.

By Christoph Auer-Welsbach, Co-CEO & Co-Founder, Kaizo

Published November 24, 2020
Last updated September 21, 2021

Exponential growth in customer expectations, an increasingly competitive consumer market, the global influx of customer complaints due to the current pandemic. These are just some of the factors that are contributing to an increasingly challenging work environment for customer support professionals today.

However, many support teams are struggling to keep up. Agents may now be balancing support duties with childcare or elder care, and others may be suffering from ongoing isolation due to lockdown measures.

According to the CX Trends 2020 report, almost half of the customers interviewed said they have switched to a competitor after just one bad experience.

Companies need a hundred percent from their support teams at a time when that is a difficult ask. Given the challenges facing your people, the path to improving customer support is also its own challenge. We’re talking about improving your team’s performance. Namely in 3 critical areas:

  • Performance Management
  • Skill Development
  • Team Engagement

More and more customer service teams are reaching for a creative solution to hit their performance summit: gamification.  

What is gamification?

In a nutshell, gamification is a digital environment to help employees reach their goals and objectives.

Employees play a game that offers points, status, and rewards as they improve their skills and achieve their company goals.

Gamification incentivizes employees by:

  • Encouraging self-development and improvement through learning
  • Creating motivation and engagement to achieve tasks to a higher level
  • Translating complicated processes into an easy-to-understand, engaging format

This leads to an increase of overall team productivity and improvement of service quality.

Whilst it is often successfully used by marketing teams for customer-facing activities, gamification is becoming an ideal internal tool to improve customer service performance from the inside out.

How gamification boosts management efficiency

Being the customer service manager of a scaling team can be an arduous job. The constant responsibility of giving personalized performance guidance to each of your agents can make it feel impossible to focus on other tasks. Not to mention the added difficulty of having your team working remotely.   

Gamification acts as a managerial sidekick by:

  • Acting as a guide that keeps your team on track to achieving their personal and team goals
  • Creating guidance through incentivization

Managers can use incentives such as:

  • Points
  • Badges
  • Levels
  • Rewards

Such tools steer agents toward their team’s KPI’s rather than having to do it face-to-face.

An example of gamification

For example, an agent named Tom has been struggling with his productivity for the past week. Rather than having constant 1:1 meetings, you, as a manager, could delegate extra points within the game environment for tickets handled per hour. 

This way the agent is inherently guided in real time toward improving their results, driven by the incentive of more points for doing so.

Two key benefits of gamification

  1. Balance people time with points

    Your team needs conversation and mentoring and just to share some space with you, even if it's on Zoom. Gamification can help free up your time with your direct reports so you can focus on the important stuff. So gamification in no way makes 1:1’s obsolete, it just makes them more efficient.

    With the constant guidance of point incentivization, agents are in-tune with their performance and when it’s time for a 1:1 with their manager are more educated on where they need to improve. 

    This transparency makes coaching sessions infinitely more efficient giving managers more time to focus on other tasks.

  2. Proactively develop your team’s skills

    Once your team is on track, the next step is personal skill development. Which can be tricky: Skill development in customer service is infamously complex and hard for the whole team to engage with.

    There are more than 50 metrics that measure an agents' performance. So it can be difficult to track each one, forcing managers to only focus on a few and drop the rest.

    Gamification provides a solution here by translating all of these complex metrics into simple, easy to understand skill points. These make it easier to track and give a holistic picture of an agent’s performance.  

Build an engaging digital work environment

One of the most detrimental blockers for improving customer service performance is team engagement.

The environment of a customer service agent in today’s world is a prime example of this. An agent’s workflow is completely digitized. Working individually, within their CRM, from home, with little to no engagement with their team members. Not exactly the most engaging way to work.

But why does that matter?

If agents aren’t engaged and motivated in their job, they’re more likely to underachieve and eventually leave. Simple.

Fast Company points to research from Bain & Company. According to Bain & Company’s Michael Mankins, engaged employees are 44% more productive than workers who say they feel satisfied.

So in a profession that is globally synonymous with high turnover, how do you ensure your team is happy, engaged, and high-performing?

Foster collective storytelling, with rewards

Gamification creates an interactive digital environment where agents are part of a collaborative narrative, working together with their team members to achieve their ‘missions’. It brings all the engagement, teamwork, and camaraderie of working in a real-office and harnesses it in a digital space.

However, on an individual level, agents, like any employees, also want to know that their work is appreciated and really matters to their organization.

Gamified incentives, such as skill points, are a constant reminder for agents that their efforts are appreciated which gives them a sense of pride in their work.

But what good are points, and badges if they have no meaning?

To really improve engagement, in-game incentives should be applicable to real-life rewards.

For example, 200 quality points could be used for a movie voucher or vacation day. In other words, it's the bonus structure that converts the appreciation of their employer by being part of the success into real-world benefits for him-/herself.

As a result agents will make a cognitive connection between performance improvement and rewards whilst having fun along the way. In summary, a happy agent is a productive agent.

For customer service you could translate these metrics into 3 skill areas:

  • Quality
  • Speed
  • Productivity

For example, quality skill points could represent performance based on metrics such as:

  • One-touch solution rate
  • Negative response rate
  • CSAT
  • Repeat contact rate
  • Internal QA score

Now that the agents understand the metrics and are a part of the development process, they can own this and start progressing with in-game objectives.

Think about any video game you’ve played where you’ve had to achieve a certain amount of points to level up. You have a clear goal and you know how to achieve it. It’s your personal mission.

Gamification does the same. But rather than slaying a dragon, it turns KPIs into clear and incentivized team missions, which are connected with real-world success and benefits at their work.

As a result, agents can set their own performance ‘missions’ and constantly track their progress towards achievement without the constant aid of their managers. 

Game on

As customer service becomes more data-driven it doesn’t mean it has to become more complex and dull.

Gamification is breathing new life into the industry, awakening the drive for customer service teams around the world to reach their full potential. Maybe even with a smile on their face....

Learn more about the Kaizo app integration into Zendesk Support


Christoph Auer-Welsbach is the Co-CEO & Co-Founder of Kaizo, Zendesk Marketplace’s #1 rated gamification app. Kaizo is a performance management tool that helps customer service teams evaluate and  improve their performance with real-time insights, QA and gamification.

As a part of the Zendesk for Startups program, we both share a passion for discovering innovative ways to improve the customer experience and continue to work collaboratively on doing so.

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