David Morris

All businesses have activities that people do begrudgingly — hygiene tasks that are no fun and provide no sense of fulfilment, but that are nonetheless necessary. Often we design tasks like that for our customers and are surprised when they’re not happy with it; for example: shopping, surveys, filling out tax forms, applying for insurance or a mortgage loan.

By taking a customer-centric outside-in view we can do a lot to improve the customer experience (and that of our staff) by designing processes that achieve their goals with less waste and fewer errors. However, often all we do is turn a hygiene task into an ‘acceptable’ task.

However, what if we could engage our customers (or staff) in such a way that they found the task engaging, or even enjoyable? If we could do that, we could even end up with them keen to complete the task. This would elevate further from just acceptable to what Kano would have called a ‘delighting’ task.

Enter Gamification…

Is gamification to do with playing games? We understand that people get engaged in and enjoy playing games. How does that make sense in a business context?

Gamification is the process of applying elements of game thinking and game design to non-game applications, in order that they are more engaging and possibly enjoyable too.

By making processes or technology more engaging, we encourage our customers to engage in the behaviours we need from them, so that they can complete their tasks quicker, with fewer errors, and less distraction.

In 2011, Bing Gordon (@bingfish) talked about the importance of Gamification, claiming that it was “as important as social and mobile” [quote from TechCrunch article on Gamification].

However, gamification does not mean introducing little in-site game apps (like candy-crunch, farm-ville, or zombies-vs-whatever); rather, it means finding ways to leverage our natural desires for “competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure” [quote from Wikipedia page on Gamification].

Techniques can include:

  • Rewards: rewarding customers for accomplishing tasks; for example, with points, badges, levels, progress bar, or virtual currency.
  • Competition: making these rewards visible to other customers, through sharing tools or leader boards, to encourage them to do more and even invite others to join.
  • Gaming: including ‘in-game’ elements, such as key decision points, unlocking access through activities such as video tutorials, and so on.

These are classic ploys that are game-like in approach, if not in content. When done well, they provide feedback and a feeling of accomplishment, which in turn encourages us to complete our tasks.

You might by now be recognising some of this from the more forward-thinking financial institutions. A leading financial technology company has included elements of this in their bill payment service and report that early results show that gamification has increased the number of bills scheduled for payment and the number of billers added.