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David Sims CRM Gamification For Increased Participation & Productivity

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 By David Sims

Gamified CRM — As Compelling As Smashing Birds Into Pigs

Gamification is the idea that people play games for dopamine shots to the brain, not that there's something intrinsically compelling about smashing birds into pigs or planting corn.

According to game theory, if eating broccoli gives as much of a dopamine reward as Minecraft, your kid would spend as much time eating broccoli as he does playing Minecraft.

Applying game mechanics to CRM is not just the flavor of the month -- Marshall Lager points out that Entellium was experimenting with CRM gamification back in 2007 before wire fraud sent it all swirling down the flusher.

Denis Pombriant describes gamification in CRM pretty well as "The process of using game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and engage users." The idea is to make the interaction itself compelling and fun, since, well, people like that sort of thing.

A report published in January by M2 Research, a media and entertainment research firm, estimated that spending on gamification projects will increase from approximately $100 million this year to as much as $2.8 billion by 2016. "We know anecdotally that engagement increases substantially when game mechanics are applied," said Wanda Meloni, an analyst at M2 Research. "How that affects customer loyalty and translates in terms of increased revenue is still being worked out."

The concept of CRM gamification works for both customer and external-facing apps. Customer-facing CRM gamification could be something like turning customer surveys into games, or offering an online game to let customers help design your next ad campaign or redesign your products. This works where community input would be a key advantage in product design -- crowdsourcing video game ideas, say.

But don't think you're going to build a loyal customer gamified community around your product -- as we've pointed out when engaging with social CRM customers, only 22 percent of customers want to be part of a "community" centered around a business. For many organizations this may suggest that employee-facing CRM gamification can produce the biggest impact. Internal gamification's tantalizing payoff is getting your salespeople to take the SFA and CRM systems seriously. In a gamified CRM concept application created by SAP and called Lead-in-One, sales managers could distribute new leads to sales staff using a golf themed interface on an iPad. With golf balls labeled as lead names, and holes labeled with sales reps, the sales manager can inquire or drill-down on the golf ball depicted leads and then drag them to the desired sales person hole – for a hole in one with accompanying visual and audio effects. SAP also gamified its ERP Accounts Payable module—displaying a real-time scorecard showing which back-office clerks were entering the most vouchers with the least errors, and demonstrating big payback in terms of productivity increases.

Hey, if a CRM system as fun and compelling as Angry Birds, gamification orthodoxy says, your sales force will spend as much time entering accurate data as they do playing Angry Birds. They're human, after all. Most of them, anyway.

Not everybody's sold. Reporting Salesforce.com's acquisition of Rypple, Ovum's Richard Absalom noted in January that "gamification is still seen by many as a gimmick – or, at best, just a re-packaging of best-practice HR," and that "the success or failure of this (Rypple) acquisition will be a bellwether of mainstream market acceptance of the gamification of employee performance management."

Others are predicting great things. Last year Gartner released research concluding that by 2015, "more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes... and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application," be it in "innovation, marketing, training, employee performance, health" or another area.

To gamify something, you need points, badges, leader boards and such things that offer concrete measures of accomplishment, not too hard and not too easy, short and long-term goals to not only get more people participating but better quality participation.

As the Marketinomics blog points out, gamification is making CRM fun and interesting, not easy. So stack them up against each other. That'll hold their interest. One approach, according to Marketinomics, would be setting up a system where uploading information about a new lead in her territory wins a sales rep 10 points, finding three or five of them moves her up a rank and unlocks a "Super Sales" badge all can see. Closing a $100,000 deal wins a rep 50 points and an increase in hierarchy status.

"There is nothing particularly new in the practices behind gamification: successful businesses have long been recognizing and rewarding employee status and achievement, and providing incentivized work processes – especially in the sales department," Absalom writes, and he's correct, but why are companies still endlessly trying to motivate sales teams? Short answer: because it improves productivity.

So, should we expect to see CRM software providers add public display awards, iconic badges, point systems, progress bars and competitive rankings to motivate CRM users? Absolutely. In fact, a new open source CRM software project, Zurmo, is building gamification into their product from the ground up, instead of adding gaming mechanics to an existing product. Expect to see more of this in the future.

Because as The Hunger Games demonstrates, games don't have to be fun. They just have to be as compelling as trying to stay alive. End

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Gartner research concludes that by 2015, "more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes... and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application," be it in "innovation, marketing, training, employee performance, health" or another area.

 

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