ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


How to Creatively Motivate and Retain Employees in the Service Center


At times I wish the word “game” was not part of the word “gamification.”  While it is certainly an important element, the principle goes far beyond the idea of playing games.  “Creatification” might be a better word to describe what is really happening.  As Robin Jenkins defines it, “Gamification is about applying the same principles that have always inspired people – goals, status and rewards – to motivate people to accomplish high-value actions.”  You are providing a unique and creative infrastructure that taps into the intrinsic motivators of your employees - the kind that will bring them to the next level.

There are so many ways to make gamification happen in your workplace.  While there are countless systems and automated tools available, it is much more than buying a piece of software.  A personalized effort is required to create a true value-add program.   While it can be helpful especially for “moment of need” training, software rarely changes culture.  In the end, it all comes down to authentic human relationships.  Here are a few of the key things we learned while gamifying the experience in our service center:

Know your audience - Gamification should not be a “top down” effort.  Include the individuals who are going to be participating in the program while creating it.  Understanding the interests of your employees and what motivates them will be paramount to the program’s success.  Also consider the goal you are looking to accomplish.  Is this a training program or an employee experience program?  The two will look very different.  For Kevin Hegebarth (@kghegebarth on Twitter) gamification is “a formal program of collecting rewards based on the attainment of well-documented goals.”  The concept will look very different when applied in different support environments.

Competitiveness vs. Collaboration – For many gamification programs, it is all about competition and moving to the top of the leaderboard.  These types of initiatives often work well in a sales environment.  Be careful when choosing one of these for your group, as they can often do more harm than good.  In a service center, generally a more collaborative approach is best.  Reward the individual behaviors that create success for the larger team and for your customers.

Always Mix It Up – This is not a program you can put out at the beginning of the year and have it run on autopilot.  Think about why we are drawn to games….they simulate a unique and exciting experience.  As soon as that game ceases to challenge us or surprise us, we will stop playing it.  Authoring a gamification program requires you to think like a script writer for the show LOST.  You have to bring your group on a journey that will keep them interested and excited for the long haul.  As soon as you lose your passion for the program, your employees are immediately behind.  Find a couple of leaders you can partner with to share the load and add to the pipeline of creative ideas.

* Looking for some specific things to try?  Here are a few of our favorites:

Wheel of Happiness

Wheel of Happiness – This is a staple of our program.  The team elects a “rock star” each week that then spins the wheel of happiness.  There is a whole variety of fun rewards on there, and we change them around regularly.  Some of the rewards are for the individual; others are shared by the whole team.  The real magic is with peers recognizing peers for outstanding behaviors.  I must give Zappos credit for this original idea for an event they did in 2010 and we have since modified.  You can order your own dry erase wheel of happiness here.

Lego Feedback – Give your employees a way to “build their reputation” with customers.  Purchase a base plate for each person.  Whenever positive feedback is received on surveys or otherwise, they are rewarded with different shapes and colors of Legos.  It gives them a chance to build their own “customer legacy towers” in whatever fashion they see fit.  It is always nice to see a tangible evidence of the great work that is being done is a service center.

Support Film Festival – Have people work in teams and create funny videos.  We ordered a bunch of “academy awards” off of Amazon and gave them out for different categories such as best actor and actress.  The event itself is a blast, but one of the greatest things is that the videos last forever.  When new hires come in we get to show off our videos and bring them into the culture right away.  This one is also great for team building.

There are thousands more and countless ideas yet to be tried.  Don’t be afraid to try brand new things!  The worst that can happen is that you don’t do something again, and your employees will appreciate the effort even if it is not executed perfectly.  Following these steps will give you the foundation to a great program.  First, learn your audience and what motivates them.  Second, decide the behaviors and goals that need to be achieved to bring your team toward the desired state.  Finally, choose some unique elements to gamify the experience and make their work experience something special.  May you play your way to happy employees and happy customers for years to come!

Engaged Team