Motivating that old help desk of yours

The help desk can be a thankless job. Generally very few people ring up for help when the sun is shining and the world’s a happy place. No, it’s a time to help people out of their problems, some of which you probably caused yourself.

Spare a thought for the support agent tasked with handling hundreds of these calls a day. It is satisfying to help someone fix a problem but can we do more to keep them pepped up, motivated and maintaining productivity? That’s where Lauren Carlson, an analyst with blog site Software Advice, thinks gamification can help. She imagines a gamified help desk complete with points, leaderboards and gamified training modules.

I asked her a few quick questions as to where she saw the benefits:

1. What is the benefit for helpdesk managers? 

“The leaderboards don’t apply specifically to the managers, but I think the training tool could be very beneficial. Training is the most time-consuming step of onboarding a new employee. By automating and gamifying it, the manager is free to focus on the service center, while ensuring that his new employee is fully equipped to handle the job.”

2. What is the benefit for staff members? 

“I think this comes across fairly clearly in the article: The service environment is one of high stress and equally high agent turnover. The addition of these particular gaming elements is meant to boost employee retention by providing agents a sense of accomplishment.”

3. What is the benefit for customer benefit? 

“With the examples I provide, the benefit is more for the agent user. However, when your agents are happy and working efficiently, they will undoubtedly be able to provide better service to customers. There are of course gaming elements that could be added to enhance things like the customer self-service portal, but that should probably be saved for a different conversation.”

4. Are there examples in the wild or vendors you can name who are actively working on this?

“It’s a mix of both, actually. UserVoice, which is the company quoted in the article, uses some of these elements in their current help desk system. The leaderboard and scoring idea were both inspired by their system. Other companies are taking notice, though. Zendesk saw the article and emailed me to tell me that they passed along the article to their development team to see about incorporating these types of gaming elements into their system. So, it is by no mean ubiquitous across the market yet, but I think vendors are beginning to take notice.”

In her mock ups, Lauren takes a transparent approach to metrics and score weighting – this means that support agents would fully understand how their score on the leaderboard is made up. There is no fuzzy weighting which I use on the Gamification Gurus leaderboard engine to prevent players gaming the system by knowing in too much detail how their score is made up. Klout also takes a fuzzy  approach, for example, by giving you your final score but not the details of how it is calculated.

In practice it will be up to individual help desk cultures to determine what the right metrics are and how transparent to be about score calculations.

Toby Beresford

Toby is founder and CEO of Rise the success tracking network to track, publish and share success. He was the 2013 chair of - the International Gamification Confederation and organises the UK Gamifiers meetup. As a gamification leader, he speaks at conferences and hosts workshops. Follow him on twitter @tobyberesford and Subscribe to this blog at Gamification Of Work blog feed

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