“Whoever closes the most tickets by 5PM gets a $50 gift card!”
“5 extra gold stars if you’re able to close 20 tickets today!”
“Every ticket you close is another entry into our iPad drawing on Friday!”
If you’ve ever worked in or been a part of the customer support industry, you’ve likely seen or directly experienced “contests” or “games” like the scenarios listed above. The more formal definition – gamification – is essentially a tactic used by the customer support industry to incentivize agents to reach specific (yet often arbitrary) goals put in place by leadership.
While this tactic may have its place in B2C (business-to-consumer) industries like eCommerce that are flooded with low impact tickets, there’s one area of business where it doesn’t belong. In the high-touch, high-value, and relationship oriented B2B (business-to-business) industry, these gamification tactics simply aren’t a good idea. Below are 3 reasons why gamification in B2B customer support is a bad strategy.
1) Gamification too often rewards speed over quality – In the B2B industry, getting the problem solved the right way is more important than a quick half answer. And, whether companies like it or not, sometimes the right answers take time to obtain. This is especially true in B2B, where agents often deal with more complex problems than their B2C counterparts, and solutions often require involvement from multiple departments (IT, Operations, etc.). Relationships truly matter to B2B companies, where losing a single customer can make or break a fiscal year. Putting the fate of valuable customers in jeopardy with poor agent responses because they're prioritizing a game just doesn’t make sense.
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2) Employees spend more time on games, less time helping customers – Games often happen during crisis situations to incentivize support teams. However, it’s unfortunately common for the game to be the focus of both leadership and agents instead of assisting customers. As a result, managers spend time administering games that instead could be used to empathize and solve problems with difficult customers. Mimicking their leadership, agents often follow suit and focus too much on games as well. They often daydream of ways to “hack” the game to ensure they win or get what they want, such as cherry-picking tickets they know they can close easier. The result of this tactic is terrible customer support as the severe, complex issues just sit in the ticket queue for longer and get worse. As an alternative some companies prefer to gamify ratings instead of tickets closed, but this tactic shifts the problem instead of solves it. For example, agents can choose to work on tickets for customers that they know will rate them well and leave more difficult customers for their colleagues. If there’s a gamification system in place, some agents will think of and prioritize a way to “stack the deck” so they are more likely to win. The game, not customers, come first to these agents and their methods often spread to other agents.
3) Relying on gamification can drive away good employees – Playing a game may seem fun on the surface, but often it’s a signal that a business needs to incentivize people to work with customers. This is a bad sign for a business both internally and externally. B2B companies that rely on gamification to motivate customer-facing employees often do so because their normal system of work is broken. Maybe they are understaffed, or they don’t have the right customer support software solution to properly do their jobs. Regardless, playing games to incentivize customer support work on a regular basis indicates a dysfunctional system and culture. Team members will learn this over time, and even some prospective employees will see a company’s reliance on games and throw up a red flag as they research and interview with the company.
To summarize, gamification is a bad strategy for B2B customer support because it takes the focus off the customer. In an era of business where companies are doing everything they can to boost customer retention rates, why would you want a critical team like support to be less involved, interested, and engaged with how your customers interact with your business? Gamification just isn’t a good fit for B2B customer support teams. Relationships with customers matter too much in this industry and great agents know this, which is why focusing on games will never attract the talent needed in this area to make a difference.