CRM Gamification Plan

The last post on gamification in CRM got a lot of reads and social sharing, and questions that went beyond understanding the theoretical intent or purpose, and sought out more practical steps in getting started. So to continue the online discussion, this post will consider key design and deployment points such as objectives, use cases and solutions to common obstacles.

Let The Games Begin—But Not Without Measurable Objectives

As with any technology initiative, deploying software ahead of or apart from business strategy is a recipe for low payback or project failure. Lack of accompanying strategy appears to be a big risk at this early stage of gamification adoption in part because early adopters are frequently departmental managers who champion the concept for their particular business units.

Broader adoption across multiple lines of business and integrated from the C-suite through IT and to cross departmental staff is currently the exception. Sure, pilots or reduced scope trials can make sense, but they should nonetheless be aligned with existing business strategy and designed for scale and broader adoption across the enterprise if they are to become sustainable.

Gamification objectives can align to existing company objectives such as top line revenue growth or cost savings for bottom line impact. For example, marketers can employ online gamified apps to source and engage new prospects on the website, which then results in new leads.

Forrester analyst Kim Celestre advises that marketers are also starting to use gamified techniques with customer advocacy programs, to "energize brand advocacy, getting customers to share content or start positive conversations about a brand." Sales managers are aligning gamified tools with sales activities, sales quotas and sales performance objectives to grow top line revenues.

For most companies, labor is their biggest expense, so using gamified apps to increase staff productivity correlates to bottom line impact. In fact, the relationship between labor costs and earnings is so direct that even small changes to productivity can deliver big changes to net income.

An early best practice to consider with gamified apps is to define objectives or productivity measures in positive terms and from the employee’s perspective. This is a big change from traditional productivity metrics — such as FTE (Full Time Equivalent), Cost Per Hire, Cost Per Unit, workforce utilization, burdened labor cost, payroll overhead factors, and the like — which are company-centric and can be discouraging from the employee’s perspective.

CRM Gamification Design & Use Cases

These apps can be applied just about anywhere staff need to be motivated to spur business performance. This means use cases cover a gamut of possibilities as there are at least as many scenarios as there are business objectives.

CRM software maker Salesforce uses a gamified app called Nitro (also known as Spark Sales) to enable sales managers to create custom motivational campaigns for their sales teams. The gamified app attributes points to every interaction a salesperson makes in their salesforce CRM system.

Point attribution and values are defined by sales managers in line with those managers’ specific goals, and recorded in conjunction with CRM software record updates such as activities, leads and opportunities. To further leverage a team environment, sales people are split into groups and can view progress against team goals. Each player sees their contribution, and no player wants to let down the team. The company reports more sales staff are reaching more goals more quickly.


According to Corinne Sklar, VP of Marketing at Salesforce consultancy Bluewolf, the company turned to gamified CRM apps in order to collectively share the learning each consultant acquired on each project. "I have hundreds of employees who are solving customer issues every day. We had to unlock and promote that knowledge," said Sklar.

Bluewolf adopted software from Bunchball and created a solution called Going Social. The objective was to aid employees in harnessing the power of social networks, while at the same time piggy-backing on the employee’s social participation and extending the company’s reach and influence among those same social networks. Results from the program include a 45 percent increase in website traffic and an 80 percent increase in blog traffic.

In addition to sales and marketing examples, there are numerous customer support scenarios. For example, businesses that deploy peer to peer networks in order to push certain types of support to a community model, can accelerate community participation by allowing participants to rate other participants answers, or allow company reps to award points to certain answers, and elevate the authors of the best answers to a leaderboard.

When mapping gamification to business use cases, consider Gartner’s four principles which act as cornerstones in design, and include i) accelerated feedback cycles, ii) clear goals and rules of play, iii) a compelling narrative, and iv) tasks that are challenging but achievable.

When properly constructed, "the highest use of games will be to redesign work so that it is more like a game and to allow work to be conducted with games," advises Stanford business professor Byron Reeves, author of the book Total Engagement.

Gamification Obstacles & Solutions

Rajat Paharia, founder of gamification software maker Bunchball, advises that every would-be player first considers the incentives before engaging. However, in talking with a number of early adopters, a fairly consistent obstacle emerged around finding the right incentives, and whether financial and non-financial incentives are more effective.

So lets start with the later question. To the pleasant surprise of many business leaders, software makers and research studies share that non-financial incentives generally outperform financial rewards. A Harvard Business Review study compares incentives of various types and concludes "non-financial rewards are more effective at eliciting effort than […] financial rewards."

When brainstorming for incentives, forget about former era employee perks, such as an employee of the month parking spot, which CRM thought leader R Wang describes as "so 1980s", and instead strive for more creative rewards.

To stimulate your thinking, some incentive examples beyond the standard points, badges and leaderboard designations may include being put on a special team, being assigned to a cool project, being assigned a professional mentor, being noted for fast track career growth or even a lunch with the CEO.

For customers, gamification incentives may include pre-release product information, early adopter program participation, trial products or advisory group membership.

Also recognize that incentives must evolve with player tenure in order to keep players motivated throughout a game's lifecycle. "Badges are good for onboarding people, getting them into the program initially, but you have to give them more meaningful rewards if you want to keep them engaged," advises Steve Patrizi, CRO of Bunchball.

It the previously mentioned Bluewolf Going Social program, the company supplemented its non-financial incentives such as its leaderboard recognition with a rewards store so that accumulated points could be redeemed for more tangible rewards such as admission to the Salesforce Dreamforce conference, Bluewolf logo’d Patagonia jackets or other company branded paraphernalia.

Game On!

Gartner advises more than 50 percent of companies have embraced gamified apps to incentivize staff to accomplish specific objectives.

Expect CRM use cases to rise in concert with the continued rise of (public) social networks, internal (private) social networks, social CRM and mobile CRM. For example, with mobile CRM, staff have the access, mobility and tools to partake in gamified activities on-demand or at milestones that align with services delivery, customer fulfillment or other business processes.

Gamification has crossed the chasm of mainstream adoption and will continue to mature and morph with other enterprise applications to clearly become a revolutionary change in the business software market. Those business leaders who systemically traverse the risk-reward relationship available from this technology will clearly harvest the biggest benefits such as increased staff productivity and customer engagement.