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 gamified software back in 2007 before wire fraud sent it all swirling down the flusher. B2C brands have been using online gaming techniques for years to promote their brands, stimulate engagement and reward consumers with non-financial incentives. Perhaps Tom Sawyer should be credited with kicking off this movement with that whole fence paining episode.

Denis Pombriant describes CRM gamification 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.

Business managers have been recognizing and rewarding employee performance for a long time, but the process has often been largely manual, inconsistent and without much analytical support. Gamification brings a needed technology component to these processes in order to automate, analyze and continually improve them.

A report published by M2 Research, a media and entertainment research firm, estimated that spending on this technology projects exceeds $7 billion. "We know anecdotally that engagement increases substantially when game mechanics are applied," said Wanda Meloni, an analyst at M2 Research.

The concept of CRM gamified works for both customer and external-facing apps. Customer-facing use cases 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 engagement can produce the biggest impact.

CRM Gamification

An internal 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 is as fun and compelling as Angry Birds, 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.

Gartner released research showing that, "more than 50 percent of organizations that manage innovation processes gamify those processes... and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations 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.

Marketinomics advises that these apps are making CRM fun and interesting, not easy. 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 this concept: 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 CRM 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 compelling.