This year I got a pretty amazing birthday present: a public example of highly effective health gamification.
Namely, Ohio’s Vax a Million campaign, which is giving away $1M per week to residents that get vaccinated. Vaccinations jumped 28% total, with weekly vaccinations increasing by over 50% week over week, according to the state. Maryland and New York have followed suit, and several other states (and perhaps even the Federal government) are poised to follow suit.
Large scale social good gamification is not new, per se. And we’ve been talking about the importance of lotteries to incentivize good behavior for years, including in the fields of prize-linked savings and rescuing journalism. But with the COVID-19 pandemic looming large, and a sinking vaccination rate in the US, the idea has received some major new attention. So why do behavioral lotteries work so well, and how can we expand their use?
Behavioral Lotteries take advantage of several cognitive biases and psychological processes that are relevant for public health and social good:
Optimism Bias holds that people will underestimate their odds of avoiding negative outcomes, and overestimate their odds of encountering positive outcomes. This is important because the risk of the underlying problem (getting sick from COVID) is being underestimated in the target population. Tying that to an unreasonable belief in your odds of winning a lottery replaces the negative optimism with positive optimism towards the potential of winning.
This is particularly important in public health settings where optimism bias drives a large part of the “bad” behavior. For example, smokers famously underestimate their chances of getting lung cancer when asked. Distracted drivers also underestimate their chances of getting into an accident and executives lowball their risks of stress-related disorders.
Sometimes called the Monte Carlo fallacy, this bias causes people to believe that — after witnessing several draws in a row — the next instance of that draw will be the opposite of those seen previously. That is, if you see heads 4 times in a coin toss, you assume the next result will be tails.
This plays out positively in lotteries, but very negatively in areas of public health. For example, if your house is spared from flooding in the past 2 hurricanes, you may assume that the next hurricane will destroy it. And conversely, if you’ve been hit by an adverse weather event, you believe you might be spared in the future.
A behavioral lottery refocuses that energy on the odds of winning, encouraging the individual to take the action that is actually statistically more likely, versus betting it won’t happen to them.
When an individual sees someone else engaged in a behavior — positive or negative — they are more likely to want to do the same. The bandwagon effect can explain many phenomena, such as the rush to a particular table at a flea market while others sit empty, or the contagion of suicide.
In public health, the implications are quite stark. For example, if you are in a community of anti-vaxxers, you are significantly more likely to avoid vaccination. The best way to overcome this bandwagon effect is to replace it with someone people will want to join in on (e.g. a free-to-play lottery), and hopefully generate a new, more positive bandwagon for everyone to follow.
The other major consideration for the efficacy of behavioral lotteries is the cost. Ohio set its prize at $1M. The estimated cost of uninsured/out-of-network COVID treatment is close to $40,000 per person. Given that states bear the brunt of covering the costs of the uninsured, the “breakeven” point on this intervention is 25 high-risk people vaccinated per prize, or approximately 2500 people in the general population.
Obviously, $1M is life changing for individuals who might (or think they might) win. But for the lottery entity this is a very cheap intervention. This means that each dollar spent gets an exponential potential ROI purely from the gap in consumer and governmental expectational biases.
Gamified public health and civic innovations have a proven track record of success where governments and NGOs have been brave enough to try them. The country’s laws must change to enable this kind of widespread incentivization. Of particular note, a Federal law prohibits the use of incentives for voting. This law — and our public policy framework — should be revisited and amended, for the common good.
It wasn’t long ago when marketing choices were relatively few and messages were simple. Companies pitched their products via the old standby of print advertising. Eventually, broadcast advertising emerged as the surefire way to bring a product to the attention of the largest captive audience. But the digital age has eclipsed the broadcast age and companies need new ways to support consumer engagement. M&Ms, an old standby candy product, is overcoming these new digital challenges with gamification.
M&M’s USA turned to a gamification strategy for a campaign promoting its pretzel-flavored version of the candy. The company’s marketing efforts included an eye spy game in the campaign, according to Digital Training Academy. Promotional images posted online were comprised of an image of M&M’s. The campaign challenged consumers to find the single pretzel hidden in the image.
M&M found that the game readily engaged consumers. The campaign also generated some tasty results for the company. M&M’s digital marketing efforts garnered more than 25,000 new likes on the brand’s Facebook page, plus 6,000 shares and 10,000 comments, according to Digital Training Academy.
Just because consumers are living digital lives doesn’t mean that marketing campaigns need to be stuck in the past. More than 77 percent of Americans own smartphones and many of them connect with brands through “micro moments,” Paul Polizzotto, president and founder of CBSEcoMedia, writes in AdExchanger. “Gamified ads may be the perfect way to attract this audience and have been shown to increase consumer engagement,” Polizzotto says.
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to digitally engage consumers with a game. If the game is complex or cumbersome, users will lose interest. The genius of M&M’s campaign is that it is based on the relatively simple concept of hide and seek, Polizzotto says. If a campaign can successfully manage consumer engagement, it stands a stronger chance of spring boarding the interest of one consumer into shares and online discussion with others. Word of mouth, whether it happens in person or online, counts as a marketing win.
Gamification has been used by schools and private business as a way to make learning more fun. Now, insurance companies are using the technique to change people’s behavior toward maintaining their health, according to Healthcare Dive. The idea is that the more individuals who pursue healthier lifestyles, the less burden they place on health insurance companies and health care providers.
The gamification efforts are being delivered through mobile apps. Some of the apps, such as the ones offered by Blue Cross, Cigna, and United Healthcare, invite participants to search for more information on healthy lifestyles, diet, sleep, and exercise, or the locations of in-network health care providers and hospitals. United is also working on an app called United Healthcare Motion. People carrying insurance will be given wearable devices that will track their daily activities, including the number of steps they walk. Participants will be given financial incentives for meeting certain goals. A number of other apps, such as Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, and Zombies Run also track activities.
The Affordable Care Act has built in incentives for helping people pursue healthier lifestyles. Younger people are more use to gaming, both as recreation and as a technique that delivers education. So marrying gamification with mobile apps is a no-brainer.
The trick is to continually evolve the gamification apps, to keep them fresh and prevent them from becoming stale. As more data is acquired that can be applied to wellness, these apps can constantly be refreshed with more versions. Thus healthier lifestyles can become something that is second nature.
While gamification is no longer a revolutionary way of training employees, the start-up GamEffective is claiming that their take on the trend is a fresh one. The company, which operates out of offices in both North Carolina and Israel, boasts some large-scale customers like Microsoft and Ebay. They’re confident in their ability to boost employee performance across the board with their no-code integration.
According to GeekTime, the largest international tech blog outside the U.S., GamEffective has raised a total of $10 million under the leadership of CEO Gal Rimon.
“Rimon says, ‘At GamEffective, we focus the employees on their personal goals, and motivate them to achieve them by expanding their know-how, and through other activities. The employees know at all times what their status is and what is expected of them. Just as people using fitness trackers are more conscious of their health, our system instills a similar process at the workplace for performance management purposes.'”
The company has done so well that they’re on the cusp of something huge. How huge? Try a $7 million financing round. That money will be used to develop sales, marketing, and R&B efforts. Some within the industry have suggested that the company’s training model is second to none. According to GamEffective that is accomplished not by making competition with other employees the main vehicle for enhanced performance, but rather by having employees work to better themselves, and improve upon personal past performance.
In the past things like real-time feedback, engaging narratives, and clear objectives have set the company apart. Now, they also have a hefty sum of money to further their advances in the world of employee training.
Image credit: flickr
Increasing Contact Center Agent Retention
According to North American labor statistics, employee turnover is at an all-time high in today’s workplace, and the implications for the contact center industry are significant, considering its reputation for being a volatile employment segment with a lower median employment age, high-stress work environment, and lower than average remuneration.
This workforce dynamic has created opportunities for applying the theories of game mechanics, or gamification, to the real-world problem of retaining valued agents. And at the epicenter of the contact center workforce is the agent.
Unique attributes and skills are required of agents in a contact center environment, e.g., infinite patience, finely-honed communication skills, and a superior ability to prioritize and organize their workload.
- How can contact center leaders retain and reward their agents?
- How can they ensure that they invest in the right talent?
- What kind of incentives will motivate agents to continue to perform in the long-term?
- What kind of financial and environmental factors can be positively impacted by increased agent engagement?
Attrition by the numbers
Overall attrition averages for the contact center industry range between 30–45 percent, with some sectors showing attrition rates in the triple digits!
In fact, according to Quality Assurance and Training Connection, replacing one front-line agent can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $12,000. And when you multiply that by the high numbers of agents who end up leaving their jobs within a couple of years—up to 45 percent—the costs become astronomical.
The process of replacing an agent necessitates recruiter fees/referral bonus, and newly-hired agents will start drawing a full salary well before becoming productive, as they navigate the necessary orientation and training stages that are part of any new position.
And how about those training costs!
Not only do new agents require formal training, there are colleagues that have to back-fill the departing employee’s workload, fill in-costs for overtime, as well as a noticeable productivity lag.
The less-quantifiable, but still very tangible cultural factors to navigate, such as getting to know the rest of the team, their work habits, and individual communication styles, should also be added to the equation.
But let’s take a step back – how can we prevent agent attrition in the first place?
There are so many surveys, polls and studies that have been published over the last few years on how to motivate, or engage, employees across industries. For the Contact Center industry, these are the factors that stand out, other than actual salary, which, somewhat surprisingly, ranks somewhere in the middle in terms of importance:
- Meaningful feedback
- Strong collaborative environment
- Possibilities for advancement
- Performance-based incentives
…and a sense of belonging, or team spirit. these are all factors that contribute the most to “Employee engagement”, which translates to prolonged retention and company loyalty.
The derived benefits are numerous for the employer, but front and center are the golden metric for any contact center: Customer Satisfaction.
How can gamification help retain agents?
Gamification is a proven performance management method that can improve how an employee interacts with their work in terms of collaboration, commitment and competition.
Training and Self-Assessment
Agents need to feel attached to their jobs to continuously improve their skills. Traditional training, whether by classroom or web-based, requires pulling agents from their assigned tasks, thereby reducing their efficiency.
Gamification introduces an alternative where agents can improve skills on their own time, and at their own pace, while being recognized for their efforts.
Traditionally, creating competition was done on whiteboards and through email. Such approaches are cumbersome and tend to becomes less frequent, losing momentum as other important and urgent tasks come into focus.
Gamification provides contact centers with multiple, continuous agent challenges. Research has shown that agents are motivated to work harder, and with an improved attitude, when they are directly rewarded and are able to gauge their own improvement.
Another successful game mechanic is automated team challenges. Agents who become high-performers are inspired to pass on their best practices to those who may require more encouragement, thereby assisting with a task that is typically reserved for managers. Working in teams creates a stronger sense of camaraderie, making the workplace feel more like sports team striving for the same objective.
In conclusion, Gamification in the workplace is an employee-centric interaction model with a higher purpose; there is a world of difference between playing games for fun (…and there is nothing wrong with that), and providing a gamified interface to a business application. The benefits are two-fold: the application is used to its fullest potential and intended purpose, while the agents using the gamified interface are more engaged and will develop a strong loyalty to both their employer and their customers.
Image credit: flickr
Revolutionizing the Call Center Workplace One Agent at A Time
Last week, we featured nGUVU’s VP of product strategy, Pascal Leclerc to talk about how nGUVU’s platform help to create a better workplace environment for contact center agents. Using a combination of game mechanics, social interaction features and behavioral analytics, nGUVU helps motivate agents to achieve their goals in a fun,game-like environment.
Watch the full interview below to learn about:
- What was the central problem nGUVU aimed to resolve in the contact center working environment?
- How did nGUVU present KPIs to contact center agents in contrast to traditional layouts that centers solely around competition?
- How did call center companies reacted about having a layer of social mechanics for the agents on the nGUVU’s platform?
- what were nGUVU’s key lessons in finding the balance between game-like elements and gamified, progress-orientated mechanics?
- What were some of the behavioral changes that occurred among contact center agents as a result of gamifying their workplace?
- Have nGUVU used rewards for knowledge sharing or knowledge base contribution among contact center agents?
McDonald’s will use a new meal prep training system for its staff this fall
McDonald’s customers in the United Kingdom will soon notice subtle changes in how their meals are prepared. To carry out these seemingly small changes, corporate leaders are making some big changes in how they train their managers. In order to bring all restaurant managers up to speed in a quick and uniform manner, McDonald’s is turning to games-based training.
McDonald’s needs the new training system because the company will soon be launching a new approach to food preparation at many of its UK restaurants. Instead of stacking burgers and fries ready to go, food will be prepared as it is ordered. For customers, this preparation should result in burgers that are hotter and fresher, and fries that are crisper. But this “just in time” process will be more complex and will call on store managers to manage their staff differently, Diginomica explains. Traditional McDonald’s restaurants that keep food stacked up and ready to go operate with more staff at the counters to take orders. But in the new model of McDonald’s restaurants, staff need to be more flexible to adjust to the changing demands.
In order to train managers on this new food preparation system, McDonald’s will use a 3D virtual reality game that simulates the new approach. The 3D environment allows a player to virtually walk through a McDonald’s restaurant and react to changing scenarios. Mark Reilly, UK head of corporate training at McDonald’s, told Diginomica that the game allows managers to make decisions just as they would do doing an ordinary work shift. As they make these decisions, they will see the consequences of their choices play out in the store – even the mistakes. The hope is that managers work out any trouble spots in the game before they try the new process live and in person. “The most powerful way to learn is by doing and by making mistakes,” Reilly said.
This 3D game is new to McDonald’s but the restaurant chain is actually well acquainted with gamified training. The company started using gamification several years ago when it developed a game to train staffers how to use new cash registers, according to Diginomica. The game simulated processing orders and serving customers, becoming more challenging as players progressed. Diginomica reported that McDonald’s saved approximately 500,000 British pounds in training costs. Depending on how the 3D training progresses in England, McDonald’s could roll out the training system to its managers worldwide.
Image Credit: Flickr
In the past couple of years, there has been an increase of game device use for areas other than actual gaming. The newest area of use is for physical health. Medical researchers and physical therapists are finding that using virtual reality games are very helpful in terms of treatment and rehabilitation for stroke patients. The interest for this type of treatment has been gaining popularity, and researchers are starting to realize and prove that using games provides better results than conventional methods.
Keith R. Lohse et al published a study in 2014 that compiled other research studies that used various gaming equipment to help post-stroke adult patients with their rehabilitation. Their article, “Virtual Reality Therapy for Adults Post-Stroke: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Exploring Virtual Environments and Commercial Games in Therapy”, takes a look at how well custom-made virtual environments and commercially available gaming systems, such as Nintendo Wii and PlayStation EyeToy, worked for patients in comparison to traditional therapy.
Below is a link to the table of the characteristics of each trial compared in the research paper study:
The table shows: the researchers of each study, which therapies they compared against each other, and the expected outcome versus the actual outcome.
Overall the study shows that Virtual reality therapy, when delivered as virtual environments or commercially available games, was more effective in comparison to traditional therapy. However, there was not enough evidence to clearly see the benefit of commercially available gaming systems with post-stroke patients’ rehabilitation. Nonetheless Lohse et al stated that future research in that area, specifically, could help with the lack of evidence. If funded properly, this research could even help expand the use of gaming to different areas of health, and eventually every area of life; making the world a more interesting place to live in.
Image credit: flickr
Gamified Energy Management App HomeBeat Uses Analytics and Engagement to Save Energy
When summer temperatures spike and air conditioners run full throttle, the demand for electricity strains the power grid. Utilities try to manage these peak times of power demand with an approach called demand response: industrial users and residential customers are encouraged to cut back on their power use to ease the load on the grid. But it’s not enough to ask people to curtail their electricity use. Customers need incentives. That’s where energy analytics company Bidgely enters the picture.
Bidgely has developed an app that turns demand response into a game that people can play on their smartphones. The California company’s app, HomeBeat, shows homeowner their baseline energy usage, and also shows a target they should strive to reach, according to Utility Dive. When a peak power event occurs, the app encourages consumer engagement in power-saving activity through a combination of psychological cues, financial incentives, and an innate sense of competition that can be a motivator for many people. Beyond offering cash rewards for saving energy, the app shows progress toward reaching goals, and encourages some friendly competition by comparing a user’s energy savings against those of neighbors.
Bidgely piloted its app in partnership with United Energy, the electric utility serving Melbourne, Australia. It’s the third year that United Energy has used HomeBeat and the utility’s experiences with the app show both benefits and shortcomings that are instructive to others considering a gamified approach to demand response. Last summer, HomeBeat helped the utility reduce the electricity load by 30 percent last summer. That’s good. But United Energy initially had a hard time recruiting customers to the program. If too few customers sign up, participation won’t be meaningful enough to make a dent in power demand.
Also, United Energy told Utility Dive that some customers who were initially enthusiastic about saving power at the start of a peak event did not sustain those efforts throughout, leading to appliances and other energy-sucking devices drawing power while the grid was still strained. The utility solved that problem by offering an additional reward to incentivize continued energy-saving behavior.
HomeBeat is apparently catching on with United Energy customers. In the three years that the utility has offered the program, customer participation in HomeBeat has grown from just 30 to more than 1,000. As other utilities look for ways that they can manage demand response, United Energy’s use of HomeBeat stands as an example of the role gamification play in saving energy.