How web-based 3-D animated gaming simulations lead to better performance, higher revenues in call centers

Contact Center Association bi-weekly e-newsletter CCA Insider June 8, 2012

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By Bob Davis
(As published in the June 8, 2012, edition of the bi-weekly e-newsletter of the Contact Center Association, CCA Insider)

Customer Contact Center expert consultant trainer coach gaming simulationsThere are 183 million active gamers in the United States, who spend an average of 13 hours per week playing computer or video games. Imagine tapping into the energy and the talents that these gamers use to master Guitar Hero or to harness the motivation that they have for organizing complex raids and quests in multi-player online games. With this level of commitment, we would have a powerful tool for increasing employee effectiveness.

For over 10 years my company has helped call center agents boost their effectiveness. We have been very successful using an approach we call The Quality Conversation. Our approach in the past has been to teach the quality conversation techniques in a classroom setting, followed up with desk-side coaching. By using 3-D animated gaming simulations for call center training, we have been able to help agents improve their results for a fraction of the cost of conventional training programs.

A 33-percent gain in Detroit

For example, The Detroit Media Partnership newspaper call center has increased their saves rate by 33 percent by launching a training and coaching workshop that includes a gaming simulation component.

…Newspapers around the country get many cancellation calls per day. A 33-percent increase in performance brings a huge ROI to the paper when you consider the lifetime value of these subscribers.

These are difficult calls for the agents to handle. Many times the subscribers are upset and are canceling over a “final straw.” To save these subscribers, the agent must engage in a Quality Conversation. Teaching first line agents to hold these quality conversations, showing that they have a genuine interest in the customer and creating an emotional connection by asking great questions, is not an easy task. Teaching these skills in a game simulation is an effective and innovative approach.

Here is an example of how it works. From individual computers, agents log on and engage with a virtual customer on the monitor. In the gaming simulation, the virtual customer has called in to cancel a subscription and talks with the agent, who can respond by clicking on one of several choices. Each choice takes the agent to a new screen, the virtual customer’s next reaction, and additional response choices will lead to the save or to the sale—as long as the agent follows pre-programmed best practices.

The gaming simulation keeps score based on correct and incorrect responses, calculating how long it takes the agent properly win the save or to make the sale.

Customizable, scalable, social

The best gaming simulations are in 3-D animation instead of 2-D, and are customizable and scalable to any call center and industry and its SLA or call quality standards. They’re also social, allowing users to play against themselves as well as other players in an environment of cooperative competition which is good of the organization and the individual. As game play progresses, each level presents more challenging real-world call center experience for the agent. This includes simulated distractions such as sidebar conversations with other agents, background distractions on the customer’s side of the line, or having a supervisor take over a call to save it. Each response or lack of response to a given scenario by the user results in point calculations and coaching tips.

Gaming simulations also track key metrics related to revenue growth and game usage. They can issue badges to players based on successes and increasing levels of difficulty, and they can display achievements in the call center on a leader board.

At work and on their own time

Since the gaming simulations are web-based, users can log in on the Internet to play from any computer. I have seen agents so engaged and having so much fun with the games that this motivates them to play it not only onsite during training and coaching sessions and during slow call volume, but also on their own time at home. It is perfect for call centers that have home-based agents.

Why does it work? Here is some research:

  • People like playing games—they find them fun and engaging. Fifty-five percent of respondents in a recent survey said they would be interested in working for a company that offered games to increase productivity.
  • A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense found that trainees gain higher confidence in applying learning from training sessions on their jobs when training is gaming simulation-based.
  • A study in the United Kingdom showed that a game can influence positive social behavior. In other words by using gaming simulation to learn call center best practices, agents are going to become nicer people (and consequently happier and more rewarded) in all aspects of their lives.

Bernard Suits, the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Department of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, wrote the following in the introduction to Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal:

“It is games that give us something to do when there is nothing to do. We thus call games ‘pastimes’ and regard them as trifling fillers of the interstices of our lives. But they are much more important than that. They are clues to the future. And their serious cultivation now is perhaps our only salvation.”

I am not sure if game play will be our salvation, but I do think it is an important tool in helping call center agents be all they can be.

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Founded in 1977 and based in metro Atlanta, RCDA helps customer contact centers across North America add millions of dollars to their bottom-line results through training, coaching and consulting programs based on an exclusive Quality Conversation approach to handling customer service, sales and retention calls. The approach is based on a robust call flow that leads agents through five steps—Greeting, Discovery, Solution, Offer and an assumptive Close—that address customer wants, interests and needs and establish emotional connections with customers and show genuine interest. More information is available at www.robertcdavis.net/process. More information on RCDA’s subsidiary, Quality Conversation Simulations, LLC, which develops the kind o gaming simulations described in this article, is available at http://robertcdavis.net/quality-conversation-simulations-llc/, or call Bob Davis direct at 678-548-1775.