“We balance probabilities and choose the most likely. It is the scientific use of the imagination.”

“The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Paul Stockford
Paul Stockford is Chief Analyst at Saddletree Research, which specializes in contact centers & customer service.

I doubt Sherlock Holmes would ever use the word “gamification,” even while under the influence of the seven percent solution of cocaine that he occasionally injects, as we discover in the story, “The Sign of the Four.” I believe, however, that Sherlock would be fascinated with the concept of gamification as his was a mind in constant motion, always looking for something to occupy itself with. In fact, Sherlock claimed that he turned to cocaine, a drug that was completely legal in Victorian England, to keep his brain occupied when he didn’t have a case.

“Data! Data! Data!” Holmes cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.”
—“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”

Sherlock Holmes is, of course, a fictional character. He was created by British author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle around 1887 and was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. His popularity and readership grew as the short stories were published in The Strand Magazine, a popular 19th century monthly magazine, and readers got hooked. The stories were published in The Strand from 1887 to 1927, with the events in the storiestaking place from about 1880 to 1914.
I became hooked on Sherlock Holmes books and stories in my late teens, and my fascination with Holmes and his problemsolving skills and deductive reasoning has continued to this day. Not only do I have every Sherlock Holmes book and story collection ever written on my bookshelves, I also subscribe to The Strand Magazine. These days The Strand is a quarterly rather than monthly publication, but each quarterly issue always features at least one Sherlock Holmes story written by a contemporary Sherlock nerd like me. They’re never as good as the originals, though. Don’t get me started on that.

I think Sherlock would have found contact center gamification to be a fascinating topic of investigation. Along with Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock’s friend and biographer in all of his stories, the two would have examined gamification with a keen eye and intellectual curiosity.

“Before we start to investigate, let us try to realize what we do know, so as to make the most of it, and to separate the essential from the accidental.”

—“The Adventure of the Priory School”

Gamification is not a new concept in the contact center industry, but it is one that has recently gained a high profile and a great deal of interest. The term “gamification” was coined in 2002 by Nick Pelling, a British computer programmer. It wasn’t until about 2010, however, that the term seemed to gain favor in the contact center industry and began popping up in customer engagement scenarios.

While the term “gamification” itself conjures up images of fun and friendly competition, its purpose in the contact center is absolutely serious. While leveraging the natural human instinct toward socialization, gamification aims to encourage and reward desirable behavior. In the customer service profession, gamification might come in the form of training packages wherein animated games replace the mind-numbing learning techniques of old. It can also come in the form of earning reward points for meeting or exceeding objectives, which can then be used to play a game for tangible rewards or recognition. It might come in the form of a replacement for the typical contests often used in contact centers in order to motivate agents and teams of agents. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of gamification in the contact center.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

—”A Scandal in Bohemia”

Today’s contact center gamification solutions are becoming increasing customized based upon a wide variety of factors ranging from cultural influences to regional recreational pastimes. According to Jenni Palocsik, Director of Solutions Marketing at Verint, “Gamification can help contact centers more deeply engage employees, encouraging continuous skill development and collaboration. It helps transform and elevate the process of acquiring, maintaining and improving skills and knowledge so contact center agents can become more successful, improving service quality and customer retention. A particularly compelling game, focused on key performance indicators, can be sustained over time to drive behaviors that accomplish missioncritical business goals, engage employees and favorably impact customer experience.”

“To let the brain work without sufficient material is like racing an engine. It racks itself to pieces… Let us get a firm grip of the very little which do know, so that when fresh facts arise we may be ready to fit them into their places.”
—“The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”

With the acquisition of Telligent in August of last year, Verint has also extended the benefits of gamification to the customer community. Customer participants in Verint’s Community as a Service (CaaS) social communities have the opportunity to earn rewards based upon their community activity, earning points and/or badges based upon the value of their contributions to the community.

“Gamification helps increase the volume and quality of participation in online communities,” said Rob Howard, Vice President, Communities at Verint. “Recognition of quality contribution through the use of badges and leaderboards not only motivates participants, but it helps establish authority and expertise of the topic when interacting with other members in the community. We call this method of recognition ‘Pixels not Pennies’ and identify it as a best practice in building world-class communities. What we have found is that community members who achieve recognition additionally work to maintain this status; thereby increasing quality contributions.”

Mr. Holmes was clearly ahead of his time when it comes to contact center gamification. Even in this post-Sherlockian era, the wisdom of his pontifications regarding the analysis of human nature in solving problems and furthering the human condition through the understanding of motivations are applicable today. Contact center gamification seeks to make the most of human nature to the benefit of customer service and social community participation. Even in our post-modern 21st century life there are still lessons we can learn from our 19th century predecessors.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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