The digital revolution has transformed the way people interact with their phone provider. The rise of mobile has enabled customers to manage their accounts whenever, and wherever they are; with little reason for in-store visits or engagement with customer service representatives.
And this trend is set to continue. In May, Ofcom announced its plans to implement a ‘text-to-switch’ service, in which consumers will be able to switch mobile phone provider in one working day, via a simple text. The plans are an attempt to remove the hassles associated with switching; allowing customers to cut out awkward phone calls, making the process both quicker and efficient.
With a decision regarding its implementation set to be made by Autumn 2017, if approved this could present yet another challenge for telcos. After all, the main reason that consumers remain loyal and so often avoid switching their mobile phone provider is the ‘difficulty and hassle’ of the process.
If switching is made simple, the chance of defections is likely to increase. For this reason, telco providers need find new ways to engage and improve the customer experience using different touchpoints and channels in order to differentiate themselves and encourage loyalty.
With today’s consumers never far from their smartphones, and moving fluidly between digital platforms, could gamification be the answer in the quest for greater engagement?
Gamification: in a nutshell
Originating in the computer games industry, gamification engages the basic principles of human psychology. It involves an understanding of what motivates people, how we want to be rewarded – and what will make us play again. Or, alternatively, for telco providers: stay loyal. At its core, gamification has a human centred design; optimised for feelings, motivation, insecurities and engagement.
Some of the aims of gamification include: driving a level of competition within users that results in increased usage and engagement; tapping into the human need for esteem and self-actualisation to increase the levels of motivation; playing on the human desire for power in an attempt to drive users to log back in and increase their status; and evoking similar reactions to those elicited by gaming by releasing chemicals which invoke feelings of excitement, euphoria and pleasure.
So, how can gamification, as a practice, be used within the customer experience?
Bringing gamification to life
Typically, gamification is based on points and rewards. Points translate into a ‘currency’, which can be exchanged for rewards (goods and services, whether real or virtual). This gives the user something to work towards. Badges are also used to symbolise achievements whilst leaderboards recognise accomplishments and promote friendly competition between users.
In recent years, gamification has evolved from its traditional rewards-based platform, to one fuelled by sophisticated data-driven capabilities which allows businesses to offer personalised, user-centric experiences. This is no surprise when you consider the proliferation of devices, apps and social media channels, which have increased customer expectations of the digital experience.
How can telcos use gamification in the customer experience?
But, believe it or not, gamification isn’t a new concept for telcos; it has always been part of their set-up, only now it’s growing and instead driven by customer behaviour and digital capabilities. Back in 2011, Gartner predicted by 2015, more than 50 percent of organisations that manage innovation processes will gamify those processes.
Since it launched in 2010, mobile service provider giffgaff has incorporated gamification into its unique customer experience. As a community driven provider, in which customers buy SIM cards from other giffgaff members’ pages, a points system was launched to engage customers with its business model; with the ultimate aim to improve customer retention and experience.
The game means that if a customer buys from an existing members page, they are rewarded with points. Additionally, if a customer has a problem and visits the giffgaff forum for help from another member, as opposed to calling the help desk, they earn points, adding to the overall community experience. Accumulated points are then converted into cash with one point equating to one pence, which can then be withdrawn, used to pay for airtime or donated to charity.
There’s still a lot to learn
But whilst telco providers like giffgaff have dabbled with gamification, few have made leaps and bounds and there remains a lot to be learnt if it’s to be used effectively. It’s challenger banks that are currently leading the way, using gamification to differentiate themselves, and it’s not just financial services companies that should look to them for inspiration. All providers could learn a thing or two.
Atom Bank recently acquired software company Grasp, which specialises in games and virtual reality development, to build its digital platforms. Atom claims to “celebrate your individuality in every way”, and allows customers to choose a logo, name and colours to personalise the app experience.
Meanwhile, European bank OTP banka Hrvatska recently announced impressive results from its new gamification platform, with 16.1% more clients signed up for mobile banking services and the number of clients using prepaid Mastercard increasing by 12.8%. There’s clearly a number of different ways to incorporate gamification into the customer experience, it just requires a little creativity.
Telcos, like all other providers, have to work hard to keep customers loyal. Changing the perception of the mobile phone provider from a service that’s a necessity to something more engaging is therefore essential if they want to maintain their relevance and value in people’s lives. Gamification should be seen as a route to engagement; a part of the customer journey, not something separate.
It’s something that we always look to incorporate when designing programmes for the telcos we work with and the creative applications for it are almost endless.
Gaming creates positive emotion, drives social relationships and fosters feelings of accomplishment. It’s a way for providers to differentiate themselves from competitors and engage with customers on a more personal level than before to ultimately drive retention. As the digital revolution marches on, and prospective new services like ‘text-to-switch’ threaten loyalty, the gamification model is one we can expect to see telco providers – both new and old – capitalise on.