Gamification Takes Learning to a New Level in the Contact Center

John walked into work at the Contact Center after spending the last 30 minutes texting with his friends – trying to come up with the answer to a question that would solve the puzzle on his latest online quest – an answer that would make him the top scorer!  John would love to keep playing a game at work too.  Now he can!

Many programs talk about incorporating gamification into their training and learning approaches.  But few have made it a regular part of their thinking as they work to improve their businesses. Even fewer have proof of the value of gamification.

Not so in this case.

First though…why games? Young adults grew up during the information revolution with technology in hand from their early years. Millennials – those who range in age from 18 to 33 – have become the primary source of new-hire agents employed in contact centers. Operational managers have been challenged to adapt to their needs and values to stem attrition and develop a more loyal workforce.

The way in which this generation perceives life, develops customs and relates to work and authority is different than that of their predecessors. Through the use of technology and games, this group is particularly predisposed to learning in a fun, dynamic way. They don’t look at learning just for the sake of learning but rather, what’s in it for them from a gaming experience.

Many millennials are used to the recognition and status they can earn with games, as well as proving to themselves that they are good at what they do. These factors have become components of their identification.


But it’s not just millennials that like games. Games have a nearly universal appeal and therefore a high probability of being effective for the entire agent population at the site.

In fact, research conducted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) found that gamers were pretty evenly split across age groups, with 29% under 18, 32% ranging in age from 18 – 35 years of age, and 39% represented by those 36 and older.

Contact centers are focused on key performance metrics (KPIs).  Incorporating games into the everyday learning that agents need to do their jobs, directly improves performance.  From average handle time to first contact resolution to accuracy in performance, and customer satisfaction, there is a business metric for all essential workflows that contact center agents follow.

GAIN is the Secret Sauce: The Dynamics of Creating Games for Training in the Contact Center

A Sykes team in Manila, Philippines found that they had to work harder to train and continuously improve agents.  Incorporating feedback on training needs into games became the way to make training fun. The team broke new ground by forming a gamification committee that includes 3 developers, a manager and an internal sponsor whose focus is to ensure that games developed are related to KPIs that are critically important to the success of the program.  GAIN, or GAmify INnovation, was born.

Sykes culture is built around analytics and the consistent application of data to continuous improvement of agent satisfaction, processes, workflow, and quality assurance. To start, setting objectives and goals helped to define the relation of the games the committee would develop to performance metrics for account management.


  • Player centric design
  • Game mechanics shouldn’t just be for fun. Gaming activities must be deeply integrated, factoring in goals & strategies
  • Enhance the whole user experience to drive positive behavioral changes in employees; test success
  • Gamification should help agents to interact X number of times more than they would in a non-gamified system; benchmarks provide motivation and proof
  • Choose the rewards carefully; consider intrinsic and tangible
  • Keep game mechanics simple
  • Maintain a team who will consistently monitor and develop new activities


Implementation became a collaboration between the users and the committee based on the feedback gathered from agents using the test versions of the training “games.” The committee knew that if the game wasn’t effective and compelling to the agents, they wouldn’t adopt its use. They paid special attention to thinking of the audience as players rather than trainees.

That small shift in approach allowed the game to become more meaningful to the agents. Research into the preferences of gamers finds that an interesting storyline is one of the things that influence adoption of the game. Additionally, monitoring the effectiveness of the game against performance data would also be critical for proving the impact of gaming as a training methodology.


Even though millennials are pre-disposed to gaming, the challenge in implanting gamified training in the contact center was that they weren’t used to it as a process. The gamification committee needed to develop a proof of concept that would provide the credibility they needed to sustain the investment made by the client.

Enabling an innovative environment and dedicating resources to developing GAIN is the KEY to keeping it fresh.




Case Study

The first account the gamification training was implemented for was a large travel services provider. Because the client’s business is seasonal, a fast ramp-up was required once each year. Streamlining time to agent proficiency was a major goal, in addition to improving performance against call-related KPIs.

The GAIN Game: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

“Who Wants to be a Millionaire” is a TV game show, originated in Britain that pits contestants against their ability to answer multiple-choice questions correctly to move up a money ladder with the chance to win from $1,000 to $1,000,000 dollars. Aside from their own knowledge, the contestants can use tools such as Ask the Audience and Call a Friend. The game show was broadcast in more than 100 countries worldwide.


Since the agents were familiar with the concept, it made a sound choice for the first gamified training exercise. Games based on TV game shows, puzzles, and trivia are the second most popular category of games, after social and casual games.

Modeled after the TV show, the game was established to help agents improve performance related to breakage. Breakage is the monetary difference between what the client committed versus the final reconciled account from the hotel. For example, if a refund isn’t processed correctly then the client might end up reimbursing the money, rather than the hotel. This expense hits their bottom line and is a key KPI for agent performance. The committee understood that it was critical to tie player objectives to business objectives to gain the performance improvements needed.

Game Objectives:

  • Focusing on Breakage
  • Identified top drivers to be included in the questions
  • Level of difficulty increases as the agents proceed on the leader board

In the game, the agent is presented with a code for a call driver and a scenario to address. The agent is presented with questions they must answer to move up the ladder. The agent has tools similar to the TV game show that include:

  • Call a Friend: The “friend” is represented by an animated character that gives them a clue to the answer.
  • Ask the Audience: The agent is shown a poll with answers they can choose from to help them answer the question.

The gaming committee can track the questions the agent answers incorrectly and assist the team manager to loop the concept back into their ongoing training and coaching with the agent. The game has proved effective in providing feedback to tell trainers what the agents don’t know. As the agent continues to use the gamified training, their improvement can be monitored over time. What they don’t know on day 1, for example, should be different than what they don’t know on day 10. An agent scorecard in the contact center feeds the millennial agent’s need for proving they are good at what they do, as well as the ability for them to continue to use the game even during the time they are offline.


  • Development of personal qualities such as persistence, creativity and resilience through extended play hence; improved product knowledge and retention
  • Agents exhibit all behaviors that ideally would be regularly demonstrated in an educational institution
  • Bring the full personalities and preferences to the pursuit of learning


Gamified training can be traced back to business value including shortening training times, improving the customer experience, and targeting specific training needs to adjust to KPIs quickly. For this client, that ramps up by 40% from valley to peak, gamification has also streamlined the agent training process, making the seasonal transition much easier and faster for both the agents and the level of performance the client’s customers experience.

Next Gen GAIN Games

Based on the successful proof of concept, the gamification committee is finalizing the creation of a number of additional games which they’ve based on brainstorming what will be interesting to the agents, including:

  • Got the Best Echo: This is a game between team manager and agent that works on developing empathy during role play. The game allows the agents to go beyond listening to calls to using actual scenarios in collaboration with their manager. This is a role play game for sales and service improvement.
  • Darts: This game challenges agents about outbound call policy and each question points them to an article in the database where agents can read the policy to choose the right answer. The game’s intent is to increase product and policy knowledge.
  • Pictionary: Features a pictorial of the hotel and quizzes agents about areas of the property and amenities to help the agents increase their knowledge.

Additionally, since handle time and efficiency are also critical KPIs for the client, there are also games designed to address typing skills.

The Business Value of Gamification

The gamification committee’s focus on tying the gamified training to KPIs important to the client has served to solidify gamification as a training strategy that delivers valuable results. Though the games aren’t focused on rewards or prizes, the ability to create a fun working environment helps to attract new hires, as well as to retain them. Gamification also changed the way agents are managed, requiring less correction for things the agent gets wrong and more positive reinforcement for the things they get right.

Gamers have been playing video games for an average of 14 years according to the ESA.  With this sort of familiarity, it makes perfect sense that even more training in contact centers becomes gamified.   Gamification is here to stay.

John is happy, he can continue to play at work!


Marco Fernandez, Project Manager of Gamification and Innovations for SYKES Philippines, leads the development of solutions, like gamification, tailored to the strategic and tactical objectives from internal and external clients.  With over 7 years of experience in the contact center industry, Marco has demonstrated achievements in front-line Operations Management for inbound telesales and service programs, Quality Assurance, and Projects & Information Systems Management.  Marco has a Bachelor of Computer Science from the St. Paul College of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. 

Nestor “Red” Del Rosario, Director of Account Operations for SYKES Philippines, is the senior leader responsible for the strategic planning and execution of the Gamification and Innovation projects.  Red has vast experience in the contact center industry, and he has demonstrated achievements in performance management and innovation.  He has held Training, Quality and Account Management positions, as well as Senior Account and Client Services Management roles supporting Clients in the Telecommunications, Technology and Travel & Hospitality industries.  Red has a Bachelor of Computer Science and a Six Sigma Black Belt certification.  He enjoys watching movies and reading during his spare time.