Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gamification and the Credit Industry I - What Game Is Afoot?


 
I was at a network dinner last night, and we had several credit and collections professionals talking about the gamification of the credit industry – what was fascinating was we all had a different definition of what gamification means, and we had a really spirited discussion over the purpose of gamification, not necessarily the process.  This isn't the first time this has come up over the last year, so it's worth some serious discussion.
 
There’s an official definition of gamification by the Oxford English Dictionary:
 
the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service: gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun”

One executive from a major collection center with over 800 staff used an excellent example we all agreed on – at their company, when their new agent collected their first payment, a screen would pop up on their computer, congratulating them, and it would also notify the supervisors and management team about that staff member.  That’s excellent, because it acknowledges performance, and creates an emotional response for behaviour – it’s exactly like congratulating someone for doing a good job.
 
However, before the term gamification came into place, I've seen first-hand evidence of this practice being ingrained with our industry.  I worked many years ago in a collection agency (back in the '90's), when I first started in third party collections, and their idea of gamification was taken out of telemarketing call center tactics of the time -- the agency manager had a wall of balloons pinned up that you could pop each time you collected a payment.  Inside the balloons were $5, $2, or $1 bills, or just a morale-boosting note saying 'Good Job!'.  On the surface, I'm sure it appeared to the manager that this was a system to 'encourage behaviour', but all it did was create a sense amongst the staff that they were being belittled and treated as unsophisticated employees.

My personal opinion is that our industry is naturally ‘gamified’ … we have an incremental system to measure success and failure, and in many cases we are put into a competitive scenarios internally between collection agents or teams, or in a wider scope in competition between other collection agencies or target liquidation goals set by creditors.  However, the real application of gamification (in my opinion) is building a structure of a game that reinforces positive behavior, and evokes an emotional response and engagement by all members of the company team working in harmony together towards shared goals.

 
Tune In Next Week

I sat down with our Ontario team this morning and discussed their attitudes towards gamification – and I was very pleased to hear some of their responses.  A number of our team had worked for large collection companies in the past, and they had a number of interesting insights into what had worked, or failed miserably at those companies.  Next week we are going to delve into some behavior models and game rules that worked, and ones that didn’t.

When I first worked as in the credit department for a newspaper, I collected a over a quarter of a million dollars in three months for our company – that created a self-imposed emotional response, or a reward to a self-created gamification.  I was able to liquidate almost 60% of our company’s accounts aged over 30 days, which was a positive result for the company that was measurable, and that I could take pride in.  That measurement of success was the first and most important step into me switching career goals from being a teacher to working in the credit industry – and that was over 20 years before the term ‘gamification’ had been coined.

I want to delve into this subject in detail in the next few articles -- If you have some stories to share, either as a comment on the blog or feel free to email me privately.  I can be reached at bwettlaufer@kingstondc.com.

Thanks kindly!

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
Kingston Data and Credit
Cambridge, Ontario
226-946-1730
bwettlaufer@kingstondc.com