Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gamification and the Credit Industry II – Going With The Flow

We’ve all heard the term ‘gamification’, but why is the concept of turning work into games a good one? According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it’s called ‘flow’.

What flow is, according to Mihaly, is the mind’s ability to focus on a task and receive a rewarding experience.  His book basically says that a single person’s mind can only handle so much information at a time (which is, by the way, 126 bits of information per second – a conversation is 40 bits per second).   By setting up a system where people are fully engaged in a task, you can maximize participation, focus, and ability of a person.

So, if you make something engrossing, you can get 100% of the brain power of an employee.

So, Tell Me How You Feel

When a person plays a game, it is (or should be) a rewarding experience.  It can be camaraderie, competition, self-improvement, challenging one’s mind, or any other range of emotional or intellectual reward.  However, the reward from playing a game isn’t from the game (although taking home the pot from a poker game is certainly an external reward) – the real reward from playing a game comes from within.  This is called an “autotelic experience”.

Look at the picture below of Mihaly’s Flow Model – it basically says the more a person is challenged, and must use skill, the closer to ‘flow’ they get (being the ideal experience).  Bordering on ‘flow’ are ‘arousal’ or ‘control’ … I believe you could categorize these as less-than-ideal categories for games that feed ‘extreme competitiveness’, ‘one-upmanship’, or ‘feeding one’s ego’ … they are somewhat rewarding experiences, but not the best result you can achieve.

The thing is, every person is motivated differently – internal reward models are unique person to person.  Some people like to play Monopoly, others don’t.  Why?  Because each person receives a different reward from within – some people don’t find Monopoly to be a rewarding experience.

What Does This Have To Do With Collections?

Before you can ‘gamify’ your credit and collections floor, you need to know what motivates them, or creates an autotelic experience. Ideally, you want to create a game system that rewards challenge and skill levels that your staff can meet or exceed.  Also, the gamification needs to be accessible and understandable – I believe that people play euchre, not bridge, because it is more accessible.

So, let’s look at the following scenarios, shall we?

SCENARIO 1 – A wall of balloons is on the wall, with a hidden $1, $2, or $5 bill, or a note saying ‘good job’.  Whenever a collector gets a payment, they get to pop a balloon.  Will this motivate collectors?
No – because the game itself is not challenging.  It’s simply a random choosing of a prize, or no prize at all.  An experienced collector collecting $5000 or a new staff member collecting $50 have an equal chance at the same rewards.  Low skill and challenge = apathy on the chart above.

SCENARIO 2 - The branch office is given a target to hit (which is achieveable) and given the challenge to hit that target.  For every dollar above target, the excess will be split amongst the entire team.
Yes – because the challenge is high, and the more skilled or the higher the performance of the staff, the greater reward.  There is a higher chance that ‘flow’ will be achieved.

 These are obviously two very extreme examples, but they illustrate the use of the Flow Chart above.  I’m interested in hearing how others would analyze their game experience.

Pay Attention!

Before you can gamify your credit and collection program, I think you need to watch and listen to your staff, and understand what motivates them.  Here are some ‘gamification concepts’ I believe would create an autotelic experience, that we use in our office:

* All clients are assigned a project manager and given credit with the client, to create a sense of ownership and credit over the company’s performance.

* Project managers are responsible to create their own performance charts for clients, providing awareness of results to challenges faced by competing agencies or client expectations.

* If the client pays a dividend or bonus for exceeding targets, we share that with the project team responsible.

* Each staff member receives a simple score card report at the end of each month that doesn’t just evaluate reward revenue generation, but evaluates and gives a mixed score to include project management, improvements to company reputation, clientele generated, and the ability to work with others.  This score is accumulated month to month and serves as a staff evaluation tool, and replaces the need for annual reviews or absenteeism policies, as it rewards staff with salary increases, personal days off, or even simply recognition of the responsibilities they have undertaken.

* Our company has a task/ticket system that anyone can submit a ‘wish-list request’ to.  The requests are collaborated on between management and the person making the suggestion and put into long-term performance goals.  This can be anything as simple as ‘bigger monitors for the office’, ‘one hour lunches’, to the extravagant ‘a staff trip to Disneyland’.  If the company achieves a certain amount of profit or growth in the long-run, the self-selected ‘reward’ is unlocked.  Each reward is put in order, and mixed with corporate growth plans, in order of priority, so the team can see how the company prioritizes requests.

Coming Soon – Part Three

Next week, we will look at how intrinsic reward models in the collection agency are wrong, and how they break staff and reinforce negative behaviour.

In the meantime, if you want to read The Psychology of Optimal Experience, I have attached a link to the book here:

If anyone has questions about the concept of gamification or motivating and creating intrinsic self-worth in your work environment, I’m always willing to chat.  Give me a call at 226-946-1730.

Thanks kindly,

Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
Kingston Data and Credit
Cambridge, Ontario