Laura: Recent Blogs from Maggie Buggie (Engage at Speed) and Jo Wardle (The Future really is Gamification!’) have highlighted the potential power of this digital trend in changing the behaviours of both customers and employees. For those unfamiliar with the concept, enterprise gamification is the application of the gaming techniques, which encourage people to play games, to a business environment – designing a system which encourages an organisation’s customers/employees to adopt and maintain specific desired behaviours using a (predominantly) intrinsic reward system in order to deliver tangible business value. It’s a concept founded in the universals of human psychology and enabled by the convergence of lifestyle and technology in the digital age.

I know that my co-author (Scott Schnaars of Badgeville, a global leader in gamification and Capgemini’s alliance partner) won’t forgive me at this point unless I mention briefly what gamification isn’t – to paraphrase him, gamification is not an ‘Xbox in the staff room’; gamification ≠ game, it’s serious business with tangible ROI.

All organisations have individual challenges; but they also share a challenge, namely engagement. Whether that’s engagement with a product, a service, a process or a system will depend on the organisation and its customers/employees but it’s pretty much a universal conundrum. Nowhere is this more true than in the utilities industry which currently faces a significant and complex set of challenges. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • A complex and constricting regulatory/legislative regime;
  • Rising costs & low profit margins on core products;
  • An operationally challenging smart metering roll-out combined with the challenge of how to use that smart meter data effectively;
  • Distinct lack of consumer confidence and trust;
  • Low customer engagement;
  • High customer churn rates (power); and
  • An infrastructure requiring significant investment.

Now I’m not suggesting that enterprise gamification is a silver bullet that will magically solve every one of these problems, but some of them do leap out to me as perfect candidates for a solution that is fundamentally about changing behaviours. 

Scott: The utilities industry is ripe with opportunity for gamification.  So many of the utility companies have a tremendous amount to offer beyond their base product.  My electric / gas company offers different billing options, different packages, services to come and inspect my home for inefficiencies, and discounts on products and services to make my house more efficient and save me money.

Yet the average consumer doesn’t know about many of these services.  The average consumer expects that lights go on, lights go off, and they pay a bill each month. 

Gamification, as a driver of loyalty, provides these utility companies with a great opportunity to build a stronger relationship with their customers. By providing these customers with a level of status amongst their peers, gamification can be used as a way to educate and build affinity for a product that is typically taken for granted.

At the root, the basic idea of gamification is simply giving a consumer data about their interaction with a product or a brand.  Toyota Prius drivers become a thing of legend when they would hypermile against one another.  Utility companies are required to roll-out smart meters nationally by 2020.  This is the first step in sharing data with consumers.  The next step of this will be to compare power usage to your neighbour and, in real time, highlight how you are performing vs. similar size homes and families.

Gamification isn’t just for consumer-facing experiences.  It is also commonly used internally within organisations as well.  Gamification is often used by employees as a way to drive deeper levels of collaboration, accelerate business processes, and to drive better education in the learning and development processes.

Laura & Scott: The utilities industry is broadly a latecomer to the digital table; described as ‘Conservative’ in their outlook by the piece of research published by Capgemini and MIT in 2012, reflecting the industry focus on efficiency and the comparative under-investment in digital technologies. A well designed and implemented gamification solution could be a digital solution to one of the industries trickiest challenges; creating customer engagement, loyalty and trust.