"We saw an actual decline in the number of those signing up for our promotional emails," he says. "We were offering them a lousy deal in this case: In return for accepting more junk in their inbox, we would turn this badge from gray to blue. The lesson is that you can't just slap badges on things, check them off a list and call it a day. Gamification is not a no-risk strategy. It has to be done right."
Fernandez says that the only real problem his firm encountered was that users understood they could get points if they referred their friends, but seemed to assume that the system knew who their friends were.
But generally, success or failure with consumer gamification starts with the topic, says Miller at Manumatix. "It has to be something people talk about and enjoy. We were approached by a laxative company, but nobody is going to talk about that. And it can't be a boring commodity, or something that is only sold once. No one is passionate about their refrigerator."
Enterprises have captive audiences with their employees, but have found ways to use gamification to reinforce desired activity and enhance productivity.
For instance, LiveOps of Santa Clara, Calif., offers different types of call center services. The firm works with nearly 20,000 remote contractors, whose volume of assignments -- and therefore the number of hours they work and their cumulative wages -- is based on the quality of their performance, explains Sanjay Mathur, vice president.
Using points and leader boards, "we can separate the wheat from the chaff and reward the best agents with more opportunities," he says. The system is a combination of Bunchball features and in-house systems, he adds. Using the system is optional for the agents, but about 80% opted in, and 95% of those stayed in, he says. "They like knowing how they are performing and what they need to do to get call volume," he explains.
With gamification, the training for a roadside assistance agent fell from four weeks to 14 hours, he notes, as it facilitated a switch from brick-and-mortar to virtual classrooms. The performance of the sales agents increased 8% to 15%, depending on the product, he adds, citing gamification as the reason since no other changes were made.
Badges combined with social networking amounted to a completely different gamification approach for VivaKi, a Web service agency in Chicago that has workers in five locations. VivaKi signed up for an employee performance-management platform from Rypple, a gamification vendor in Toronto that has since been acquired by Salesforce.com.