Badgeville brings business gamification to Force.com

Put a badge on it? U.S. startup Badgeville brings its brand of engagement to the Salesforce cloud.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Let's face it. Your customers and employees? Most of them don't care. They could, but they don't. They're too busy; their attention too limited in this age of information.

Got something good but you can't break through? That's where gamification comes into play.

The relatively recent term is just a fancy word for playing into the addictive qualities found in video games -- you know, the dopamine-producing aspects that make you sink your teeth into something otherwise trivial. It's in vogue lately as a user engagement tactic, because hey, if you can will yourself to keep running from digital castle to castle in search of a pixelated princess, why can't you force yourself to finish your damn tax return?

Badgeville and many others have built a business model around this concept. This morning, the Redwood City, Calif.-based company announced its entry onto Force.com, the Salesforce social and mobile application platform. Beginning today, its "behavior platform" can be layered on top of Force.com apps to fast-track desired behavior for external customers and internal employees alike.

Think of it like an additive to a car's fuel tank. Marketo, Engine Yard, Docusign, Shaw Industries and Phoenix Idea Labs are already customers.

To learn how companies plan to use social mechanics to trick employees into filling out their expense reports (ahem), I spoke with the company's VP of worldwide marketing, Chandar Pattabhiram.

ZD: So...gamification.

CP: We are in the business of increasing employee productivity and customer advocacy. We essentially increase engagement with applications by using a set of engagement mechanics. We reward users, showcase their reputations amongst peers, and so forth. 

More motivation, more recognition, more rewards ultimately equals more engagement and companies will get more value out of those applications.

One example of a challenge is, how do I get customer service people to deliver superior customer support and close tickets faster? In that case, we're trying to reward certain behaviors directly in the Zendesk application. There's a leaderboard that's constantly visible in the application.

ZD: With regard to employee-facing apps, how much of an impact should gamification really have? Don't we already have long-established motivation levers like pay, title, responsibilities and roles? Isn't that enough?

CP: It's icing on the cake; it's about trying to get the most value. It's augmenting traditional methods with new motivations. My daughter is expected to go to school and do well. But if I give her a badge to do well, that motivation drives her to do better than to just say, "This is your job."

ZD: Fair point. How often do companies come to you seeking gamification as a silver bullet for more systemic problems?

CP: Gamification is not a fix to strategy. You can't fix corporate culture and underlying management problems with it. Yes, there are people that have looked at it that way, but a lot of organizations have understood that gamification taps into key human behaviors and drivers and they want to apply that to their existing landscape. It is not an alternative.

The ones that are smart treat it as a program, not a project. It's a closed-loop process. It's not about giving you badges for three months and leaving your behavior [to return to what it was previously].

Learning and compliance is one example. I was an executive at IBM, and we had to take harassment training, and nobody takes those in the first few days. They wait until the end.

Or Marketo, which focuses on community. A marketer wakes up in the morning and wonders, how do I acquire more customers? The lead after that is, how do I keep them? By rewarding them for sharing things on Facebook and other things, they get virtual rewards, which can translate to tangible rewards, which helps them become brand advocates.

If you translate just one percent of your customers into advocates, that is a 10X return.

ZD: How does Force.com play into your own strategy?

CP: Today, if you're a CIO and want to deliver a new capability to your business, you have a binary choice: build it using Java or something, or buy it using a cloud-based platform. More people are using platforms like Force.com. We are now providing a toolkit that lets you drive gamification and engagement on those applications.

A company like [personal health products giant] Kimberly-Clark has a bunch of instances on Force.com. So it gives us the ability to approach large organizations. It gives us a great channel, a great market. More than 185,000 cloud applications are being built on Force.com.

For Salesforce or any cloud provider, [the ecosystem] is their engagement application. It's more likely that customers will not cut the cord.

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