There’s a term that inspires both love and hate in the software industry: “gamification.” In this context, gamification is a process of making software more fun and motivating by using game design elements to drive engagement. People dislike the term because it’s overused, is often implemented as a simplistic reward system, and sometimes isn’t designed in the service of a business objective. But, it’s a concept that I believe needs to be applied more often in the area of real estate software. If the idea of making your software more like a game doesn’t work for you because your software is dead serious, ignore that term and think about this as using psychology in a way that’s going to help both you and your users be successful.
Let’s say you are creating lead/prospect/client management software to overcome call/contact avoidance and to help agents with their CRM activities. Anyone who has ever visited a call center has seen the motivation provided by a “leaderboard.” In the technical support call center context, representatives are publicly recognized on the board for the number of resolutions, quick resolutions, and positive ratings by end-users, every day, week, and month. Having a leader board for your brokerage in the software you use to move people down the funnel, from leads, to prospects, to well-managed clients, makes a lot of sense. And seeing how your brokerage is doing against others in aggregate? That also makes sense. Guess where the leaderboard idea came from? Games.
Of course, the leaderboard is a simplistic tool and just part of a gamified software design. Different types of leaderboards need to be designed to motivate those in the middle rather than just highlight those at the top. Simplistic design can lead to failure. As the Gartner analysts projected in 2012, “80 Percent of Current Gamified Applications Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives Primarily Due to Poor Design.“ From that article: “The focus is on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leaderboards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy.” But there are so many elements of gamification you see all the time that you may not realize you are being motivated by them. Anyone who has ever felt compelled to update their LinkedIn profile because it was marked “60% Complete” or to achieve the “All-Star” profile strength has been motivated by the psychology of gamification.
Not all software requires such careful application of psychology. For example, some software exists to help the user perform a standalone, practical task: creating a flyer or CMA, or requesting a showing. Those programs might require that you create a decent User Experience (UX), and the developers might apply gamification to the product marketing, but not much beyond that. But for software where one needs to change user behavior, either by encouraging or deterring existing user behavior, the sophisticated application of psychology can be crucial, and is an important part of the product manager’s toolkit.
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