The nine steps of utility gamification (part 1)

The nine steps of utility gamification (part 1)

Our previous blog posts provide a basic overview of gamification for energy efficiency and the elements of gamification.  Now it’s time to talk about how to plan and implement a gamified solution. How do you go about using gamification, if you aren’t already? Well, it’s an involved process for utilities to do in-house. Since Brilliency has utility gamification baked in, it’s easier to talk about how we do it.

Gamification is an involved process

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) analyzed 22 gamified solutions and noted that: “custom development is not for the faint-hearted.” And that, “packaged solutions… [have] clear advantages in terms of cost, reliability, and quality,” (page 46). That’s what we do at Brilliency.

This post adapts steps from a book co-authored by Wharton professor Kevin Werbach: For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business.*

Step 1: Choose a design team

You’ll need a good design team with wide-ranging talents, “the design team’s expertise needs to be prodigious….” the ACEEE paper says (page 46). But what qualifications will they need specifically?

A 2012 Deloitte white paper, recommends, “business-line strategists and managers, along with social scientists, marketers, game designers, programmers and those with data analytics expertise.” These teams need to, “be able to address the overall organizational goals, measurement and analytics needs, design of incentives, and information technology considerations,” (page 67). They use the term, “multidisciplinary,” and it’s appropriate.

Brilliency’s design team has decades of experience in the energy market and experience working with utility management teams.

Step 2: Decide on business objectives

“Define your business objectives.” (This is Werbach’s first step for those keeping track.) The goal is to, “create something that people love,” and that furthers your business objectives.

Most utilities use gamification for energy efficiency and customer engagement initiatives. Brilliency is optimized for those efforts.  The whole purpose of our platform is to bring customers online so they can engage with the utility, share information (data) with each other, and deliver results.  The customer’s results manifest through savings and efficiency — one place to connect with their electric, gas and/or water utility.  The utility benefits from a personalize two-way communication channel with the customer, which delivers the utility greater insights as well as efficiency and demand reduction.

Assemble your gamification team

Photo: “Team Building & Leadership with LawNY” by Michael Cardus on Flickr

Step 3: Choose target behaviors

With business objectives defined, you’re ready to “Delineate your target behavior,” according to Werbach. These are the,[the] concrete, specific steps that you would want people to take[.]” This is about choosing the specific actions that you would want players to take, “in order to achieve that business goal you set….”

The ACEEE’s white paper gave more utility-specific recommendations. “Define and prioritize exactly what you want your players to do (replace light bulbs? reduce peak use?),” (page 53). This priority will help decide how to award points and shape the game. “Behaviors [that] are most critical to the mission of the game… should be most highly rewarded.” These, “target behaviors need not be specific actions; they can include general outcomes like thinking, knowing, and caring more about energy use,” (page 44).

At Brilliency, we’ve defined a number of behaviors around energy efficiency that utilities need customers to address: turning lights off, upgrading lighting, appliances, even HVAC and other home improvements. If it seems like rewards programs and other initiatives have already addressed them, we understand. Many utilities have already done bulb-replacement programs, but we can help customers see why they should install, configure, and use them properly. And where a rebate or other rewards program may have helped your customers make upgrades, without a change of habits, you may not see the anticipated savings.

Step 4: Understand the players

The ACEEE paper observed that: “Since the goal of the game is to motivate its players to do something, the more clearly you understand who these players are, the more successful you will be in changing their behavior,” (page 60). Werbach defines this as a step in game development: “Describe your players.” It isn’t necessarily enough to just know who your customers are as customers, “it is important to think of them as players. They’re not just users, they’re not just employees [or customers], they are people who are voluntarily playing your game, who need to feel that enjoyment[, that] engagement[,] and that desire to proceed in the game,” Werbach said.

We continuously refine our understanding of how players/users interact with our software. We gather and analyze data from our utility’s customers — electric, gas, and water. Our platform engages customers in a conversation with their utilities that allows the utility to personalize communications for better results, so we know each player (a.k.a., customer). In fact, because we allow customers to sign up on their own, we might know some of yours already. Regardless, this gives improves our starting point. We understand customers relationship with their utility resources from a number of angles.

These steps set the stage. Next week, we’ll talk about engagement loops, player journeys, and analytics that you’d need to create and implement. Meanwhile, remember to stay in touch on Twitter and on our Facebook page.

* In a a 2013 interview Kevin Werbach summarized six steps to designing a game. To this outline, we add several additional steps that our research shows utilities need to do (numbers 1, 6, and 9). We don’t think Werbach would disagree with them, we’re just calling them out specifically on the basis of research with utilities. Werbach’s steps are numbered steps 2-5 and 7-8 in these posts.

Photo credits:

  1. Teamwork and team spirit” by on Flickr.
  2. Team Building & Leadership with LawNY” by Michael Cardus on Flickr.


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