The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Telematics Gamification Emphasizes Fun Over 'Big Brother'

October 2015, by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

In the past, when fleet drivers were confronted with the prospect of telematics, they often balked, using the refrain of “Big Brother is watching” as their biggest objection.

But, for an increasing number of fleets, telematics have been transformed into a platform to engage and inspire drivers to do their best by developing driver scorecards and fostering a sense of healthy competition.

Establishing Cause & Effect

Gamification isn’t new, but it has been building momentum to engage drivers in the company’s mission.

There are several reasons why gamification has taken off, including the upturn in the economy over the past couple of years.

“We came through a tough time in the economy, and, during that time, companies used the stick to motivate employees who were afraid of losing their jobs,” said Bill Cooper, vice president customer acquisition at WEX. “Today, fleets are finding that it’s tough to get buy in with the stick. Instead, they need to get buy in with the carrot.”

The smart phone has also been a driving force of telematics gamification.

For Mark Wallin, VP of product development for Telogis, a crucial part of successful gamification is having a platform and mobile apps that connect employees to the mission.

At A Glance

Gamification has experienced a boom in popularity across fleets. This was driven by a number of factors:

  • The popularity of smart phones. 
  • The daily use and acceptance of apps.
  • The growing popularity of social gaming among non-gamers.
  • A shift in workplace culture emphasizing rewards over punitive consequences. 

“Mobile apps are key to connecting people to the mission, because it provides them easy access to the data,” he said. “Without that information and without that visibility, their ability to be connected is difficult and the results haven’t been that great.”

Stuart Kerr, VP global enterprise sales for Fleetmatics, echoed Wallin, noting that “gamification is wonderful in concept, but what breaks down is how companies actually utilize it. And, one of the primary things they don’t have when they come up with gamification is how to most effectively communicate with drivers about how they’re doing relative to their peers. If you’ve made the right type of investments in your mobile technology, you’ll have a driver app that you can use to highlight the single attributes that are important to your organization,” Kerr said.

Coupled with changes in the workplace and with technology was the evolution and increasing popularity of social gaming, and its use by those who weren’t traditional “gamers,” that have made the smart phone and apps the tool of engagement.

“I think gaming on social media sites is a very productive way to introduce companies to the benefits of telematics. As our penetration of telematics continues to grow, I think it’s a great opportunity to introduce gamification at the very same time. It’s better to get these drivers believing in the system. If you add a little bit of play, it’s going to be a little bit more accepted by the drivers,” said Joe Castelli, vice president of commercial and fleet operations for LoJack.

All of these factors established a change from the days of the stick where drivers were motivated by punitive consequences as opposed to positive reinforcement and rewards.

Replacing the Stick with the Carrot

Telogis’ Wallin noted that finding ways to foster employee engagement and connection to the company’s mission are at the heart of gamification.

Example of a smart phone gamified dashboard courtesy of Telogis.
Example of a smart phone gamified dashboard courtesy of Telogis.

This is where the carrot replaces the stick.

“Gamification makes the leap from Big Brother to this is fun,” Cooper of WEX observed. “This is what has always been missing with telematics.”
The gamification concept is simple. Drivers are given a set of driving or productivity goals they are trying to achieve for a given period, such as eliminating idling or speeding. The running results are kept track of during the “contest” period and drivers are measured and benchmarked against each other.

“For a service fleet, they’re often a tight group with a lot of rapport. Gamification dials into their natural competitive nature,” Cooper said.

Roni Taylor, VP of industry relations for Spireon, said that the company has taken competition a step further by fostering both individual improvement and teamwork.

“The customer can put its drivers in teams, so they can have the Northeast versus the Southeast for instance, then they compete against each other. It’s a very constructive and fun way of rewarding the driver and helping them change their behavior,” she said.

Many companies that have instituted gamification in their fleets offer various prizes ranging from bragging rights to trophies to gift cards to better work or vehicle assignments to large cash bonuses for the top drivers.

While the ideas of fun and healthy competition are the key elements of a successful gamification program, the experts also noted another way it needs to be used for drivers: self-improvement.

Castelli of LoJack outlined how a comprehensive telematics system works together to provide day-to-day management and improvement for the driver and the fleet as a whole.

“It helps the dispatcher actively manage the fleet, it helps the drivers adopt a responsible driving style, and it provides that feedback before, during, and after the trip,” he said. “Everything that we can drive down with this system is in one number, and it is a great coaching and counseling tool for the dispatcher, the fleet manager, or the company. Feedback is provided to the driver, and the driver can try to make changes.”

Cooper sees this ability to provide immediate feedback as a way to empower the driver.

“It’s an opportunity to hold up a mirror to the driver so he or she can see what they may be doing incorrectly and correct it,” he said.

Wallen said that beyond coaching there is another element that is even more fundamental for a successful program.

“You’ve got to have some form of training,” he said. “Programs don’t work if you just say ‘I’m going to grade you on five things.’ You’ve got to set a foundation that isn’t punitive, you’ve got to set the expectations properly and training is important to that.”

Taylor noted that Spireon has also built coaching directly into its system’s app.

“Our system monitors driving behavior and it scores the driver,” Taylor said. “So, if one driver is doing a lot of idling or a lot of hard acceleration, there’s a coaching video that can be watched, instructing the driver in a very positive way how to change the behavior.”

Successfully implementing a comprehensive, competitive, and, yes, fun gamification program has a number of benefits for the fleet.

For drivers it develops a sense of elan and pride. For the fleets and their companies, the benefits can affect the bottom line in significant and measurable ways. Castelli noted, during 90 days that LoJack used its own system on its 160-vehicle installation fleet it eliminated 98 percent of its speeding events.

“If you do this right you get what we call progressive ROI,” added Kerr of Fleetmatics. “First you take out of fuel by reducing idling, and then you can take a chunk out of fuel by eliminating jack rabbit starts and hard braking. You go one by one through whatever the next major issue is that is dollars flowing back up the tail pipe.”

Avoiding the Pitfalls

In fact, there’s little argument within the industry that gamification isn’t a win-win.

That being said, there are pitfalls fleet managers need to avoid when implementing a gamification program.

Kerr noted that one of the biggest pitfalls he’s seen has been fleets trying to do too much at one time.

“You can’t focus your drivers on five different things at once. You can do one or maximum two at a time,” Kerr said. “The fleets that do that have much better success.”

Leanne Anderson, account manager for Geotab, noted that fleets should be careful about getting a system that has a “canned” gamification program.

“A customer needs the ability to customize the program to the needs of their fleet,” she said.

Cooper related the unintended consequences of a poorly implemented gamification system. “We’ve seen fleets that have wanted to increase service calls, which have resulted in reckless driving to achieve it, flying in the face of the fleet’s stated safe driving piece. You have to be careful of unintended consequences,” he said. “If you take off the safe driving part of the equation, you’ll be inadvertently encouraging the behavior you want to stop.”

Wallin of Telogis also noted that the game period should be set. He cautioned against using an ongoing or multi-month period for the measured period, because of the risk that a driver who has slipped badly will disengage from the program. Instead, the period should be short — just a few weeks — and the leader board should be reset often so that drivers have an opportunity to improve their standing regularly.

Taylor of Spireon noted that one thing that has to be considered is what makes a good game. “A good game gives us meaningful accomplishments and clear achievements. You have to make sure that you put that in your program. It has to have attainable accomplishments and be meaningful,” she said.

Looking to the Future

The ways gamification could influence fleets in the future shows that it has plenty of room for growth.

Telogis’ Wallin sees gamification’s influence growing in the future with it being used to engage fleet managers and senior-level executives throughout the organization.

WEX’s Cooper sees the evolution of gamification moving from the driver to the equipment. “I think in the future, telematics will be more about the operation of the vehicle,” he said. “As a result, we’ll see vehicles held longer.”

Anderson of Geotab sees the changing demographics of fleet drivers helping evolve gamification further.

“A younger driver is motivated a little bit differently than the boomers. As the demographics change, I think gamification will have to change whether that is the rewards and recognition or the competition or maybe it’s notoriety that comes with winning,” she said.

Kerr of Fleetmatics predicts that smartphones and their technology will continue to become the primary way fleets will communicate with drivers. “I don’t see gamification going away. Like all things in telematics when you get more robust intelligence it integrates itself into the culture of the company and they never take it out,” he said.

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