Case Study: Extreme Makeover: Grainger EditionCase Studies March 01, 2012
Extreme Makeover: Grainger.com Edition was based within an online portal; however, instead of using meaningless clue codes to gate access to content within the portal itself, or embedding clue codes within website and event content, it required players to solve customer problems and retrieve specific pieces of content from the website in order to score points. In other words, the clue codes were meaningful answers to customer problems. This change allowed the game to more closely mimic reality and gave the players a feeling of actually interacting with real customers.
Players accessed customer emails and voicemails within the game portal, which asked for help with specific problems they needed to solve using Grainger.com. A typical customer email might ask for help finding compatible parts for an engine that had been purchased earlier. The players could find the previous order and look up the required compatible parts for the customer. To show that they had done what was asked, they entered the total price of the parts into the web portal.
Another important piece that allowed the game to exercise more real-world skills was the inclusion of a coaching character. This character, Josh Winter, was introduced to the players as the Grainger District Manager of Internet Sales. He had a company email address, a profile page within the game portal, and was introduced through a video by two characters that Grainger employees had seen in companywide communications in the past. He sent out instructional emails to the entire group, including bonus clue opportunities, as well as provided some guiding text for each customer communication. A puppet-master, from outside Grainger, responded to emails sent to Josh, and posted information within the portal using his profile.
Even though he was represented by an illustration, players clearly believed that he was an actual Grainger employee. This belief in Josh led to some interesting player interactions over the course of the game. Members of the development team were asked often who “that Josh guy” was, and were greeted with incredulity when they explained that he was a fictional character created for the game. Some players asked Josh questions which only another Grainger employee could answer, and some even responded to him with clear frustration when he was unable to immediately help with issues which were internal to Grainger.
In fact, despite the fact that players were teamed up to provide game support for each other, players went to Josh for help before using their team messaging area to contact others to solve the problem. Teams seemed to use the messaging areas primarily to cheer themselves on, and encourage their teammates to answer more of the scenarios. This was especially strange because there were individual and team winners, so most teams wished to score highly. The most active teams were extremely competitive, and their in-team communications showed that their primary motivation for playing was to win the game.
This was the first time that Grainger had used this style of immersive training. Players were initially hesitant to engage with the game, as it was so different from sitting in a training and passing a post-test. The time commitment was about equal to the time they would have spent in classroom training, but the idea that they needed to log into the portal each day and work on some short puzzles was a new concept for some of the players. However, after playing, the players really enjoyed that the game allowed them to try things out and explore the new website before it went live. When asked if they felt prepared to help customers with the new functionality, they were confident in their knowledge and said it was the most prepared they had ever felt for a new software launch. In the end, this is the best measure of learning: they felt confident, prepared, and ready to face whatever customer questions arose with the website launch.