Nearshore Americas
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A Startup In Uruguay Dominates the NBA, But Is Still Awaiting Its Big Score

CRMGamified has taken the sports world by storm, producing a sales-motivation and data-charting experience that has become the talk of the NBA, NFL, and MLB. The software, born from a boutique software development shop in Uruguay, is now being used by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, and San Diego Padres to name just a few of the U.S. pro teams that have adopted what is called the Hurrah! Broadcast Leaderboard.
“We started with two or three teams, but it’s an industry where everyone is helping each other and taking advice from each other,” company CEO Alejandro Morales told Nearshore Americas.
The product is simple enough. Going back decades, many call centers have used pen and paper — or, more recently, a whiteboard — to display the top sellers in their office. The Hurrah leaderboard just does it digitally. But its approach is what has made it catch fire in the sporting world. Fourteen teams from the big three professional U.S. leagues have become clients and more than 30 teams in all sports have shown interest.
The first draw is the ability to customize different metrics to display. The top five ticket sellers or largest-volume callers are obvious ones. Whoever sells the most can win a trip or cash bonus. “These companies all the time worry about filling their arenas,” said Morales.
But since sales for basketball are seasonal, the teams can also change up what they are trying to incentivize. Season-ticket renewals, for example, are pushed in the offseason while 10- or five-game ticket packages are popular gift items to move before Christmas. And since Hurrah is tied into the Microsoft Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management) system, managers can change which categories are being shown on flatscreen displays throughout the office.
How it is displayed is the other lure. Hurrah has a Sportscenter-style feel to its design, so it is especially appealing to those working within a sports culture. The leaderboard features employee photos alongside stats and graphs like you would see during a televised game. It even puts up “spotlight” mini-profiles of the top performers. For an employee whose job is selling tickets to go see LeBron James play, it is cool to see their own stat breakdown the way they are used to seeing LeBron’s on ESPN. Only instead of points per game and MVP trophies won, it will list his percent of monthly sales goal reached, daily dials, and total sales to date.

Alejandro Morales, CEO of CRMGamified, says his gamification company is “creating a game within a system that used to be boring to use.”
“We are creating a game within a system that used to be boring to use,” said Morales.
In the NBA, the Charlotte Hornets were the first team to come on board in August 2014. It didn’t take long for the word of mouth to spread. The Minnesota Timberwolves signed up in October, then came the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns. By the time the playoffs were ramping up in May of that same season, the Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics were all clients.
With such success, everything should be looking up for CRMGamified. But the small company from Montevideo with 10 employees is facing some major hurdles. The biggest blow came last year when Microsoft bought Incent Games, which has a product called Fantasy Sales Team that is very similar to what Morales’ firm has produced.
This was a clear sign that gamification was something that Microsoft knew its CRM users wanted. And while Morales believes his solution is superior, it is always a challenge to fight for space inside an interface with the company that makes it.
On top of competition from Microsoft, the company is also limited by only having its products available on a single platform. While Microsoft Dynamics is the second-largest player in the CRM space, it still only accounts for about 10% of the market, according to Gartner. It is a fragmented realm dominated by Salesforce, with all the other players having just a small portion of the market.
Chart: Gartner
So CRMGamified is currently stuck in limbo, having vast success in the high-profile sports industry but still awaiting the time when it can launch the product on other CRM platforms. “We need additional resources to afford the development services that are required,” said Morales. “We want to bring our cutting-edge technology, gamification knowledge and value proposition to other CRM and call center software platforms.”
There is still a hard path ahead, and the success of the Hurrah leaderboard is also partially to blame. Originally, the Hurrah leaderboard was embedded into the company’s larger, costlier product. Called the Motivation Engine, this is a more dynamic, all-encompassing option that truly changes the employee’s experience within the Microsoft CRM infrastructure.
It has become popular among larger companies. Amway and some large IT services companies are already clients, and the likes of Ford, Wells Fargo, and Barclays are among those the company is in talks with. The Motivation Engine has improved performance among their sales teams, as point-based games and “missions” have incentivized the behaviors the companies are trying to drive.
In addition to the obvious goals — like getting points for, in the case of bank, signing up a customer for a new loan or issuing a new bank card — just logging in to the Motivation Engine can earn points. One company is even using the system to improve the quality of the information in its customer database. Each time a worker adds a missing mobile number, address, or email, they get points.
Though those companies that are using it have been thrilled so far, these sales haven’t completely turned the tide, and teams in the NBA and other leagues haven’t seen the need to use the full product. So they have just been using the leaderboard. Having such high-profile companies on board is a great marketing pitch, but upsell opportunities haven’t met CRMGamified’s expectations. With sales yet to exceed $1 million, nobody at the company has gotten rich yet.
“Our strategy was to start with the Hurrah leaderboard and then in three months you would need something more dynamic and you start with the Motivation Engine,” said Morales. “That was the original thought. But after several months, we realized that Hurrah was a product on its own.”
Local growth has proven difficult as well. Morales has talked to a few call centers in Uruguay, but a meeting with the largest company didn’t even get off the ground. “They didn’t have Microsoft CRM, so our conversation stopped when it started,” said Morales.
Morales is optimistic, however. Developing versions of the Motivation Engine and Hurrah leaderboard for other CRM systems is on the docket, and Microsoft’s push into the space has actually helped in a way.
In the months following the U.S. giant’s play into gamification, there was an initial lull in sales and interest. But now business is picking back up. Morales believes that Microsoft making news in the sector may have been a tide that lifts all boats. It is a growing segment, and a company like Microsoft throwing its hat in the ring was a statement that showed the potential ahead.
While gamification isn’t new, it still isn’t ubiquitious. Among major call center companies — which generally have their own proprietary systems that CRMGamified hopes to service in the future — it has become popular. But the wider business world is still getting used to the idea.
In many ways, CRMGamified has already succeeded in a young industry. It is a boutique provider from Uruguay that has proved that it’s sports-centric interface has fans — within the uber-competitive U.S. pro sports world no less.
So while there are still obstacles to win the championship, nothing has shaken the company’s confidence or the passion. Not even LeBron James won a title right away after all. There is still plenty of time to hone their strategy, and Morales likes how his team is coming together as competition ramps up in gamification world.
“In January and February, it was brilliant,” said Morales. “A lot of people were asking for our product … I feel like there is a lot of space to grow.”
Top photo: Keith Allison

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