Back in 2009, Apple came out with a series of advertisements for the iPhone App Store that basically claimed that whatever you wanted to do, there was an iPhone application that would enable you to do it. In other words, “There’s an app for that.” It became such a popular tag line that Apple trademarked it in 2010. The subliminal message here was, if it couldn’t be done on an Apple iPhone, or there wasn’t an app for that, then it wasn’t worth doing.
The trademarking of “There’s an App for That” didn’t stop some of the more imaginative iPhone users from having a little fun with Apple’s new tagline. Shortly after the App Store commercials became popular, someone established a website that encouraged visitors to submit their own take on the “App for That” catch phrase. Some of the submissions were really clever. For example:
- You just murdered your friend and need to dump the body. There’s an app for that.
- If you want to get your drunk roommate out of bed, there’s an app for that.
- If you want to write an app that makes fun of apps, there’s an app for that.
- If you’re reading this, there’s an app for that.
You get the idea.
Today, most of us take for granted the availability of hundreds of applications that are available in an instant to download and bring more functionality to our smartphones. For the millennial generation, born from about 1981 to 1996, mobile phones were a part of growing up and the later-born millennials probably have no memory of having a mobile phone that didn’t have an App Store icon.
Generation Z, born 1997 and later, is the first digital native generation. This is the generation that has never known the world without the internet and who essentially grew up with a smartphone in hand. For this generation, a smartphone without a broad array of downloadable apps at a reasonable price and immediate availability is unfathomable. This is also the generation that is beginning to enter the workforce. Gen Z will represent 20% of the workforce by 2020 and will represent about 75% of the workforce by 2030. We can also assume that, by extension, these folks will be the contact center decision influencers and decision makers in the next decade as well.
As the contact center has evolved from the proprietary technology solutions of the 1970s and 1980s, to the computer-telephony integration (CTI) open platforms of the 1990s to the single platform suites of 2000 and beyond, buyers found themselves having to decide whether to buy a complete solution from a single vendor, or face the complexity and expense of systems integrators and professional services in order to make solutions from different vendors work together. As an industry, we lived with these limited choices because that’s all there was and, to an extent, that’s still mostly all there is. But things are changing.
Consider the mindset of the millennials and Gen Z’ers who are moving up the ladder to positions of influence in the contact center. With smartphones in hand, I believe these individuals will come to their positions of influence with a set of expectations based on their personal experiences with their mobile devices. The next generation of contact center executives will not be as patient as previous contact center executives when it comes to living with the constraints of the limited solutions choices of today’s market.
In the work we do at Saddletree Research and the National Association of Call Centers (NACC), we are seeing evidence of change in the contact center. The industry is starting to embrace changes that will make it more appealing to the App Store generation; i.e., those who grew up with a dazzling array of available apps that can be quickly and economically downloaded to their device. The first evidence of this industry evolution is Amazon Web Services.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon.com that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies and governments, on a paid subscription basis. Amazon Connect is Amazon’s Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud-based contact center service that is available to AWS subscribers. Amazon Connect allows customers to set up a contact center quickly and in just a few steps. Amazon Connect customers can be up and running, connecting with customers almost immediately. But what if these Amazon Connect customers need such fundamental contact center capabilities as workforce management, quality management, coaching and so on? Chances are, there’ll be an app for that.
Several vendors are now looking toward the AWS marketplace as a supplemental market outlet for their solutions. Amazon Connect customers can browse a number of solutions from a variety of vendors and choose the solution that they believe is best for them. No sales pitches. No flashy, slick demos. No expensive professional services. Just pick what you want and download it. The front-end integration work is done so it’s as close to plug-and-play as possible and if the user decides he or she isn’t happy with their choice of solutions, just delete it and download another. Just like an app from the App Store.
I believe there will be a seismic shift toward App Store-like offerings from traditional contact center solutions providers in the next three years. We are also seeing clear indications that contact center buyers are starting to think along the lines of choosing the app/solution they want regardless of whether or not it is native to their platform.
In the 2019 survey of contact center professionals that Saddletree Research conducts in conjunction with the NACC each year, we asked our research participants what their preference was when acquiring technology solutions; dealing with a single-vendor solution or taking a best-of-breed approach. The results are shown in the figure.
SOLUTIONS ACQUISITION PREFERENCE
Our data indicates a preference ratio of about two-to-one in favor of taking a best-of-breed approach when it comes to acquiring contact center solutions. These research results are statistically valid at a 95% confidence level and a 4% margin of error.
As the App Store generation becomes increasingly active in making or influencing contact center purchase decisions, we believe buyers will increasingly gravitate toward an acquisition strategy that embraces open platforms with easy download of apps/solutions as necessary. What that percentage change will be can’t yet be determined. Wait a minute—maybe there’s an app for that.