Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) is a cloud-based software that gives businesses access to the provider’s contact center solution through a scalable, pay-as-you-go pricing model where specific features are available on an as-needed, a la carte basis.
CCaaS technology (also called hosted contact center software) is entirely hosted and maintained by the provider — not the end-user — in an offsite data center. This means CCaaS users avoid the costs of expensive hardware and in-house IT teams while benefitting from a solution that evolves alongside their business needs.
Features like IVR and ACD, chat messsaging, a variety of communication channels, analytics, and more are available through monthly or annual subscriptions from the provider.
- CCaaS vs. UCaaS vs. CPaaS
- Cloud vs. On-Premise
- Benefits of CCaaS
- CCaaS Key Features
- Best CCaaS Providers
- CCaaS Use Cases
CCaaS vs. UCaaS vs. CPaaS: Differences and Similarities
Before we go any further, let’s clear up these three similar acronyms within the business communication space.
Though the differences are subtle, knowing them matters when it comes to choosing the right kind of software for your business.
CCaaS stands for “Contact Center as a Service.”
CCaaS is a cloud-based business communications technology that gives businesses access to the provider’s contact center software and functionalities on an as-needed, pay-as-you-go basis. The provider themselves, not the business, owns, hosts, and maintains the contact center solution
The main goal of CCaaS platforms is to offer flexibility and scalability to businesses that want to use advanced CCaaS features to improve the customer experience. CCaaS focuses mainly on external communication. Popular CCaaS features include IVR, ACD, call queuing, and call routing options.
UCaaS stands for “Unified Communications as a Service.”
UCaaS is also a cloud-based business communications solution hosted and maintained by the provider. UCaaS streamlines and automatically syncs real-time omnichannel unified communication services and collaboration within one united interface. The main goal of UCaaS platforms is to provide a central and unified omnichannel interface for internal and external communication across different channels.
UCaaS focuses mainly on eliminating the need to integrate multiple communication apps, and keeps users from constantly switching back and forth between applications. Popular UCaaS features include team chat messaging, video conferencing, SMS business text messaging, and cloud telephony.
CPaaS stands for “Communications Platform as a Service.”
CPaaS is a cloud-based delivery platform that uses Communication APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to add and customize individual communication channels like voice, video, RCS, SIP, or messaging to existing business applications or software.
Let’s say you’ve created a food delivery app (certainly an overcrowded space, but maybe you’re not one for creativity.) Lately, customers have been complaining that they can’t reach their delivery drivers. You want to give customers the chance to text or call their delivery drivers in your existing delivery app. CPaaS solutions like Twilio are what you’d use to make this happen.
With CPaaS, you’re not purchasing “plans” or “packages” including multiple communication channels. Instead, you’re picking and choosing which specific ones you want. CPaaS, then, requires much more IT knowledge and coding to implement and manage than CCaaS and UCaaS. There are no “built-in” features with CPaaS.
Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise CCaaS Solutions
The below table sums up the main differences between cloud-based and premise-based (hosted PBX) contact centers.
|Cloud Contact Centers||On-Premise Contact Centers|
|Cost||Pay-as-you-go, choose from scalable subscription plans
No upfront costs
Costs range from $70.00-$200.00+/month per user
|Major upfront costs include hardware, physical office space, licenses, servers, installation, IT resources, and ongoing maintenance
Initial costs average $15,000 and up not including the cost of hiring agents
|Setup and Installation||On average takes, 1-5 weeks for full implementation.
Can be set up in as little as 1 day in some cases
|Usually takes several months|
|Hardware||Limited hardware required aside from strong Internet connection
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
Common equipment needs include headsets, desktop computers, speakers, etc.
|Hardware is mandatory
Office space/space to host server
Desktop computers, headsets, servers, switchboards, cables, wires, etc.
|Communication Channels||VoIP Phone, SMS Texting, Video Calling, Website Chat/Live Chat, Social Media Messaging||VoIP Telephony Software (Voice, Fax, SMS)|
|Managed by the service provider||Managed by your in-house IT team|
|Uptime and Reliability||Most providers guarantee at least a 99.9% up to 100% uptime and offer network redundancy||Upkeep is managed by In-house IT staff
No need to depend on provider for performance quality
Having an onsite team means instant assistance in the event of an issue
|Main Benefits||Scalability and flexibility
Cost-savings and low upfront investment
API integrations easily available
|Complete infrastructure control
Onsite servers provide peace of mind regarding security
|Potential Downsides||Relying primarily on the provider for support may mean extended support wait times
Relies on the stability/quality of the user’s Internet connection/bandwidth
|High upfront costs
Requires employees to work in the office
The Top Benefits of CCaaS Solutions
CCaaS convenience and accessibility are just some of the reasons why so many customer-centric businesses are leaving legacy on-premises systems behind and migrating to the cloud.
Below, we’ll go over the biggest benefits of CCaaS software.
Cost Savings and Scalability
The most obvious benefit of contact center as a service is the immense cost savings it offers.
Because CCaaS users don’t need to purchase hardware, physical office space, or hire an in-house IT team, they’ll see thousands of dollars in savings on startup costs alone. Given that for every $1.00 invested in infrastructure, companies pay $2.00 to maintain it, the savings add up quickly.
Plus, since CCaaS is a “pay-as-you-go,” service, businesses avoid paying for excessive licensing fees and features they don’t want or need. Instead, they purchase the functionalities and number of seats they need at the moment and scale up over time.
The pandemic has had just as much of an impact on how employees want to work as it has had on consumer behavior.
A 2021 Quantum Workplace study shows that only 11% of employees want to work exclusively on-site/in the office.
In other words?
Your consumers aren’t the only ones expecting the kind of freedom and flexibility CCaaS provides.
Because contact center as a service doesn’t tie team members to a single physical location, agents can work from anywhere in the world, from the devices they choose (including their own.) Since CCaaS software instantly syncs conversations across channels and offers real-time notifications, employees can seamlessly work across time zones.
This level of flexibility has big benefits for business owners, too.
Giving agents more options when it comes to how and when they work decreases employee turnover, lets companies pick from a wider pool of talent and access a greater diversity of skill sets, and even increases team member productivity by up to 77%.
Increased Productivity and Better Workforce Optimization
Increased productivity thanks to contact center as a service software doesn’t just come from the increased flexibility it lets businesses offer employees.
Analytics features give managers a birds-eye-view into what agents and departments are spending their time on, how long different kinds of tasks take, and the amount of time wasted on tasks that could easily be automated.
A more optimized workforce negates the need to hire additional team members, even during busier seasons. It also prevents certain employees from getting overburdened with tasks and other responsibilities while others remain underutilized.
Increased First Contact Resolution Rates
67% of consumers that stopped doing business with a company say they would have stayed if their issue had been resolved on first contact. Having strong first call resolution rates (FCR) doesn’t just decrease customer churn and the average call handle time.
CCaaS solutions integrate with CRM software to show detailed customer history upon contact and provide routing solutions to connect customers to qualified, available agents. They also ensure agents have easy, instant access to internal wiki documents containing answers to common caller queries or customer service scenarios — drastically improving FCR rates as a result.
CCaaS Key Features to Look For
The hallmark of a quality CCaaS vendor is its ability to:
- Improve the customer experience
- Simplify the customer journey
- Streamline business processes
- Provide insight into customer and agent behavior
- Maximize business resources without degrading support quality
The below CCaaS features make that and more happen, and are the top criteria to examine when comparing providers.
Available Communication Channels
The most important thing to examine when evaluating a CCaaS platform is the available communication channels.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the provider that offers the highest number of channels is the best option. Instead, ensure the provider offers the real-time communication channels that your customers use the most.
For example, e-commerce customers will likely prefer to communicate via website chat and social media messaging — but probably not by telephone. Healthcare industry teams, on the other hand, may communicate almost exclusively through phone and email with their clients — but rarely on social media.
This is also where scalability plays a factor, as you should also ensure providers offer the channels your business may need in the future.
Customer Self-Service Options
Self-service CCaaS features don’t just make your customers happy. They also leave live agents free to assist with more complex support issues, to make more outbound calls, or to follow up on previous customer interactions.
Customer self-support features include:
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
- Automated Customer Callbacks
- Customer Service Chatbots
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
Given that the workforce can spend as much as 40% of their time on routine, manual tasks, business process automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are integral to any contact center solution. These are the tools that save team members — and customers — major time by automatically completing routine, rote tasks.
They also reduce the risk of human error in data collection and speed up project timelines with features like automated approvals and status updates.
Contact centers software should offer AI and Automation features like:
- Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Speech Recognition
- Customer Sentiment Analysis
- Automated customer information collection and storage
- Automatic call logs
- Automated follow-up scheduling
- Real-time Agent Assistance
Security and Customer Support
Strong security and support features are a non-negotiable aspect of any business software, including CCaaS.
Key security features to look for include:
- End-to-end encryption
- Third-party security testing
- GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, SOC-2 compliance
- ISO-27001 accredited
- At least 99.9% guaranteed uptime and geographic redundancy
- Automated updates and data backups
- Meeting locks/password-protected meetings
Customer-Agent Interaction Tools
CCaaS software shouldn’t just make life easier for your customers — it should also help your agents stay organized, locate key information quickly, and keep track of support interactions.
Features (in addition to the automated functionalities mentioned previously) that help agents provide the best assistance to customers include:
- Omnichannel routing with numerous routing strategies (skills-based, time-based, hours-based, round-robin, etc.)
- Native CRM features/third-party CRM integrations
- CTI screen pops
- Workforce Management tools
- Outbound dialers (predictive dialing, progressive dialing, etc.)
- Drag-and-drop call flow design
- Post-call notes
- Searchable internal wikis
- Call/contact scripts
- Call forwarding
- Call waiting, call hold, call transfer
- Call blasting and ring groups
Third-Party Integrations and APIs
In addition to compatibility with your business’s current operating systems, Internet browsers, and devices, you’ll also need to ensure the CPaaS system is compatible with any third-party software you’re using.
Browsing a provider’s application gallery will give you a good idea of the platforms they have pre-built integrations for (popular tools include Slack, Asana, Salesforce, Zoho CRM, HubSpot, etc.)
The provider should also offer APIs for developers and have a thriving developer community.
Analytics and Reporting
Analytics and Reporting tools provide insight into common reasons for customer contact, average resolution time, agent activity, and much more.
Key CCaaS monitoring features include:
- Call recording/call transcription
- Call monitoring, call barge, call whisper
- Customizable reports and pre-made reporting templates
Important contact center KPIs and metrics include:
- First Contact Resolution rates
- Average Contact Duration, Average Contact Handle Time (per agent and as a whole)
- Cost per contact
- CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) rate
- The ratio of inbound to outbound contact
- Customer Churn Rate and Customer Retention Rate
- Contact/Call Abandonment Rate
- Busiest Contact Dates/Times
- Channel Use Analysis
The 5 Best CCaaS Providers
To determine which CCaaS software belonged on our list of the best providers, we looked for platforms that:
- Offered different areas of specialization (advanced analytics, a higher number of communication channels, out-of-the-box automation, etc.)
- Offered bundled and pay-as-you-go, scalable plans
- Offered pricing transparency, even if minimal
- Provided at least 4 communication channels
- Used AI to automate business processes and provide a higher level of customer self-service
- Were included in the Gartner Magic Quadrant
- Had solutions for businesses of any size and across industries
The below table provides a brief overview of the top 5 CCaaS providers.
|Provider||Pricing||Top Features||Best For|
|Genesys||5 paid plans from $75.00-$150+/month||Agent Workspace, Voice and Message-based IVAs||Mostly remote, high-volume blended contact centers that want to automate outbound dialing and customer self-service|
|NICE CXOne||4 quote-based plans||Digital Inbox, Enlighten AI||Enterprise-level omnichannel contact centers that reach out to customers on industry-specific channels, social media, or pre-existing applications|
|Talkdesk||– 3 monthly plans from $75.00-$125.00/user/month
– Quote-based custom Experience Cloud packages
|AppConnect, Talkdesk Workspace||Remote or blended automation-first contact centers heavily reliant on AI with a high-level integration needs|
|8×8||– 3 Business Communication plans from $15.00-$44.00/user/month
– 3 Contact Center plans from $85.00-$140.00/user/month
|8×8 Work, Quality Management Tools||Remote contact centers handling mostly inbound customer service requests via voice calling|
|Five9||4 monthly plans from $149.00-$229.00+/month||Five9 Dialer, Engagement Workflow||Midsize-to-enterprise-level contact centers with a high daily outbound call volume and advanced workforce optimization needs|
Genesys Cloud CX is an AI-powered omnichannel CCaaS solution ideal for businesses that prioritize a high level of customer self-service across phone, SMS text, chat, email, and social media.
Top Genesys Features
Genesys is especially known for its AI-powered Digital and Voice IVAs (Intelligent Virtual Agents.)
Omnichannel bots, for example, use NLP to understand customer requests, automatically access customer histories and preferences, and provide relevant assistance. Also, Predictive Engagement and behavioral segmentation tools provide real-time insights into the customer journey, using data from past customer behavior to automate customer engagement at the perfect moment.
Plus, with features like agent scripting, relationship-based routing, and drag-and-drop call flow editors, it’s easy to provide personalized and efficient service when customers do need to connect with a live agent.
Additional Genesys features include:
- Built-in speech recognition
- Inbound/outbound CTI screen pops
- Live agent and call flow monitoring
- Workforce and skills-based routing
- Outbound Dialer with Preview, Predictive, Progressive, Power, and Agentless dialing modes with call pacing and outbound Intelligent Voice Recognition
- Call recording
- Video calling
- Customer verification
- Visual IVR
- Workforce Optimization (WFO) with forecasting, employee performance monitoring and optimization, drag-and-drop scheduling, custom training modules
- Real-time and predictive analytics
Genesys offers four paid plans from $75.00/month for voice-only call center software to $150.00/month for Digital, Voice, and Workforce Engagement capabilities.
Users can choose by-the-hour pricing, concurrent pricing, or named user pricing.
The most popular Genesys add-ons are the AI Experience package, starting from $40/month, and the Pointillist by Genesys Customer Journey Management upgrades, wiith quote-based pricing.
Genesys pricing and plans are outlined in the image below (the text relates to the Genesys Cloud CX3 package):
Genesys is best for remote blended contact centers that rely on outbound automated dialers to generate the majority of their sales to avoid hiring additional agents.
Thanks to its 350 pre-built integrations and open API platform, it’s also a great fit for teams looking to customize their CCaaS platform or that want to continue to use their existing business software.
2. NICE CXOne
NICE CXOne from NICE InContact is a cloud contact center software that creates a seamless agent and customer experience across voice and digital channels.
NICE CXone has a five-prong approach to streamlined CX: Digital Entry Points across 40+ channels, Smart Self-Service, Empowered AGents, Journey Orchestration, and Complete Performance.
Top NICE CXOne Features
NICE CXOne has competitive automation and high-level IVAs powered by its Enlighten AI platform.
Enlighten AI uses conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding to measure 100% of customer interactions in real-time–whether via self-service channels or within live agent:customer conversations. Enlighten AI automates and optimizes customer complaint management, in-conversation Agent Assist and intelligent routing, agent soft skill scoring, coaching suggestions, and more.
All channels are available in an asynchronous unified Inbox, the MAX (My Agent eXperience interface. Within MAX, agents can view complete interactions and customer histories across channels, review, accept, and update assignments within their digital inbox queue, handle several simultaneous interactions, and reply directly within the MAX interface.
Additional CXOne features include:
- Omnichannel customer communication across 40+ channels like social media, voice calling, SMS/MMS, website chat messaging/automated chatbots, email, mobile apps, and more
- ENlighten XO AI-powered self-service script generator with internal knowledge base integration
- CXOne Guide proactive digital self-service via chat and messaging, alongside A/B testing, customer journey mapping, and customer behavior analytics
- Workforce Engagement Suite with interaction and screen recording, WFO, Quality Management, AI forecasting, performance gamification, 90 pre-built call center reports, etc.
NICE CXone offers four scalable bundled plans: Customer Engagement, Contact Center Essentials, Contact Center Advanced, and Contact Center Complete.
Pricing is exclusively quote-based, but differences between plans are outlined in the below image:
Note that all integrations incur a one-time charge per integration, and a two-year contract is required.
CXOne is best for enterprise-level omnichannel contact centers that reach out to customers across a high number of channels, especially on social media or industry-specific communication apps.
It’s also ideal for companies that need a CCaaS tool to integrate with their existing business application.
CXOne users need access to a robust set of features, especially regarding workforce management and analytics.
Talkdesk is a cloud contact center platform known for its intuitive, user-friendly interface, the Talkdesk Workspace, ideal for a fully remote or blended workforce.
The customizable agent interface allows team members to view and edit schedules or current tasks, receive real-time notifications and updates, access training materials, and communicate across channels within one space.
Top Talkdesk Features
Talkdesk simplifies the third-party integration process through its AppConnect tool, which consists of 80+ one-click, pre-built integrations of familiar business platforms. Over 60 standard third-party integrated tools are also available.
The platform is also celebrated for its innovative approach to AI-powered customer self-service, customizable workflows, and agent scheduling. Within the Talkdesk Workspace, agents can view individual and ring group assignments, acces after-call work, share links and files within customer interactions, and more.
Additional Talkdesk features include:
- Omnichannel Engagement Suite for voice, website chat, email, SMS, social media messaging
- Workforce management with omnichannel forecasting, adherence monitoring, resource management, etc.
- Workspace templates to let users customize their own dashboard
- Talkdesk Studio multi-level IVR configuration tool
- Calendar-based, relationship-based, skills-based routing
- Text-to-speech IVR uploads
- Call recording and transcription
- Conversation Designer tool
- In-conversation agent assist
- Proactive Outbound Engagement tool with power, progressive, and preview auto dialer modes
- Talkdesk Live real-time analytics
- Talkdesk Feedback for NPS and CSAT scoring
Talkdesk offers three paid plans from $75.00-$125.00/user/month, as well as fully custom Experience Cloud packages that are entirely quote-based.
Talkdesk pricing and plans are outlined in the image below.
Talkdesk is best for automation-first contact centers heavily reliant on AI. It’s also ideal for teams needing extensive analytics capabilities for both real-time and historical activity monitoring and forecasting.
Its AppConnect feature offers high-level third-party integrations with popular communication and collaboration tools, meaning it’s right for teams that want to customize their contact center with features from additional platforms.
The 8×8 X Series is a cloud-based contact center solution best for businesses that need advanced customization and analytics options. Though all the CCaaS platforms in this post prioritize scalability, 8×8 offers add-ons, APIs, and features that will see your business through every phase of development.
Top 8×8 Features
8×8 is well-known for its Quality Management tools, which include built-in training and onboarding materials for agents, omnichannel agent collaboration, contact/transaction filters, and advanced agent evaluations.
Admins can see the percentage of time that each agent spends per call on tasks like account verification, case management, and standard rapport. They can also send agent scorecards, reviews, and call notes, search for specific interactions by keyword or agent name, and view each agent’s skills progression over a set time period.
Schedule adherence monitoring, volume forecasting, and post-call customer surveys are also available.
Additional 8×8 features include:
- Omnichannel communications within the Agent Workspace unified inbox across voice, video, website chat, social media messaging, SMS, email
- 8×8 Work team collaboration tools with team chat, internal voice/video calling, presence updates, universal messaging
- Skills-based, most idle, list-based, relationship-based, and intelligent call routing strategies
- AI Agent Assist
- Intelligent IVR and IVAs
- Voice calling features like screenpops, automated customer callbacks, hunt groups/ring groups, shared call notes, call monitor, audio conferencing for 500 participants
- Outbound Preview, Progressive, and Predictive Dialer modes
- Customer-agent cobrowsing
- Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) with Quality Management, Customer Surveys, Speech Analytics, Workforce Management
8×8 offers 6 bundled pricing tiers within its X Series plans, though the Express, X2, and X4 plans offer only voice, video, and chat.
Contact Center capabilities are included only on the X6, X7, and X8 plans, which range from $85.00-$140.00/user/month.
Additional 8×8 pricing is outlined in the image below:
8×8 is best for mostly remote inbound contact centers that facilitate a high number of customer service requests on a daily basis.
Most companies using 8×8 primarily communicate with customers via phone, managing live, one-on-one agent:customer interactions.
When 8×8 users do rely on automation tools like IVA/IVR, they do so to automate the collection of information they need from the customer to be prepared for the upcoming live call.
Five9 is a CCaaS solution designed to increase agent talk time and maximize productivity by relying on automation powered by advanced analytics.
Top Five9 Features
One of Five9’s most unique automation features is its workforce management tool, Engagement Workflow, which automatically shifts agent schedules in real-time if there’s a sudden influx or decrease in the number of inbound calls.
Five9’s Engagement Workflow also uses automation to provide CRM call pops, give agents instant access to relevant scripts, and optimize current call routing strategies according to skillset, customer need, and communication channel. Using data collected and analyzed from past customer self-service interactions with IVR systems, Five9 optimizes workflows by automating routine common tasks or responses.
Sales teams, in particular, will benefit from Five9’s advanced outbound dialer, complete with four auto dialing modes: progressive, predictive, preview, and power dialers. Users can take advantage of schleduled phone calls: agents ratios, save on time lost to out-of-service numbers or busy signals and rely on voicemail detection with automated voicemail messaging to avoid leaving lengthy messages that may never get returned.
Additional Five9 features include:
- Inbound Voice Calling with ACD, phone system IVR, automated callbacks,post-call customer surveys, skills-based/priority-based/time-based call routing, call recording, call monitoring, disposition timers
- Manual Touch TCPA Compliance
- AI-powered with Agent Assist, internal knowledge base integration, CTI screen pops, machine learning
- Real-time call summaries
- 24/7 IVAs with 25 vice avatars, NLU, Conversational AI
- Digital Engagement with SMS, social media messaging, chat, email, Five9 video, desktop and mobile apps
- Workforce Management tools with adherence monitoring, performance gamification, real-time schedule adjustment, 6 forecasting models, etc.
Five9 offers four paid plans from $149.00-$229.00/month, making it one of the most expensive CCaaS offerings on this list.
Additional Five9 pricing details are shown in the image below:
Five9 is best for midsize-to-enterprise-level contact centers with a high daily outbound call volume.
They rely heavily on automated workforce optimization and quality management tools, in addition to automation, to avoid having to hire additional agents.
Five9 is especially popular within the sales/telemarketing industries, as well as healthcare and debt collection.
Common CCaaS Use Cases and Additional Providers
Common CCaaS use cases include:
- Call Centers/Telemarketing firms to make outbound sales calls, receive orders over the phone, collect/update customer information, and provide customer service and support
- Debt collection agencies to send automated payment reminders, accept payments via phone, and provide automated account/balance updates
- Healthcare professionals to manage insurance plans, accept bill payments/provide account updates, schedule appointments and send appointment reminders, and ensure HIPAA-compliant communication
- Nonprofits and government agencies to collect donations, play automated campaign messages, engage with voters en masse, and provide day-of SMS election updates
- Travel and hospitality industry to confirm reservations, send real-time flight updates, allow for rebookings, and provide faster customer support
To learn more about additional CCaaS software or to access customer reviews and in-depth feature comparisons of the five providers mentioned here, check out our interactive table of the top contact center software and virtual call center software.