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Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) is a business communications technology that gives end users (businesses) access to a CCaaS provider’s ready-made cloud contact center software. The provider–not the business using it–is responsible for hosting, monitoring, and maintaining the cloud CCaaS platform in a secure offsite data center. This allows businesses to reduce or eliminate the expenses of on-premise hardware, in-house developers and IT teams, and maintenance.

CCaaS systems have a scalable, pay-as-you-go pricing model with add-on features and tier-based plans for further cost savings.

 

Compare top CCaaS providers

 

CCaaS vs. UCaaS vs. CPaaS: Differences and Similarities

Though the differences between CCaaS, UCaaS, and CPaaS are subtle, recognizing the capabilities and limitations of each ensures you choose the best cloud communications software for your business needs.

UCaaS vs CCaaS vs CPaaS

CCaaS Stands For “Contact Center as a Service”

CCaaS is a cloud-based, provider-hosted contact center software businesses pay to use.

Designed to optimize external two-way omnichannel communication between businesses and customers, CCaaS platforms are flexible, scalable, and accessible on any device/in any location with a working internet connection.

Popular CCaaS features include voice and digital communication channels, automated outbound dialers, skills-based/smart call routing, and AI-powered WFM/WFO tools.

While most CCaaS platforms include some native UCaaS features like team chat and video conferencing, CCaaS and UCaaS are two separate business communication solutions.

 

UCaaS Stands For “Unified Communications as a Service” 

UCaaS is a cloud-based, provider-hosted unified communications platform with real-time team collaboration tools that boost productivity and streamline internal communication across voice and digital channels.

UC is designed around an automatically-synced unified inbox that organizes business communications by conversations, not channels–eliminating communication silos as a result.

This means users can view entire conversations/complete interaction histories in one space–even if those conversations took place across multiple channels.

Essential UCaaS features include team chat messaging, SMS business texting, video conferencing, whiteboarding, file sharing/co-editing, screen sharing, and cloud telephony.

 

CPaaS Stands For “Communications Platform as a Service” 

CPaaS is a cloud-based delivery platform providing developers with customizable Communication APIs and SDKs that, when configured, add individual features and functionalities to existing business applications. For example, text message APIs added to rideshare apps enable drivers and riders to exchange messages directly in the app without sharing their personal phone numbers.

Common CPaaS APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and SDKs (Software Development Kits) include voice/digital communication channels, user authentication and verification capabilities, and

With CPaaS, users purchase individual APIs, not like the tiered CCaaS/UCaSS plans with bundled, built-in features. Because developers must configure each API, CPaaS requires much more IT knowledge and coding than CCaaS and UCaaS.

 

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
  • Full implementation takes 1-5 weeks
  • Some providers offer setup in 24 hours
  • Setup/installation of hardware and software takes months
Hardware
  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) capabilities mean limited mandatory hardware
  • Requires ethernet cord, router, and enough bandwidth for a strong Internet connection
  • Optional hardware includes headsets, video conferencing room accessories, speakers, etc.
  • Hardware is mandatory, as is on-site office space to host server
  • Hardware requirements can include desk phones, desktop computers, headsets, servers, switchboards, cables, wires, etc.
Communication Channels
  • VoIP telephony, SMS/MMS texting, virtual faxing
  • Social media messaging, email, website chat, team chat, video calling
  • VoIP voice calling, virtual faxing, SMS/MMS texting
 

Maintenance

 

  • Managed by the service provider
  • Managed by the end user/their in-house IT team
Uptime and Reliability
  • Most providers guarantee at least a 99.9% with network redundancy
  • Upkeep managed by In-house IT staff
  • No need to depend on the provider for performance quality
  • An onsite team means instant, dedicated assistance during an outage/security issue
Main Benefits
  • Scalability and flexibility
  • Cost-savings and low upfront investment
  • Prebuilt third-party and API integrations are easily available
  • Complete infrastructure control
  • Onsite servers provide peace of mind regarding security
  • Low latency
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
  • May come with a higher learning curve
  • High upfront costs and long setup process
  • Requires employees to work in a physical office
  • Limited integrations

 

Benefits of CCaaS Solutions

CCaaS is convenient, has a quick setup process, and gives businesses convenience and accessibility. However, these are just some of the reasons why so many customer-centric businesses are leaving legacy on-premises systems behind and migrating to the cloud.

The biggest benefits of CCaaS software are: 

  • Empowers Remote Teams: Since cloud-based CCaaS isn’t limited to one physical location, team members can work from any location and on any device–meaning managers aren’t limited by location during the hiring process. Features like real-time team chat, Android and Apple iOS mobile apps, live contact center and agent activity monitoring, and on-demand video calling replicate the in-office experience
  • Lowers Operating Costs: Businesses avoid paying for equipment, hardware, maintenance, and in-house IT teams–while free unlimited domestic calling lowers communication costs
  • Provides Scalability: Businesses pick the plan that includes only the features they currently need, with the option to add on individual features or scale up to a higher-tier plan
  • Increases Productivity: Superior WFM/WFO tools automatically optimize agent schedules, ring groups, and routing strategies according to current call volume, while canned responses, chatbots, and IVR keep live agents free to connect with prospects or assist with higher-priority issues
  • Boosts Employee Engagement and Retention: CCaaS features like wallboards, performance gamification, in-conversation coaching, and remote collaboration tools improve employee engagement, while automation increases agent retention rates by handling routine, repetitive workplace tasks
  • Provides AI-Powered Features: AI features like automatic post-meeting summaries, real-time call transcription, live Agent Assist, CRM call pops, and IVA with machine learning improve contact center operations across the board–and only get better with time
  • Offers Data-Backed Insights: Advanced analytics powered by NLU and speech recognition provide real-time and historical insights into customer sentiment, forecasting, CSAT/NPS, word clouds with common customer topics, etc. Custom KPIs and reports are also available
  • Optimizes the Sales Process: Features like TCPA-compliant text message campaigns, voicemail drop, outbound auto dialers, call scripts and lead list scrubbing, and automated follow-ups shorten the sales cycle and ensure customers receive offers for products/services that interest them the most
  • Comes With Provider Support: CCaaS providers offer 24/7 network monitoring with real-time status alerts, live and automated customer support on multiple channels, custom onboarding and employee training packages, on-demand training webinars, and priority support add-ons for enterprise clients
  • Creates a Better Customer Experience: CCaaS provides high-level 24/7 customer self-service on the communication channel of the customer’s choice, CRM screen pops and omnichannel conversation history allow for personalized service, and advanced call routing strategies reduce long hold times

 

CCaaS Key Features to Look For

The following CCaaS features are key to examine when comparing providers:

  • Voice+Digital Communication Channels: CCaaS providers empower omnichannel, two-way communication across multiple communication channels like VoIP voice calling, SMS text messaging, website chat, video conferencing, social media messaging, and email. These channels are all combined in a unified shared or individual inbox with real-time notifications and data syncing
  • IVR, IVAs, and Chatbots: CCaaS platforms empower 24/7 customer service with intelligent and efficient self-service options like ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) and IVR (Interactive Voice Response), embeddable custom website chatbots, and Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) with machine learning for entirely automated support interactions
  • Interaction Management Features: End users can forward interactions to individual agents or preset agent groups, access skills-based interaction routing, forward/transfer interactions, enable on-demand/automatic call recording (agent screen recording for digital interactions), place customers in a call or digital queue, and review customer interaction history/account data via CRM contact pops, and enable automated customer callbacks
  • Workforce Management/Workforce Optimization Features: Real-time AI-powered Agent Assist displays suggested responses/canned responses/scripts pulled from integrated internal knowledge bases, automatic schedule suggestions/forecasting with machine learning algorithms, real-time agent wallboards and performance gamification, schedule adherence monitoring, etc.
  • Real-time Activity Monitoring: Admins can monitor all or individual agent interactions across channels in real time, access call barge/call whisper tools, and provide in-interaction agent coaching via chat messaging. Admins can also enable real-time SLA notifications if performance standards slip below a certain level, and edit call flows/interaction flows/ring groups/interaction routing strategies in real-time
  • Video Conferencing: On-demand/scheduled web conferencing with screen sharing/remote screen control, co-hosts, presentation modes, multiple views, meeting lock/meeting waiting room, file co-editing, automatic post-meeting summary, meeting recording/transcriptions, real-time meeting closed captioning, whiteboarding, breakout rooms, and audio-only conference calls
  • Team Collaboration Tools: Collaborative note-taking, file sharing with version control and co-editing, local/cloud searchable recording storage
  • Team Chat Messaging: In-meeting/persistent team chat messaging with user tagging/mentions, public/private chat channels, custom push notifications to mobile devices, in-chat access to third-party integrations, team presence/status updates, file sharing, emoji reactions, direct replies/message threading, message search bar, and more
  • Analytics and Reporting: Real-time/historical (with custom date ranges) QoS/usage reports, basic call/interaction logs, pre-made reporting templates, custom KPIs, customer sentiment analysis, customer surveys, performance analytics, CSAT/NPS scores, text and speech analytics, etc.
  • Security Standards: Quality CCaaS solutions should come with a minimum 99.9% guaranteed uptime SLA, HIPAA/GDPR/ISO 27001/SOC II compliance, network redundancy, end-to-end encryption, automated data backups, third-party security testing, multi-factor authentication/2FA, custom data retention policies, etc.
  • Third-Party Integrations+APIs: Pre-built integrations with popular third-party CRM systems, collaboration tools, video calling apps, marketing tools, and security software (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Asana, Zendesk, Salesforce, Zapier, HubSpot, etc.) CCaaS providers should also include API access and have a thriving developer community

 

How to Choose a CCaaS Provider

Best practices for choosing the right CCaaS provider for your business are:

  • Read User Reviews: Especially if choosing between multiple platforms, reading user reviews and provider comparisons ensures you’re getting the pros and cons of the software–not just the story the provider wants you to hear. These reviews will help you get an idea of the platform’s reliability, ease of use, and customer support.
  • Consider Compatible Hardware: If your employees are using their own mobile devices, if you’re considering purchasing compatible hardware like headsets and custom conference room equipment, or if you’d like to use your existing hardware, ensure it’s compatible with your desired CCaaS solution
  • Check Available Integrations: Though CCaaS systems have advanced native capabilities that help businesses limit third-party integrations, ensure that any third-party software you want to continue to use is compatible with your chosen provider
  • Review Included vs. Add-on Features: When reviewing available plans, make sure to differentiate between which features are included in the bundled plans, and which are available as add-ons only
  • Get Clear Pricing: Most CCaaS solutions only offer quote-based pricing that varies by the number of users, included features/communication channels, AI capabilities, and available integrations. Before committing, ask your provider about exclusive use discounts, volume discounts, industry-based discounts for healthcare providers/educators, and the length of their free trial. Make sure to ask for an itemized bill and familiarize yourself with normal and abnormal VoIP taxes and fees
  • Review the Contract: Before signing the provider contract, ensure you know the length of the contract, what the provider will and won’t cover, their guaranteed uptime, and how they responded to their latest security issue or network outage. Many businesses hire an attorney to review the contract with them before signing on with a provider

 

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.

 

The 5 Best CCaaS Providers

Provider Pricing Top Features Best For
Genesys 
  • 5 paid plans from $75.00-$155+/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
  • 6 plans from $71-$209/month 
  • 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 high-level integration needs
8x8
  • 5 quote-based plans
  • 8x8 Work
  • Quality Management Tools
Remote contact centers handling 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