Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) enables more personalized customer experiences, offers real-time omnichannel communication, and improves agent management and efficiency.
While businesses are always on the lookout for software to improve customer services, many organizations struggle to understand what contact center as a service actually is — and what it does that their premises-based systems can’t.
Here, we’ll define CCaaS and explain how it differs from other “Software as a Service” communication solutions, go over the benefits it offers and features to look for and outline the best contact center as a service providers.
Jump to ↓
- What is Contact Center As A Service (CCaaS)?
- CCaaS vs. UCaaS vs CPaaS: Differences and Similarities
- The Top Benefits of CCaaS Solutions
- Contact Center as a Service Key Features to Look For
- The 5 Best CCaaS Providers
- Common CCaaS Use Cases And Additional Providers
What is Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)?
A contact center as a service (CCaaS) is a cloud-based alternative to legacy call center software and on-premise contact center software.
CCaaS technology sometimes referred to as hosted contact center software, is hosted and managed by the provider, as opposed to the organization using the CCaaS platform.
Contact center as a service solutions let businesses purchase common contact center functionalities like IVR and ACD, chat, different communication channels, and analytics, providing a higher level of scalability than many other customer communications software.
Call centers using CCaaS purchase monthly or annual subscriptions from the provider. They may add on features or upgrade to a higher plan tier as their communications needs grow and evolve.
Because the platform is hosted by the provider, contact center as a service users don’t need to purchase expensive hardware or have an extensive in-house IT team.
Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise Contact Centers
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)|
|Maintenance||Managed by the service provider||Managed by your in-house IT team|
|Uptime and Reliability||
Call Center vs. Contact Center Software: What’s The Difference?
Call center and contact center software are both designed to improve the customer experience through features that strengthen communication between customers and agents.
In addition to voice calling, contact centers provide real-time, synced communication between devices on digital channels like:
- SMS Texting
- Video Conferencing
- Live Chat Messaging
- Social Media
Contact centers will also integrate with third-party CRM software or provide native CRM features like customer contact cards, internal notes, and order history.
Above all, omnichannel cloud contact centers streamline business communication by providing a seamless transition between channels and allowing customers to choose how they reach out to customer support and sales teams.
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.
The Top Benefits of CCaaS Solutions
The convenience and accessibility of contact center as a service are just some of the reasons why so many customer-centric businesses are leaving legacy premise-based 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. Research from SQM shows that for every 1% increase in first call resolution rates, a business’ total operating costs will decrease by 1%.
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.
Contact Center as a Service 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
Almost 70% of consumers today prefer self-service options over speaking with a live agent.
Self-service CCaaS features don’t just make your customers happy. They also leave live agents free to assist when more complex support issues arise, to make more outbound sales calls, or to follow-up on previous 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 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 Contact Center as a Service 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.
|Top Features||Voice Analytics and Knowledge Management tools||Workforce Engagement and Optimization and Personal Connection Dialer||Talkdesk Mobile Agent and Talkdesk Workspace||Advanced Speech Analytics and Quality Management tools||Engagement Workflow and Outbound Dialer|
|Best For||Contact centers that heavily rely on customer-self service and use a high number of third-party integrations||SMBs prioritizing personalization a high number of communication channels for both inbound and outbound communication||Fully remote and mobile-first teams that prioritize user-friendliness||Contact centers that require highly scalable CCaaS solutions with a focus on detailed analytics||Digital-first contact centers reliant on automation to better manage their high daily contact volume|
Genesys Cloud CX is an all-in-one omnichannel CCaaS solution ideal for businesses that prioritize a high level of customer self-service across phone, SMS text, chat, email, and social media.
Its PureEngage platform and Knowledge Management tools are designed to prevent customer service information silos so agents can provide faster and more helpful assistance.
In addition to standard self-service features like IVR, Genesys uses advanced conversational AI and automation tools to empower customers and keep agents free.
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 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.
With over 350 available integrations, Genesys easily works with your existing business communication and collaboration platforms.
Genesys is also celebrated for its Voice Analytics feature (seen above.)
Voice Analytics includes transcription, customer sentiment analysis, and customizable “Topics.” Topics allow users to search for key interactions/keywords in customer-agent conversations. The customer sentiment analysis tools pinpoint exactly where in the conversation a positive or negative interaction took place, as illustrated by the blue arrow in the image above. Admins can also see the average percentage of positive and negative interactions per agent in the VA dashboard, and even schedule agent coaching directly in the interface if needed.
More detailed information about Genesys is available on our Genesys Review page.
Genesys is refreshingly transparent with its CCaaS pricing structure, offering 5 paid plans in total.
Users can opt for one of the three Cloud CX bundled plans, paying on a monthly per-user or hourly basis. These range in price from $75.00-$140.00/user per month, or $0.68-$1.26/hour. There are also two available quote-based, enterprise-level plans for businesses needing a higher level of customization or those who want to explore concurrent pricing.
More detailed pricing information is available in the image below.
NICE inContact CXOne is an omnichannel cloud contact center platform designed primarily for businesses focused on providing personalized customer service across a high number of communication channels.
NICE inContact offers over 30 ways for customers and agents to communicate. In addition to standard channels like phone, SMS, chatbots, and email, connection via social media, WhatsApp, and even video conference calling with screen co-browsing is available.
Its Workforce Engagement and Optimization (WEM) feature is one of the best employee optimization platforms we’ve seen, thanks to features like workflow forecasting with over 40 “what if” algorithms and scenarios. Agents also receive real-time notifications when their scheduling, work remote, and PTO requests have been approved.
NICE inContact offers deep insights into real-time and historical agent behavior and performance through detailed analytics presented in a refreshingly simple way, as seen in the image below.
Admins get a birds-eye view of live agent activity and how long they’ve been engaged in that activity, see agent skill rankings and teams, and view which channel an agent is currently working on.
Historical reporting with NICE inContact gives admins access to more than 250 KPIs to create customized reports or choose from 90 pre-made ones. The Feedback Management tool collects and analyzes customer survey responses and feedback via SMS text, email, and audio calls with IVR.
NICE inContact is also celebrated for its advanced dialer, Personal Connection.
Personal Connection is a no-pause outbound dialer with customizable dialing speeds, real-time call list updates, and phone number verification. Agents can choose from proficiency, preview, and progressive dialing modes, making NICE inContact an ideal option for contact centers that make a high number of daily outbound sales calls.
For more detailed information, check out our NICE inContact Review.
NICE CXOne Pricing
Pricing is quote-based and not available publicly on the NICE inContact website. When we contacted the provider, we were told NICE inContact offers both tiered and pay-as-you-go CCaaS plans.
Its most popular package is the Core plan, which we were told ranges in price from $90.00-$100.00/user per month.
Talkdesk is a cloud contact center platform that has recently reconfigured its interface, the Talkdesk Workspace, to better serve a fully remote or blended workforce. Each agent has a personal, highly customized Talkdesk Callbar interface, as seen in the image below.
This interface allows them to view and edit schedules, view current tasks, receive real-time notifications and updates, access training materials, and communicate across channels within one space. Talkdesk even 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.
For contact centers prioritizing user-friendliness, it doesn’t get much better than Talkdesk.
Another advantage of Talkdesk is its mobile application suite, Talkdesk On The Go.
Designed to replicate the desktop interface on Apple and Android devices, the Mobile Agent tool provides advanced mobile-friendly features that aren’t available on other contact center mobile apps.
For example, the mobile app allows for after-call work, call recording, CRM connectivity, agent status updates, call control, and more. Users can edit automated and skills-based work schedules within the mobile app, message other team members, and access internal wikis.
Our detailed Talkdesk Review provides additional information.
Talkdesk offers three paid plans, all of which are quote-based. According to the Talkdesk website, pricing begins at $65.00/user per month.
The 8×8 X Series is a cloud-based CCaaS 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.
It’s perhaps best 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. As shown in the above image, admins can see the percentage of time that each agent spends per call on tasks like account verification, case management, and standard rapport.
Admins can send agents scorecards, reviews, and call notes after they complete a call, 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.
As seen in the above image, 8×8 also provides word clouds of common phrases/issues that consistently appear in different types of interactions. This makes it easy for agents and managers to identify common customer pain points and understand where customer service is lacking.
More detailed information is available in our 8×8 CCaaS/UCaaS Review.
8×8 offers three X Series plans for Cloud Contact Centers: X6, X7, and X8.
The X6 plan begins at $95.00/user per month, the X7 plan starts at $105.00/user per month, and the X8 plan starts at $133.00/user per month.
Five9 is a CCaaS solution designed to increase agent talk time and maximize productivity by relying on automation powered by advanced analytics.
One of its 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 set 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.
More detailed information is available in our complete Five9 Review.
Five9 offers a free trial upon request only, and pricing is done on a quotation basis starting from $100.00/user per month.
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 payment/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.