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What is Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)? How it Works & How to Get It


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Introduction to CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service)

Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) is a cloud-hosted software suite optimized for managing interactions with customers and, more broadly, the entire customer experience (CX). As the term implies, CCaaS is a specialized form of software as a service (SaaS).

What is CCaaS?

CCaaS is a cloud-based software solution that replaces traditional on-premises contact center infrastructure. Instead of a company owning and managing the hardware and software associated with a contact center solution, as well as handling the maintenance, upgrades, etc., it instead subscribes to the service from a CCaaS provider.

The Evolution of Contact Center as a Service

Today’s CCaaS solutions evolved from older, on-premises contact and call center technologies. These original systems were all about handling voice-only interactions. The contact center used to be tied to an automatic call distributor (ACD), which was (and still can be) a private branch exchange (PBX) add-on application which leveraged common infrastructures such as servers and the circuits that comprised the public switched telephone network (PSTN). CCaaS relies on fiber broadband and extensive data center deployments, which incorporate high-end server infrastructure that is capable of scaling to support thousands of simultaneous customers. The CCaaS software is installed on that data center hardware and is maintained by the CCaaS provider.

Today’s contact centers must handle customer interactions across a variety of channels, including email, social media, text/chat, and more (e.g., video, remote/agent-led diagnostic tools). Voice calls are just one channel and aren’t necessarily a required component of CCaaS.

It is also important for the enterprise create to a single, unified view of the customer journey which can be defined as the entire path a customer takes with a brand, from initial awareness to purchase to post-purchase interactions and, ideally, repeat purchases. The contact center, and by extension the technologies deployed in it and the human (and virtual) agents, are critical components in the entire customer experience (CX).


How CCaaS Works

An enterprise leases the CCaaS solution from a specialized software as a service (SaaS) provider. The software needed for making/receiving calls, managing email, chats, etc., is hosted in the cloud. Other features such as IVRs, routing, virtual agents, artificial intelligence, analytics, workforce management tools, are also hosted in the cloud and can be added or removed.

The contact center agents and supervisors/managers need local computing equipment to run the software, a broadband Internet connection and equipment for voice communications (usually a headset with a mic). Because the CCaaS solution is software, the agents (and their supervisors) can work either in a centralized contact center, in multiple geographically dispersed contact centers and/or from their homes. To access their agent desktop, the agents log into their application; the security of those endpoints is extremely important.

The enterprise pays a monthly or annual subscription fee to a CCaaS provider. The enterprise could lease CX-related solutions from multiple different SaaS providers. For example, the CCaaS itself is delivered via Company A but the customer relationship management solution is from Company B. There needs to be an integration between those two solutions, so the enterprise would need to facilitate through either of those companies or engage with a third party to make that integration happen.

It is also possible for an enterprise to add or remove users (agents) in response to fluctuating demand (e.g., incoming/outgoing interactions).

Deploying a CCaaS Solution: A Step By Step Guide

The following provides a high level overview of the basic steps an enterprise can take when deploying a CCaaS solution.

Define Needs

First, the company should collaborate with the various internal stakeholders to understand what the new solution needs to accomplish. For example, if the organization already has some type of customer support operation in place, they will need to transition to the CCaaS and have a specific set of requirements. Similarly, other functional groups – marketing, sales, etc. – will likely have their own “asks” when it comes to the new solution. The company also must define what contact channels are required to meet the customers where they are currently and where they will be over time. For example, perhaps voice is critical at the start but over time other channels (email, chat, etc.) will be implemented. The company also needs to establish their overall goals with the new deployment and what metrics are appropriate both to the implementation and how the customer support requirements will be met with the new system. For example, average handle time is a common metric. The new system must provide consistency in that metric.

Choose a CCaaS Provider

Next, the company will need to research the various CCaaS providers, determine which companies have those features, how much they will cost, how reliable that company’s products are and how reliable that vendor is. During this stage, the company should trial the various products under consideration, perhaps speak to other customers of the vendor, have stakeholders evaluate the product, etc. The selected provider should meet requirements, budget, and provide a path to scaling the solution. That provider also needs to be transparent with its data policies, security, etc.

Plan, Implement and Configure

The next step is to plan, implement and configure the solution. This could be done between the company and the provider or there could be a third-party integrator involved. Regardless, there needs to be a clear, well-articulated implementation plan that specifies responsibilities, a data migration plan for giving the new system access to historical data, training AI models, etc. The security of those systems and data needs to be specified. Existing systems will need to be connected to the new CCaaS solution as well as any other new solutions. Configuring call routing, agent logins, automated responses, etc., also needs to be planned.


The CCaaS vendor will likely have training materials that can be adapted to teaching agents how to use the new system – e.g., features, workflows, best practices, etc. This training also pertains to supervisors/managers since they will be responsible for answering questions agents may have and will be responsible for onboarding new agents. Supervisors may also gain access to new features themselves – e.g., scheduling tools, generative AI-based training tools, etc. – so they may require their own training. Ideally the CCaaS vendor will provide ongoing support, as well.

Test and Roll Out

Thorough, rigorous testing of all the CCaaS features and integrations is of course a key step prior to launch. A phased rollout to a subset of the contact center may make sense so that any lingering issues can be resolved prior to full implementation.


Distinguishing Between Different Services

There are many different types of SaaS solutions. This section deals with two that are often conflated: unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and CCaaS.

Differences and Similarities between UCaaS and CCaaS

UCaaS and CCaaS are both, broadly speaking, cloud-based communication solutions. Both leverage software in the cloud, on devices and broadband Internet. That said, unified communications as a service (UCaaS) primarily offers communications within a company via an integrated set of communications technologies encompassing traditional office telephony — call routing, call hold, and transfer — along with modern tools like email, instant messaging, video calls, and even AI-powered automation.

CCaaS is designed for customer-facing interactions, providing features like omnichannel support (voice, chat, social media), call routing, and self-service options for a seamless customer experience.

Omdia analyst Brent Kelly has commented on the rise of MultiCaaS, which is the trend of unifying unified communications as a service with CCaaS.

How Does CCaaS Differ from an On-Premises Contact Center?

Here's a breakdown of the primary differences between CCaaS and traditional on-premises contact centers.

With CCaaS, server-side software, client-side software, hardware, and infrastructure are owned and managed by the cloud provider. The enterprise leases access to the service. With on-premises contact center solutions, then enterprise is responsible for purchasing, installing, maintaining, upgrading, etc., all the necessary hardware and software.

CCaaS deployment can be fast and software/feature updates are pushed by the provider. The enterprise is also insulated from any cloud-side hardware updates (or failures) as those are the responsibility of the CCaaS provider. On-premises solutions require in-house IT resources – people, time, capital/operational dollars – and may cause agent downtime that has to be planned for, or other types of downtime (e.g., to a knowledge base, etc.) if new features are being rolled out, etc. And if the software/hardware fails, then the enterprise needs on-premises contingency plans. The CCaaS provider faces the same challenge, but since their product is hosted in a data center, they likely have more flexibility when it comes to maintaining uptime as they can shift processing loads within their facility should some hardware fail.

Both on-premises and CCaaS can be scaled up and down to match fluctuating incoming (or outgoing) call volumes. Both are license based.

CCaaS solutions feature monthly or annual subscription-based pricing which shifts spending on CX and contact center solutions from a capital expense (CapEx) to an operational expense (OpEx). On-premises require a capital investment for hardware and software, along with ongoing maintenance costs. Both CCaaS and on-premises solutions require IT personnel, but it is possible that with CCaaS an organization might need fewer IT personnel dedicated to supporting the CCaaS solution.


Noteworthy Features of CCaaS Solutions

Almost all CCaaS platforms and solutions share the same basic features. A company should prioritize necessary features over those that might be “nice to have.” The following provides an overview of what to look for in a CCaaS solution.

Essential Features to Look Out for in CCaaS Solutions

Here are some of the essential features to look for in a CCaaS solution. Note that the availability of these features will depend on the vendor and/or pricing tier.

  • Inbound routing of omnichannel interactions via automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR), virtual agents, chatbots, etc. Some will also support outbound interactions.
  • Telephony integration with the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
  • Analytics and reporting on those omnichannel interactions.
  • A user interface that is tailored toward presenting the human agent with the information they need; this is often referred to as the agent desktop.
  • Integrations to a CRM system, knowledge base or other enterprise database so that agents have access to the information they need to handle customer inquiries as well as to make changes or otherwise assist customers.
  • Various tools to help the agent and their supervisors to measure agent performance and help them improve via coaching, training, etc.).
  • Reporting is both in real-time and historical so that supervisors/managers can analyze trends.
  • Support for artificial intelligence (AI) in its varied forms, from conversational chatbots, transcription and sentiment analysis to generative AI-based assistants that provide real-time agent assistance and after-call summarization that can be used by supervisors, as well.
  • Workforce engagement management (WFM/WEM) solutions that provide scheduling.

Most CCaaS vendors launched some type of generative AI solution in the 2023/24. In the contact center, generative AI-based capabilities were introduced that assist contact center agents by providing summaries during and after customer interactions. Contact center managers also benefit from AI-generated summaries of calls, trends, etc. And all those summaries – in this example – cut precious seconds and minutes out of those pre-, during and/or post-interaction activities.

According to Omdia analyst Mila D’Antonio, “generative AI stands to reshape the dynamics of customer interactions and set a new standard for both enhancing the customer experience through personalization and improving efficiencies through automation.”

Workforce engagement management (WEM) has historically been an add-on to the contact center, but several CCaaS providers now provide native access to workforce management (WFM) applications. According to D’Antonio, “workforce engagement and employee collaboration are crucial elements that significantly impact customer engagement within an organization.” This ties into the ongoing trend of connecting a customer with a knowledge worker within a company. D’Antonio believes this will become primary customer service model in the coming years.


Advantages of Using CCaaS

There are many advantages associated with using CCaaS, from avoiding upfront capital expenditures on hardware and software platforms, to quicker access to cutting-edge features such as generative AI.

Top Benefits of Utilizing CCaaS for Businesses

Here are some of the top benefits of using CCaaS for businesses.

Enhanced Customer Experience

CCaaS platforms typically offer omnichannel capabilities, virtual agents, intelligent routing, etc., which may offer an upgraded CX over the enterprise’s existing contact center platform.

Potential Cost Savings

Because CCaaS is subscription-based, the enterprise shifts its contact center spending to a per-month or per-year license fee which includes the client and server-side software required to run the solution. The enterprise must still provide end point equipment to its agents (computer, headset, Internet connection, etc.).


Agents (licenses) can be added or removed based on seasonal fluctuations in call volume and/or changing business needs. This agility allows to better match staff needs to volumes and thus better control costs.

Operational Efficiency

Most CCaaS platforms offer state-of-the-art workflows, automation, and real-time analytics, as well as a modern agent desktop. These features, and others, can help improve an agent’s experience, which helps them provide better customer support, and the analytics can be used by supervisors to improve training, coaching, etc.

Speedier access to new features

Because CCaaS is software and hosted in the cloud, new features can be trialed and/or added to agent or supervisor interfaces. New features, such as virtual agents or conversational chatbots, can also be deployed in front of the contact center with minimal involvement by the enterprise’s IT staff. Note that these new features will cost more, so the enterprise must perform their due diligence to make sure the return on investment (ROI) is there.

Improved Agent Support and Experiences with CCaaS

Whatever benefits the CCaaS platform might provide is of course relative to whatever solution those agents currently use. Most CCaaS platforms support agent-focused capabilities such as the following. It is important to note that fostering a good employee experience (EX) can improve customer service and support.

Unified Workspace

Rather than toggle / alt-tab / “swivel” among different screens and/or monitors, many CCaaS platforms provide a single, intuitive interface to the data the agent needs to provide customer support. These interfaces are designed to incorporate new features – e.g., generative AI-based assistance – as the enterprise adopts them. This unified workspace also includes access to knowledge bases, CRM tools and other enterprise systems, as well as presenting basic customer identity information (name, phone number, etc.).

Workforce scheduling and/or optimization

Many CCaaS platforms offer built-in agent scheduling and forecasting tools ensure appropriate staffing during peak hours. Some CCaaS platforms also feature integrations to more sophisticated, AI-powered WEM tools should the enterprise want to go that route.

Collaboration and Coaching

Most CCaaS platforms include real-time call monitoring and integrated feedback mechanisms that allow supervisors to coach and otherwise empower agents to continuously improve. Some may include collaboration tools that facilitate knowledge sharing among agents. Note that the incorporation of AI tools, particularly transcription and generative AI-based summarization, can automate the analysis of the text-based agent-customer interactions.


Because CCaaS is in the cloud, agents can work remotely and, for the enterprise, the contact center facilities (if there are any) can be spread out geographically. An enterprise with distributed contact center operations must comply with the laws/regulations on where customer data can be stored and transported.

Choosing the Best CCaaS Platform

Here are some of the top factors to consider before selecting a CCaaS platform:

  • Make sure it aligns with needs and goals: Choose a solution with features that directly address specific needs (channels supported, etc.) today and in the future.
  • Prioritize scalability: The solution and vendor should allow the CCaaS platform to scale up or down as required.
  • Emphasize security: The CCaaS provider should be forthcoming and transparent in their security policies and how the enterprise data is stored and transmitted.
  • Calculate the total cost of ownership and ROI: Make sure to consider more than just the monthly/yearly fee and consider factors like setup costs, integration expenses, data repatriation fees, etc. Balance these costs against what it would cost to setup and maintain an on-premises solution over the same or similar time frame and figure out what the expected ROI in both scenarios might be.


Evaluating Cost and Pricing Structure of CCaaS Platforms

The following is an overview of how a company should approach evaluating the cost and pricing of CCaaS platforms:

  • Pricing Models: CCaaS providers mostly use subscription-based models. Some charge per user, others per minute of usage, or via a combination of these.
  • Identify Needs: List the core features and channels you'll need. This helps avoid paying for unnecessary extras.
  • Compare cost: Factor in implementation fees, integration costs with your existing systems, support charges, data repatriation costs and other fees.
  • Obtain Quotes: Get quotes from several providers based on your specific requirements.
  • Negotiate: Negotiate with vendors to get the best possible deal that aligns with your budget and needs.

Remember that moving to a CCaaS platform also means that agents, supervisors, etc., need computing equipment to run the software, as well as headsets. They also need broadband Internet connections to access the cloud. Additional security may be required, as well.


Leading CCaaS Platforms and Vendors

Check out this article on the leading CCaaS platforms and vendors. The list includes companies like: 8x8, Avaya, Five9, Genesys, NICE, RingCentral, Sprinkler, Webex and Zoom.


Two Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Around Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS)

The following are common questions regarding CCaaS.

How Can You Implement CCaaS for Your Business?

First, the company needs to define its CX needs, gather stakeholder input from across the relevant internal business units, set goals for budget, timeline and ROI. Next, the company needs to research providers, test solutions, and select the best fit for its needs and budget. The company should fully investigate the CCaaS vendors’ security policies, as well.

The next step involves implementing the solution, migrating any data, integrating with existing systems, and/or configuring (or setting up) workflows. Again, maintaining data security is a key concern throughout this process. It will be necessary to develop training materials to onboard and train agent and supervisors.

Finally, the solution needs to be thoroughly tested and it is likely best to engage in a phased rollout to increasingly larger groups of agents. Once the deployment is live, the solution should be continuously monitored and adjusted as required. This may mean adding/removing licenses, tweaking call/chat flows, implementing virtual agents, adding new features, etc.

What Are the Differences between UCaaS and CCaaS?

Both UCaaS and CCaaS are cloud-hosted communication solutions. UCaaS focuses on communications within an organization (or among companies). CCaaS is specifically designed for customer-facing interactions. Note that there is an ongoing trend to merge UCaaS and CCaaS, as evidenced by several UCaaS providers (e.g., 8x8, RingCentral, Zoom and Webex) offering CCaaS products.