As contact centers migrate to the cloud, contact center as a service, or CCaaS, is gaining traction. The shift from legacy, premises-based systems is necessary to keep pace with changing customer expectations but is only part of the equation. Customers interact differently with companies in today's digital economy, making customer service demands more challenging.
As a result, contact center leaders must rethink the definition of good customer service. CCaaS offerings provided by established contact center vendors are one option, as are services offered by unified communications-as-a-service providers.
But other vendors are also eyeing the CCaaS space. Among them are communications platform as a service (CPaaS) providers, where several vendors have developed new ways to service customers. Compared to conventional contact center offerings, some of these products can be disruptive.
CPaaS vs. CCaaS: What to look for
Contact centers have historically been voice-based, and many of the leading vendors are telephony-centric. Voice remains the channel of choice for customer interactions, but today's digital consumers are also comfortable using other channels, such as chat, text and social media.
This shift has forced customer service to evolve from a single-channel experience -- usually, telephony -- to multichannel, encompassing a wide range of communications preferences. Conventional contact center vendors with a strong voice pedigree still dominate the market, but CPaaS providers are beginning to make inroads with options that are more messaging- and text-centric.
While some CPaaS players have customer service offerings that compete directly with CCaaS platforms, others are more complementary in addressing specific customer service use cases. This is what makes CPaaS disruptive. These specific use case offerings aren't positioned to displace CCaaS, but they represent a new approach to customer service.
For this reason, the contact center space is being transformed by innovation coming from a variety of sources, among them established vendors, as well as providers with roots in other markets, such as Twilio, Amazon Connect, Sinch and Telesign. Cloud companies such as Vonage, 8x8, Avaya and IntelePeer, also provide CCaaS offerings intertwined with CPaaS capabilities.
In some cases, CPaaS is offered in tandem with CCaaS for a more complete contact center platform. However, in others, CPaaS is offered on its own, and contact centers can integrate it with their existing CCaaS technologies.
Messy market calls for careful deliberation
This makes for a messy market, where IT decision-makers must carefully evaluate where and how to deploy CPaaS vs. CCaaS. For the most part, though, CPaaS offerings are not full-featured enough to be a bona fide answer to replace a premises-based, legacy system. CPaaS can still play an important role in helping contact centers evolve, but aside from features, these vendors face other challenges when trying to compete directly for CCaaS business.
One reason why legacy systems have such rich feature functionality is they integrate well with other applications across the enterprise. These complex integrations have typically been in place well before CPaaS existed and have taken years to fine-tune. Most IT decision-makers have no appetite to upend that balance, especially with products they don't know or products with a short contact center track record. Add to that the lack of support for native voice -- more specifically, telephony -- and it's easy to see why CPaaS vendors face an uphill battle.
That said, CPaaS resonates well in specific settings, particularly those where contact centers have wholly embraced the digital customer experience. These centers understand the need for personalized customer service and the benefits of customizing communications on the fly. The CPaaS value proposition is centered around programmable communications, but this is a tool set that conventional contact centers don't generally incorporate. Instead, their offerings are more purpose-built. CPaaS, by contrast, is more developer-friendly and more adaptable for short-term needs.
Targeting specific needs
To that end, CPaaS offerings do well in contact centers that want flexibility and can either develop custom applications internally or partner with an experienced systems integrator to get the features they need. A common theme among these CPaaS customers was the frustration of trying to develop capabilities with their incumbent contact center vendors, which, for a variety of reasons, couldn't support their requests.
Rather than compete directly with CCaaS vendors and their full contact center stacks, CPaaS providers will find more success targeting a contact center's specific needs. Because of their richer developer ecosystems and their support of APIs, CPaaS providers already have a big advantage over CCaaS. This environment creates an innovation engine that will appeal to contact centers looking for a more modern approach to customer engagement.
CPaaS vendors will also do well as they play to their strengths in messaging and text communication. While these companies will never match the depth CCaaS vendors bring to telephony, they boast a competitive edge when supporting customers who prefer text to voice. Text-based communications is part of the digital consumer landscape now. Some businesses have completely jettisoned their voice-based channels for customer engagement -- yet another example of how the customer service space is evolving.
CPaaS also poses another advantage: Vendors' contact center offerings can be used on a pay-as-you-go basis. This can be appealing to small businesses that cannot justify investing in a full contact center but still need to support their customers. The pricing model makes it more appealing to contact centers, which can then control the mix of features used and scale up and down as market conditions dictate.
CPaaS is well positioned for businesses that recognize how customer service has expanded beyond the contact center. What's more, other lines of business can tap into those digital channels to regularly engage with existing and prospective customers. Sales and marketing departments are prime examples as they do not require a full-scale contact center operation. Much of their communication is outbound, highly automated and usually text-based. For these units evaluating CPaaS vs. CCaaS, CPaaS is an ideal answer, enabling them to run their own campaigns without the complexity and cost of having their own CCaaS system.