What Is CCaaS, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

Read our guide to Contact Centre as a Service and learn all you need to know

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What is CCaaS?
Contact CentreStrategy

Last Edited: December 15, 2022

Rob Scott

Rob Scott

The contact center is at the heart of the customer experience toolkit.

For a while now, companies have been coming to terms with the fact that it’s no longer price or functionality that will set them apart in the modern marketplace. Success in the current landscape means providing meaningful moments with customers, wherever they might be.

Unfortunately, customers are known for their fickle habits, unpredictable behavior, and ever-changing demands. There’s nothing more complicated for a business leader than a consumer. Fortunately, the contact center bridges the gap between a company and its audience.

Get the contact center (CC) solution right, and the rest of the CX strategy benefits significantly.

The Rise of CCaaS: Flexible Contact Centers for a Dynamic Audience

So, how can businesses create a contact center suitable for the ever-changing consumer world?

It starts with embracing technology that’s just as dynamic as your audience.

As customer demands have evolved, modern businesses must develop with them. A static, immovable contact center can’t serve multi-generational customers seeking connections through countless platforms and devices. They need something fluid, adaptable, and ever-evolving – just like them.

Contact Center as a Service, or “CCaaS” solutions, ensure that companies can create conversations with their clients that span channels and strategies alike. With CCaaS, organizations can deliver everything from SMS and chat to video, self-service, and more to their customers. Moreover, the extensible nature of the cloud means that the contact center can also link to collaboration tools, CRM systems, analytics, and beyond.

In a world where flexibility and scalability are essential, CCaaS gives companies the freedom to move and expand according to the needs of their customers.

The CCaaS market, set to double by 2027, offers an excellent option for many business leaders. It removes the restrictions of a one-size-fits-all model as operational needs evolve.

CCaaS leaves the expense and complexity of the on-premise contact center behind in favor of:

  • Flexibility: CCaaS can adapt to consistent changes in technology, demand, and business operations. Moreover, with pay-as-you-go pricing, businesses can pay for only the resources they need, keeping expenses low.
  • Scalability: CCaaS ensures that companies can scale up and down as needed. Service leaders can add or remove agents to suit seasonal demands and specific campaigns. An on-premise model would require significant capital to add resources in such an on-demand way.
  • Cloud Economics: CCaaS moves the economic burden for a business from Capex to Opex, allowing for better development planning and growth. Cloud services prove to be an economically smart choice for countless companies.

Embracing Cloud Contact Centers: Market Size and Growth

The Cloud Contact Center market is hotter today than its ever been.

CCaaS players have seen growth of up to 40-50 percent annually as more dynamic and scalable solutions replace on-premise deployments.

It’s not just traditional contact centers that are embracing the cloud model either, but CPaaS providers (Communications Platform as a Service) and CRM software companies (Customer Relationship Management) too. 

One of the driving factors behind CCaaS growth is that it allows companies to resolve issues and respond to customer expectations as they evolve. Now that today’s customers expect everything from SMS, voice, and email interactions instantly, they have no tolerance for disruptions or delays. As new interaction channels emerge, updating on-premise solutions with their custom integrations and complex hardware is unaffordable and impractical.

Indeed, new trends will appear when a business updates its on-premise solutions to suit the modern environment. CCaaS providers help to solve this problem by making evolution instantaneous. All the while, APIs allow companies to bring greater functionality into their cloud experience whenever and however they choose.

Businesses can now combine their contact centers on the cloud with CRM systems, service management and provisioning tools, back-end collaboration, artificial intelligence, analytics, and more. All this flexibility means businesses can launch and enhance their cloud contact centers in much less time than before.

The business environment is more virtual than ever, giving businesses access to everything from high reliability and security to 24/7 technical support. Even larger companies are beginning to gradually leave their legacy investments behind in search of new ways of leveraging the cloud – including embracing hybrid strategies of on-prem and on-cloud equipment.

Contact Center Trends for 2023

Currently, technology is advancing at a rapid pace across virtually every industry.

However, there are few places where the rise of new and disruptive technology has been more apparent than in the contact center. Today, companies are transforming the way that customer service is delivered. We’ve seen the rise of everything from artificial intelligence and machine learning to IoT-infused predictive analytics.

Three of the most significant trends we expect to see in 2023 include:

1. Increased Demand for Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation has become more than just a buzzword or concept. Today, it’s an essential component of remaining competitive in a changing environment. Traditional call centers have begun to give way to multi-channel environments for communication. These channels are being integrated with workforce management, CRM solutions, and even analytics to deliver a more seamless level of customer service.

Cloud-based systems that combine everything from communication and collaboration tools to analytics and AI is the clear way to move into the future. This approach paves the way towards a more immersive and compelling contact center experience that meets the rising customer expectations.

2. Growing Appetite for AI

AI is another concept that started as a buzzword and gradually made its way into the mainstream. Most businesses aren’t worrying about whether their robots will replace human agents. Instead, they’re looking at intelligence and virtual assistants to support the contact center team and supplement agent capacity and capability.

AI can automate routine tasks, freeing agents up to tackle the more complex interactions in the contact center daily. When combined with machine learning, AI can guide crucial decisions in customer contact, provide prompts based on customer behavior, and more. This gives businesses a new opportunity to optimize the customer journey. According to Aberdeen Research studies, companies using AI achieve 2.5 times greater CSAT rates and 2.4 times higher year-over-year revenue increases.

3. Enhanced Focus on Customer Service

CX is one of the most critical trends today. The world is adapting to suit the needs of an ever-changing consumer base, with omnichannel conversations, faster intelligent routing, and even predictive analytics. The emergence of IoT (the Internet of Things) allows businesses to proactively serve customers, reaching out to them based on information gathered from a connected device.

What’s more, contact centers are also embracing new ways to measure the performance of their CX initiatives. Indeed, over the past decade, the customer effort score has emerged as the ultimate indicator of customer experience quality. 

CCaaS Fundamentals: What to Expect from CCaaS

Contact Center as a Service is a cloud-based hub of technology intended to give businesses the solutions they need to support customers in any environment. The CCaaS model ensures that initial investments are low and that ongoing expenses are limited, thanks to a pay-as-you-go model. On the surface, CCaaS solutions are very similar in features to the standard contact center.

Just like in an on-premise environment, expect to find IVR and call routing services, call recording and management systems, ACD technology, and solutions for fraud protection and security. However, the cloud-based nature of CCaaS also means that companies can tap into even more immersive features. For instance, businesses can:

Extend Functionality with APIs

Today’s contact centers play an essential role in the new “unified communications” age. As consumer demands continue to evolve, the CC space ensures businesses can align their strategies for customer experience with things like CRM contextual insights, analytical information, AI algorithms, and so much more.

The rise of APIs ensures that companies can combine their contact center with anything, from back-end collaboration tools that allow employees to work together to solve consumer problems to chatbots and predictive analytics.

Modern IVR and Self-Service Solutions

CCaaS extends the environments where customer conversations can take place and speeds up time to resolution in other ways. For instance, advanced IVR solutions can use artificial intelligence to cleverly route customers to the best-suited agent to solve their problems. At the same time, chatbots and virtual assistants provide an updated way for customers to take a DIY approach to service.

Self-serve solutions provide efficiency benefits to customers and take some weight off agents’ shoulders by ensuring they spend time dealing with only the problems that robots and automated processes can’t solve.

Bolster Agent Experiences

CCaaS gives employers the freedom to access talent from all over the world. Employees can log into their tools via the cloud, opening the door for remote working, which reduces business overheads and transforms the customer experience. Employers also have the freedom to hire local agents for the specific customers they want to reach, providing a more intimate experience for consumers.

All the while, access to the cloud and a flexible pay-as-you-go model means that even global expansion remains affordable.

Extend Functionality with APIs

Today’s contact centers play an essential role in the new “unified communications” age. As consumer demands continue to evolve, the CC space ensures businesses can align their strategies for customer experience with things like CRM contextual insights, analytical information, AI algorithms, and so much more.

The rise of APIs ensures that businesses can combine their contact center with anything, from back-end collaboration tools that allow employees to work together to solve consumer problems to chatbots and predictive analytics.

Building a CCaaS Strategy: Moving into the Cloud

Embracing the ever-evolving trends of the contact center requires companies to consider the flexibility and scalability of the cloud carefully. However, moving into the cloud doesn’t have to happen in one go.

Like any transformative business initiative, embracing CCaaS requires careful consideration and strategy. It’s all about finding the path that works best.

Step 1: Finding a Vendor That Aligns With Your Goals

Perhaps the most crucial stage in any successful CCaaS strategy is finding the right vendor to work with. Businesses must ensure that the vendor they choose offers the solutions and services that align with their organization’s strategy and goals. After all, moving to the cloud is a big step for many businesses.

Leaders should ask themselves:

  • How will this vendor help me to upgrade and manage my global contact centers?
  • What can they do to support multiple locations and align my analytics?
  • Can they provide a customized entry into the cloud?

The best vendors allow a phased CCaaS transformation at a speed that suits their clients. Many of today’s vendors can also help to tailor architectures that leverage best-of-breed deployment models to satisfy the company’s growth and business initiatives.

Step 2: Ensuring Flexibility

Additionally, companies must understand how they will continue using existing systems alongside new innovations when they embrace CCaaS. Moreover, solution providers in the cloud need to provide the right level of customization for their clients. There’s no one-size-fits-all path to the cloud.

As such, businesses must ensure that their vendor works with them to deliver integrations that keep their contact center operations running smoothly. This could mean bringing legacy equipment and cloud-based environments together in a seamless solution that spans multiple countries. 

Find out whether the provider has a broad partner network that improves extensibility. What kind of APIs do they have for third-party developers, and how open is the platform overall? Is it possible to change and update capabilities as the business grows?

Step 3: Managing Your Migration

Moving into the cloud is a big step for larger enterprises. They must think about supporting distributed teams across various geographies if they have multiple contact centers across the globe. How will they ensure that they can continue to provide customers with a reliable and local experience in every part of the world? Is it possible to create a global and universal contact center queue that allows leaders to manage all virtual teams?

Such a solution allows big businesses to provide customers with “follow-the-sun” service, so they are always available to solve their problems. Cloud-based solutions through CCaaS are often very effective at helping companies to establish new locations and agent groups without excessive costs. However, businesses must ensure that their vendor offers a geographically distributed solution for high availability and business continuity.

Step 4: Ensuring Security

Any contact center, whether on-premise or in the cloud, needs to be secure, particularly in an age where privacy and safety are more important than ever. For a successful migration, companies need to think carefully about their vendor’s security and compliance features. Consider how these will help meet regulations like PCI and GDPR in different locations worldwide. The CCaaS provider must also reassure the business that they’ll have fully compliant services in every part of the world.

Before investing in any cloud solution, consider research regulations like ISO 27001 standards, Service Organisation Control (SOC), and PCI. It’s also worth discovering how secure data centers will be and what kind of solutions the provider has in place for seamless failover and disaster recovery in data centers worldwide.

Step 5: Supporting Your Teams

Finally, ensure that – whatever solution the business embraces – it’s simple and accessible for teams. Even the best CCaaS solution can only provide the right results if employees know how to make the most of it. A simple user interface that allows agents to combine all of their communications into a single pane of glass is an excellent way forward. The more unified the contact center experience is, the less time employees waste jumping between services.

A truly unified CCaaS solution may also need to connect with other parts of the communications technology, including the back-end UCaaS offering for communication and collaboration. Productivity and efficiency are sure to evolve if employees can seamlessly combine their collaborative back-end techniques with front-end customer service.

Embracing the Right Contact Center Tools

As customers and companies continue to prize greater mobility in their technology, leveraging the cloud has become the easiest path for organizations to keep ahead of changing requirements. However, building the perfect ecosystem isn’t always straightforward.

Different hardware and software are available today to support everyone, from agents to supervisors to CX leaders. Some of the most essential tools required for the new age of the ever-evolving customer include:

1. Call Recording and Speech Analytics

Call recording remains a common feature of the contact center. Companies rely on their recording for compliance purposes, in-depth insights, and more. Today, one of the most essential features of a call recording system is the ability to monitor conversation quality in the contact center. There’s a wealth of data hidden in audio interactions, not just about a customer’s sentiment towards the business but their responses to specific strategies used by agents.

To make the most of call recordings, businesses need to explore the possibilities of speech analytics, which allows them to individually analyze and score 100 percent of recordings. These analytics can lead to automated performance feedback for agents and supervisors, alongside insights into customer trends and behavior. Through call recording, businesses can access the actual value of voice interactions.

2. Contact Center Analysis, Scoring, and Evaluation

Analytical tools allow businesses to determine how effectively their call centers drive sales and customer loyalty. The days of relying on supervisor skills to get the most out of agents are over. Today’s businesses can finally take advantage of sophisticated analytics that turns data like screen and call recordings into immersive feedback.

There’s too much information in today’s omnichannel environment to manually observe and monitor each conversation. However, analytical programs allow businesses to build dashboards presenting the data affecting agents. These statistical dashboards can be displayed on user interfaces so managers and agents have real-time customer satisfaction and performance updates. These dashboards may include the following:

  • Speech and sentiment analytics
  • Trends in customer conversations based on keywords and phrases
  • Automated coaching and AI-driven suggestions
  • Gamification with points allocated to high-performing team members
  • Alerts for supervisors when team members need additional help

3. WFO and WFM Tools with AI integrations

To truly take advantage of the modern contact center, many businesses are beginning to rely heavily on workforce optimization and workforce management tools built into their CCaaS systems. These technologies feature a range of modules that help supervisors and managers to drive business productivity. 

For instance, many WFO and WFM tools include:

  • Access to dashboards where planners can forecast call volume and interactions, schedule agents, manage critical KPIs, and more.
  • Call recording and screen recording that allows for analysis at a later date.
  • Quality management that provides insights into agent compliance with company guidelines and procedures.

It’s even possible to implement artificial intelligence into WFO and WFM tools, so businesses get more intelligent feedback from agent performance. Artificial intelligence can also support team members by giving them virtual assistant-style support. An AI chatbot can instantly pull up contextual data from an integrated CRM for agents or offer advice on how to turn a conversation around after analyzing customer sentiment.

Collaboration In the Contact Center: End-to-End Connections

Teams work better when they’re connected. There are still countless contact centers throughout the world that still rely on email and other slow solutions for communication. The rise of CCaaS provides an entry point to contact center 2.0. In this new environment, a cloud shift gives distributed, in-house agents access to consistent, collaborative, intelligent, and omnichannel technology.

Modernizing the contact center doesn’t just mean providing the latest solutions for customer contact, it also means bringing agents together in a more cohesive back-end environment. With a collaborative environment, companies can effectively improve agent engagement and productivity, making sharing information between multiple groups easier and enhancing the customer experience.

Collaboration in the contact center leads to the following:

1. Faster, Improved Service from Agents

In an environment that experiences frequent turnover, like the contact center, companies must ensure that they’re constantly offering a consistent experience to their end users. This means building a strategy where the business can leverage trained, knowledgeable, and engaged agents daily.

A collaborative environment ensures that agents can always access support and resources when they need them most. Through CCaaS settings, cloud-connected agents can access useful files and resources during customer conversations to customize their efforts to suit each client’s needs. New hires can even get more experienced people’s help when they’re getting used to the new contact center environment.

2. Insights from Experts Beyond the Contact Center

Even with intelligent routing to ensure that each customer passes to the most suitable agent, there’s always a chance that employees will need extra help serving a customer. Complicated issues might require agents to reach out to people beyond the contact center, and cloud-based collaboration tools can facilitate that.

Through a collaboration tool, agents can reach out to experts anywhere, seeking feedback from contractors, specialists, and more via instant chat to video. They can even share their screen in real-time to provide more context for supporting team members to help solve a problem.

3. Deeper Customer Relationships

The more first-time resolutions a company can provide to customers, the better that organization’s reputation becomes. While it will only sometimes be possible to rectify problems immediately, collaboration tools ensure that team members can work together to provide a solution as quickly and seamlessly as possible. With the right collaboration software built into the CCaaS solution, agents can share documents, connect with subject-matter experts, and more to get the help they need.

When the contact center connects a seamless back-end environment with an innovative front-end for customer communication, the company can create a more effective environment for customer service. Rather than having individual agents solving specific customer problems, it gets a space where teams can work cohesively together to deliver real results.

AI In the Contact Center

Better connection between human agents leads to better resolutions for customers. However, in today’s modern world, there’s more than just the human agent to consider when achieving ultimate productivity. In the age of IoT and AI, the benefits of combining people, processes, and things are coming to the fore.

The modern contact center is no longer a hive of buzzing employees and ringing desk phones. Instead, there is an ongoing revolution in the agent and business experience driven by the rise of automated assistants, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Although artificial intelligence has impacted various parts of the world today, it is influential in contact center growth. After all, these algorithms perform best when they have a lot of data access. The CC space is a hub of customer data, brimming with everything from screen and textual insights to information taken from the human voice.

Bringing AI Into the Contact Center

For years, the contact center has been on the cutting edge of automation technology. IVRs have transformed how people interact with businesses, and call routing has ensured that we can get customers to the right agent as quickly as possible.

However, as consumer demands continue to evolve, AI could be the easiest way to give today’s customers the enhanced service they want. Just some of the ways that AI is making its way into the contact center include:

  • Replacing IVR Processes: Most IVR systems follow simplistic rules to determine how calls should route. Often, these tools aren’t advanced enough to understand the context of a customer request or problem. On the other hand, AI, which includes access to things like machine learning and natural language processing, can understand the nature of statements. AI can provide customers with more intelligent access to the right agent or even offer solutions for self-service when the time is right.
  • Capturing Customer Data: AI, chatbots, and other machine learning tools can attract vast amounts of granular data around each customer interaction, which feeds into an analytics engine to improve the call center environment. Sentiment analysis allows businesses to spot trends in customer experiences and eliminate periods of dissatisfaction and anger. Moreover, AI analytics will enable companies to build even better IVR and virtual agent solutions in the future based on richer customer data.
  • Augmented Agents: With AI, businesses can give contact center agents constant support and guidance when dealing with demanding clients. They won’t need to wait for a supervisor to be available to assist. Instead, AI tools can assess the sentiment and behavior of a customer and provide suggestions based on previous interactions. AI can also augment agent performance by providing real-time access to contextual information about earlier discussions with the client or prior purchases.
  • Improved Self-Service: With today’s contact center agents under more pressure than ever, AI can remove some of the strain through self-service offerings. It also answers repetitive questions and solves customer problems before a customer is sent to a human agent – meaning that employees have more time to focus on the right challenges.
  • Predicting Customer Needs: RPA (Robotic Process Automation) tools in the contact center can leverage machine learning engines and big data to anticipate customers’ needs so that chatbots can communicate with clients proactively. This will make it easier for businesses to up-sell or cross-sell offerings to new and existing clients.

Vendors in the contact center environment are even beginning to experiment with new technology that could enhance the way that agents and customers communicate even further. With the rise of 5G coupled with artificial intelligence, it may one day be possible to create immersive and contextual AR and VR environments where agents can interact with clients. For example, a Holiday company could providea virtual tour of the resort from the customer’s living room before they have to commit to the purchase.

Contextual Communications: How Context Transforms Conversations

The flexibility and versatility of cloud technology have plenty of benefits to bring to the modern contact center. However, one of the most powerful evolutions of all has been the ability to deliver greater context to conversations through the cloud.

Contextual communications take advantage of the new always-on environment. Through contextual communications, agents can access endless information about a customer in real-time, allowing them to create more personalized and relevant experiences for the end-user.

CCaaS combines everything from back-end integrations with analytics and CRM systems to front-end recordings and previous caller information to ensure that the agent has all the information they need to serve a customer. This approach intends to make the conversations between companies and their customers more fluid, immediate, and integrated.

Contextual communications deliver more in-depth and customized interactions that perfectly suit the customer’s needs, no matter where or how they choose to reach out to the business. In today’s age of customer experience, context could be the key to transforming the contact center.

One Frost & Sullivan report finds more than 40 percent of survey respondents considered anticipating and catering to consumer needs the most crucial step in providing excellent customer experiences. Contextual communications are how the modern business can expect and understand the needs of each customer in any interaction.

For instance, in a contact center infused with contextual communications, a service agent can better predict why a customer calls by viewing what web page they’re on or what tool they use to communicate. Agents will also be able to look at the previous points in a customer’s journey, including what purchases they’ve made and what web pages they visited before deciding to make a call. This makes it much easier for agents to set the stage for meaningful customer interactions.

Contextual communications also sets the stage for creating new services, like proactive support. AI tools can analyze previous interactions with a customer and let an agent know when they need to follow up with that client to determine whether a fix has worked for them or find out if they need additional support with provisioning or deploying a new service.

Finally, contextual communications makes it possible to create a contact center environment where communication happens naturally, instead of being a friction-rich and frustrating experience.

Contact Centers 2023: The Future of CX Technology

Contact centers have always been at the heart of the customer experience. However, the way that companies work is evolving. 

Now that consumers demand a more diverse “omnichannel” approach to communication, companies need to think more carefully about how they can anticipate changes in customer expectations and invest in their future accordingly.

According to the previously referenced Frost & Sullivan study into the mid-sized contact center:

  • 60 percent of European contact centers see a higher momentum in the cloud and everything-as-a-service approaches to CX.
  • 77 percent of respondents believe that big data analytics is becoming more crucial to their organization.
  • 64 percent of respondents expect AI to play a significant role in engagement and customer support channels.
  • 55 percent of European companies expect to support messaging apps and virtual assistants in their CX initiatives in the years to come.

However, despite the apparent evolution of the contact center, many companies still struggle to embrace the future. Around 46 percent of respondents in the study above say they still use multiple platforms to support agents rather than accessing a single platform to integrate all channels.

As customer experience continues to be one of the very few ways for today’s businesses to differentiate themselves from the competition, companies can no longer afford to ignore the potential of the cloud. The flexibility and diversity of CCaaS, offering access to everything from artificial intelligence to collaboration tools and endless extensibility, is critical.

In the future, CCaaS will continue to be the go-to solution for businesses that need to align big data, AI, and endless evolving tools to provide the kind of experiences their customers are looking for. Cloud-based and omnichannel contact centers are the best way to deliver the personalized, predictive, and immersive services that clients need.

Embracing the future of CX isn’t just about implementing an omnichannel environment or accessing the latest tools. It’s about bringing everything the modern business needs to serve its customer into the same unified environment. 

With a proven migration path to the cloud, companies can propel customer experience initiatives forward and access new technologies that produce truly transformative results.

 

 

AI in the Contact CentreCCaaSChatbotsContextual CommunicationsInteractive Voice ResponseOmni-channel
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