To put it lightly, CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) blew up when companies were forced to work from home. Think about it – companies with antiquated contact center infrastructure used to require agents to be in the office to take or make phone calls. How are they expected to work from home?
CCaaS was growing exponentially before the pandemic, but faced with the choice of “pivot or lose money,” we saw so many companies shifting from premises-based infrastructure to a cloud-based contact center platform.
And I can’t blame them!
With CCaaS, contact center agents can access their dashboards, take/make phone calls, and do anything they need to from anywhere with an internet connection.
Right when companies started working from home, a lot of them panicked. They didn’t have time (or they didn’t think they had time) to evaluate different providers in the market and make an educated decision. They simply deployed the first platform that seemed like it would be a fit.
Now, they’re seeing the consequences of that.
Companies who rushed into a particular platform are now realizing what else is out there. Maybe a different platform has better AI capabilities, more channels of communication, or just better support when something goes wrong.
Whether you’ve deployed a CCaaS platform in a rush or you’re starting to look for one now, this is what we do every day. We help clients evaluate pretty much every contact center provider in the market and determine which will be best for their specific needs. Here are some of the requirements that we consider when selecting the best vendor:
Domestic vs. International
Like UCaaS platforms, the CCaaS platform you choose should be able to support your agents wherever they may be in the world. However, there aren’t as many limitations as there are for UCaaS. In a previous post, I mentioned that when choosing a UCaaS provider you must make sure they can get local dial tone in the country that the users are sitting in (if that’s needed), but since that’s already taken care of, the CCaaS platform can technically function anywhere as long as that location can get dial tone.
That said, the location of a CCaaS provider’s points of presence (POPs), or where their platform is hosted, matters. You don’t want to be in a situation where your contact center agents are sitting in Brazil, but the CCaaS POPs are all in the US; Every time they take a call, the traffic will have to “hairpin” back to the US, causing unnecessary latency – which means poor call quality and poor end-customer support.
In my opinion, it shouldn’t be a requirement that the CCaaS provider must have POPs in every country where agents site – especially if the contact center has agents in several different places around the world. However, it is important that they have POPs near those agents to deliver a high-quality experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask a CCaaS provider, “Do you have international POPs and, if so, where are they located?”
Including UCaaS vs. Keeping Current PBX
I just mentioned that it’s often easier to deploy CCaaS (vs UCaaS) internationally because the voice component of the contact center is usually already taken care of. There are two main ways to deploy CCaaS with voice:
- Deploy UCaaS in conjunction with CCaaS
- Deploy CCaaS over the top of an existing on-prem PBX platform
When moving to the cloud for CCaaS, it’s technically preferable to also move the back office voice to the cloud (i.e., UCaaS) because by integrating the two systems together, the client can cut down on usage charges and have a more seamless experience. However, we know it’s not always financially viable for a company to forklift their entire voice setup at once. Sometimes, CCaaS needs to be deployed over the top of an existing on-prem PBX until it goes end of life and they can justify moving to UCaaS.
Either option is technically possible. That said, if your company is planning to deploy UCaaS in conjunction with CCaaS either now or in the future, it’s important to look at UCaaS and CCaaS platforms that integrate with each other.
What exactly does this mean?
On a physical level, we can break down number 1 above into two optimal options:
- A single provider that offers both UCaaS and CCaaS, or
- A solution that includes two separate but integrated providers – one for UCaaS and one for CCaaS
The first option is a little more obvious than the second.
In the second option, the providers have deployed SIP trunks that serve as a bridge between the two clouds. This means that if a contact center agent needs to transfer a call to a non-agent (i.e., the call is going off the CCaaS platform), it can stay internal without hitting the PSTN again (i.e., without adding more usage charges). Additionally, if the integration was set up correctly, CCaaS agents should be able to see the presence status of non-agents on the separate (but integrated) UCaaS platform. These are the major caveats with choosing UCaaS and CCaaS providers that aren’t integrated.
A major question to ask CCaaS providers when talking to them about a new contact center solution is, “Do you offer your own UCaaS solution and, if not, which UCaaS providers do you integrate with and what does that integration look like?”
–> Also considering UCaaS providers? Take a look at the differentiators here! <–
Types of Communication
Now we’re getting into the features and functionality of CCaaS. Many platforms on the market look very similar to one another, but this is where we see the leaders differentiate themselves from everyone else.
I tend to see three different classes of contact center platforms:
- Basic: Voice-only CCaaS platform (technically call center, not contact center). Sometimes they’ll also have an SMS or email channel.
- Advanced: These contact center platforms include all the available communication channels including inbound voice, outbound dialers, web chat, email, and social media.
- Next-gen: These platforms include all the communication channels listed above plus artificial intelligence. This might mean chat bots for website chat boxes, virtual agents to handle tedious tasks, and more.
When evaluating platforms, it’s not only important to think about what your contact center is doing today, but what might help it improve in the future. So many companies are putting a focus on end user experience because that’s how you achieve high customer retention. This is why we’ve seen such a spike in advanced and next-gen CCaaS platforms in the past few years. Of course, the more advanced it is, the mosre it’s going to cost.
Oftentimes, CCaaS providers will offer a mix of the classes above to cater to different types of contact centers. Their customers might start with an advanced contact center and move up to a next-gen when they’re ready.
For this reason, it’s important to ask CCaaS providers about their licensing tiers and what exactly is included in each one. If you think you’re contact center might benefit from AI, it will also be beneficial to ask about the different types of AI currently offered by that provider.
CCaaS integrations with certain applications your team is using can significantly help your contact center agents while also giving your callers a better experience. Salesforce is one of the most popular CRMs available, so we’ll use that as an example:
Scenario 1: John calls into the contact center looking to return an item they recently bought online. When they call in, the agent asks for their name and phone number to look them up and then walks them through the steps to return the item.
Scenario 2: Jane calls into the contact center as is immediately greeted with “Hi Jane! I see you bought a vacuum online last week, how is that working out for you?” Jane then explains that he’d like to return the vacuum and the agent walks him through the steps.
Now, scenario 1 will get the job done. Customers will get their questions answered, but there’s nothing that goes above and beyond. In the age of customer experience, no one notices ordinary.
Let’s talk about scenario 2. Even though Jane wants to return her vacuum, she’ll remember the customer service she got from this one interaction and likely buy from this company again.
How did the agent know who was calling? How did they know Jane recently bought a vacuum? It’s very technical on the backend, but it’s simple to explain. The CCaaS platform that the agent is using has an integration with Salesforce (the CRM this contact center uses). When someone calls in, the agent gets a screen pop of the caller that shows all their information including recent interactions or transactions. This extra information helps the agent give a personalized experience to everyone that calls in.
These application integrations can also help with logging call notes and transcriptions into a CRM, syncing contact lists, and more. Even if you’re using a niche platform and CCaaS platforms don’t have a pre-built integration, as long as the APIs are open and available, an integration can oftentimes be built outl
If your contact center uses a specific platform to house customer information, make sure to ask potential CCaaS providers about integrations they may have with it.
Another major requirement to consider when looking at CCaaS platforms is compliance requirements. If your organization needs to adhere to certain compliances, it’s important to make sure the CCaaS platform you choose will support those.
This can mean a couple different things. You’ll need to decide if the CCaaS provider, itself, needs to be compliant, or if it will suffice for them to give you the tools to remain compliant. For example, a CCaaS provider may not be SOX compliant as a company, but they may be able to manipulate certain features within the contact center to make sure you stay SOX compliant. Is that sufficient?
The two compliance requirements we see most often are HIPAA (for healthcare organizations) and PCI (for anyone that takes a credit card over the phone). Most CCaaS platforms have extensive knowledge around these compliances and can help you stay HIPAA or PCI compliant. This can mean anything from retaining call recordings for a certain number of months/years to shutting recording off when taking credit card info.
Other compliance standards that may be important to your company are SOC 1/SOC 2 (specifically for data centers that house CCaaS infrastructure), FedRAMP (for government or goverment contractors), GDPR, or even ongoing audits of the cloud infrastructure against the NIST framework.
When it comes to more in-depth compliance discussions, ask to have a conversation with the compliance officers at a particular CCaaS company. They will usually have a team of experts who can help you figure out exactly what you’d need to do to stay compliant.
You’re ready to start vetting providers!
With the information in this article, you’re ready to start vetting CCaaS providers and you know a lot of great questions to ask them to make sure they’ll be the best provider for you.
If you’d like to talk to someone who can help narrow down the CCaaS market with providers who are going to be the best fit for you, please fill out one of our interactive quick assessments and a trusted advisor will reach out to you shortly.