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CCaaS vs CPaaS vs SaaS: Is a Contact Center Platform Right for You?

This article is the sixth in a six-part series on how to create a great customer journey with your contact center.

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CCaaS vs CPaaS vs SaaS: Is a Contact Center Platform Right for You?

For decades, businesses have been boxed in by the classic contact center challenge: a choice between customizability and ease of deployment. Legacy, premise-based contact centers let businesses customize the experience they want to deliver but require costly professional services and take months (or years!) to deploy changes. In contrast, cloud-based contact center software offers quick deployment, but limited customizability.

Stuck in this quagmire, many businesses struggle to keep up with their customers’ changing needs and preferences. Why is it so hard?

Until recently, existing contact center technology has given businesses limited options. Many companies got locked into expensive contact center infrastructure that won’t scale, because it was the best option available at the time. However, contact center technology has evolved to offer businesses more options today.

In this article, I’ll explore all of these options and demystify the acronyms you often see in contact center jargon. To begin, let’s look at where most contact centers sit today: on-premise.

On-Premise Contact Center Platforms

The classic contact center model, also known as the legacy model, is based on inflexible and proprietary platforms from vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, and Genesys. Legacy contact center architectures were built before the the age of the cloud and continuous improvement, when contact centers didn't need to change very frequently. McGee-Smith Analytics estimates that approximately 85% of contact center agent seats are still supported by premises-based solutions.

On-premise contact centers products require you to deploy, administer, maintain, and scale hardware and software. These types of solutions provide customizability, integrability, reliability, and some amount of scale but at the cost of being expensive and difficult to deploy and manage. The customizability benefits can only be realized when companies invest heavily in professional services or hiring from a small subset of developers who are trained on the platform,. With on-premise contact centers, every change takes weeks, if not months, which makes iterating on your contact center next to impossible.

This infrastructure wasn't designed to keep up with disruptive changes in consumer behavior, which is why so many businesses are migrating to a modern alternative. DMG Consulting predicted that the number of seats in cloud-based contact center infrastructure will grow by 22.5% in 2018, and 23% in both 2019 and 2020.

Hosted Contact Center Platforms

Also known as a “managed premise solution,” these contact centers can be operated directly by companies like Cisco, Avaya, and Genesys or third parties like Spoken (acquired by Avaya) and Dimension Data. While this option doesn’t require companies to own and operate physical infrastructure, it also doesn’t give companies much flexibility or many customization options. Hosted platforms are cumbersome and expensive to install, maintain, and operate, and could be considered to be the worst of both worlds.

Cloud Contact Center Platforms

These solutions, such as Amazon Connect, Genesys PureCloud, InContact, and Cisco Cloud Care, offer fast deployment times and scalability but offer more limited customizability and ability to integrate with other systems. Amazon Connect offers instant, self-serving provisioning but most other providers do not. These solutions tend to be immature and constrained in their feature-set, disallowing advanced customizations.

SaaS and CCaaS

If you don’t want to build your own software with APIs, you can use software that already exists. Software as a service (SaaS) has become a common way of accessing software, as opposed to purchasing it outright. SaaS providers host the software, maintaining the servers, databases, and code. Customers access it via the internet and pay for their use on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis.

Contact center as a service (CCaaS) is a form of SaaS that is specific to the contact center. These are typically out-of-the-box offerings that provide cloud-based contact centers typically aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who want a solution that’s quick to deploy and easy to use. These packaged products offer speedy deployment, but with limited customizability and scale. They aren’t designed for a company’s developers to iterate when customer or business needs change.

Many CCaaS offerings are built on Twilio APIs. They’ve taken robust and scalable communications APIs written and tested logic and built a product packaged it together using contact center best practices for SMBs. CCaaS is an excellent option for many companies as they’re getting started with their contact center. However, as many of the small and medium-sized enterprises using these CCaaS solutions grow, they find that their software isn’t flexible enough to adapt to their changing customer and business needs.

Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS)

Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) emerged when companies like Twilio started offering application program interfaces (APIs)—a more developer-friendly and lower-cost option to integrate communications capabilities into business applications. Rather than building their own communications infrastructure from scratch, businesses that use cloud-based APIs from CPaaS vendors can add real-time communications such as voice, video, and messaging into their applications with a few lines of code.

In contrast to on-premise contact centers, CPaaS does not require developers with a hard-to-find-skillset. It democratises who can build communications applications. Companies have been using APIs from CPaaS providers to build their own contact centers with communication building blocks for the past ten years.

When you build your contact center with communication building blocks, you have the freedom to build the exact customer experience you want with the specific capabilities you need. You aren’t limited by a vendor’s roadmap or restricted by the abilities of their hardware or software. You can use APIs to augment, fully replace, or provide connectivity for your contact center.

However, communications APIs do not have a built-in user interface (UI). Businesses need to design their own interfaces for agents, supervisors, and customers. Additionally, businesses have to build all of the orchestration around their contact center tasks, such as transfers and secure pause for recording, along with single sign-on (SSO) and CRM integrations. The CPaaS approach allows for a great amount of customizability, but can require significant developer resources, depending on how complex your application is.

Twilio Flex – The Best of Both Worlds

To respond to the evolving needs of today's businesses, Twilio created Twilio Flex, the world’s first fully programmable contact center platform. Flex is not a collection of APIs or a packaged contact center SaaS/CCaaS product; it’s an application platform for contact center development that allows customers to develop, customize, and manage their own contact centers on top of existing Twilio infrastructure.

Flex offers the ease of deployment and management of a CCaaS solution, combined with the complete customizability and integrability of an on-premise solution. Flex has an agent and supervisor UI that customers can use and deploy right out of the box, which massively reduces the time it takes to get a Twilio-powered contact center up and running. Although Twilio Flex is more intuitive than building with APIs, it’s still an open platform which allows for unlimited customization rather than a limited out-of-the-box solution.


A Decade in the Making

Businesses have been building contact centers on Twilio for years. So you may be wondering why we created Twilio Flex. We developed Flex based on ten years of learning from our customers. Our flexible APIs give us a unique window into the problems that businesses are trying to solve. We see a variety of use cases that, for one reason or another, aren't being addressed by the status quo—so our customers set out to solve these problems with our APIs.

Nowhere is this dynamic as pronounced as it is in the enterprise level contact center. We hear the frustration our customers, like ING Bank, National Debt Relief, and Liberty Mutual, experienced with their legacy systems. So we created Twilio Flex with a vision to change this, just like we did with our API platforms ten years ago. Flex stands on the shoulders of everything Twilio has built for the past decade.

Flex empowers our customers to instantly deploy a customizable, omnichannel contact center. We built it on our programmable communications cloud and Super Network, included our intelligent routing engine Taskrouter and visual builder Studio, and packaged all of these unique and valuable assets with a new, programmable UI.

The Modern Contact Center

According to DMG Consulting, Twilio is the third largest contact center infrastructure vendor in the industry. We’ve worked with many companies to build customized contact center solutions backed by our cloud communications platform. With Flex, we’re building on the best practices from all of these customers. Flex is built on top of the same communications platform that powers over 40 billion interactions a year and is relied on by more than 50,000 businesses.

With Twilio Flex, you can:

  • Quickly and easily programmatically customize every part of your contact center.
  • Instantly add new channels and access all of your cross-channel data on a single platform.
  • Integrate with any CRM, workforce management, reporting system, or existing call center infrastructure.
  • Add contextual intelligence to every part of the agent/customer interaction lifecycle.
  • Empower non-developers and others in the organization with flexible, enterprise-grade tools.
  • Rely on the Twilio communications platform—proven to scale across geographies and channels, serving contact centers as small as ten agents and as large as 50,000+.
  • Improve customer experience and agent productivity by measure and analyze agent performance through Flex WFO.

Simply put, Twilio Flex offers all of the ingredients you need to build a modern contact center.

“Where Twilio tried to differentiate Flex from existing solutions is by making it a fully functional contact center solution that is Flexible enough to customize and modify. It has APIs, but the day-to-day users won’t see them, and a lot of the customizations needed don’t require digging deep into the API layer either.” - Tsahi Levent-Levi,

No Developers? No Problem.

Many innovative companies have built their own contact centers from scratch using APIs, but not every company is set up with the developer resources required to do so. The philosophy that we are taking with Twilio Flex is that unlimited customizability doesn’t mean you have to customize every part of the stack — you can use Twilio Flex components as they are and change only what makes sense for your business.

Customers can provision a new Twilio Flex project through Twilio Console without writing a single line of code. In just a few clicks, customers have access to an omnichannel contact center platform that runs on the AWS Free Tier. With Twilio Studio, a drag-and-drop visual editor, non-coders can edit communications workflows and create self-service experiences across channels. More sophisticated customizations can be built by any web developer familiar with React.js.

The Contact Center of the Future

For decades, businesses have been forced to choose between customization and speed. Legacy contact centers can be highly customized but require a long build and deploy time, as well as expensive professional services to make changes. SaaS/CCaaS solutions offer ready-to-deploy contact centers that are packaged and ready to go, but with limited customizability. With the introduction of the programmable contact center platform, technology has evolved to offer businesses the best of both worlds. Twilio Flex enables companies to build at unprecedented speed while customizing a unique design for their specific customer and business requirements.

The contact center of the future is built for great customer journeys. It’s customizable, omnichannel, incorporates contextual intelligence, and can reliably scale as needed. Best-in-class contact centers are modernizing with tomorrow’s customer experience in mind.

Check out Part 1 to for an overview of the four key ingredients for building a great customer journey, Part 2 to learn all about customizability, Part 3 for a deep dive into omnichannel communications, Part 4 to understand the importance of contextual intelligence, and Part 5 for everything you need to know about scalability.