UCaaS vs. CCaaS: What’s the Difference?

June 13, 2022 8 min read

Dominic Kent

Dominic Kent

UCaaS vs CCaaS: what’s the difference?

When comparing UCaaS vs. CCaaS, it’s important to understand both the similarities and differences. If you’re shopping for a new solution to replace your PBX, call center, or both, you’ll likely have found yourself in a world of new jargon.

In this post, we’ll explain what these new terms mean. And, in doing so, we’ll highlight the differences so you know exactly what tech you’re looking at.

Let’s start with UCaaS: Unified Communications as a Service.

What is UCaaS?

UCaaS stands for unified communications as-a-service. Which is great if you already know what those terms mean. Let’s break them down for you:

Unified communications (often shortened to unified comms) is a suite of services that combines common communications tools. Think phone calls, instant messaging, etc.

The “as-a-service” element refers to the delivery method. You may have a physical phone system stored in your office or server room. This is called “on-premises” and is the common/legacy way to deliver phone services for your business.

Instead of buying a physical phone system, UCaaS is a software version that gets delivered via the cloud. This way, you can subscribe to your needed features and services. 

Instead of installing equipment you might one day use, you get access to everything you need. Adding on or upgrading is always possible, in addition to upgrading to a different pricing tier.

Think of it like the shift from videotapes and DVDs to Netflix and Disney+. That’s as-a-service.

When combined, you get UCaaS. Unified communications are delivered like a subscription model.

For example, Nextiva’s UCaaS collaboration platform includes features like:

It’s no single feature that makes UCaaS attractive. It’s when they all come together. That’s the unified part.

Examples of UCaaS

You may already be using unified communications solutions in the form of your on-site phone system. Common examples include:

These are all examples of phone systems that may have unified communications components. But they don’t all offer UCaaS services. 

Some UCaaS vendors include those with a past in unified comms, but others are cloud-first. It’s those who specialize in the as-a-service model.

Cloud-first UCaaS vendors include:

What are the benefits of UCaaS

The benefits of UCaaS involve increased productivity and a better way of communicating. This includes both internal and external communications.

From an internal point of view, everyone uses the same app to chat, call, and host meetings. Within this app, you get features (like screen sharing and call recording) that take your phone system from a call maker to a productivity enabler.

From an external point of view, UCaaS upgrades existing phone system functionality to include modern cloud features. Businesses are able to field more calls and have better visibility of their communications estate.

Benefits of cloud options for unified comms (UCaaS) include:

  • Lower running costs than on-premises
  • Flexibility for number of users
  • Fast access to new features
  • Flexibility between licenses
  • No maintenance fees
  • High scalability

What is CCaaS?

CCaaS, which stands for contact center as-a-service, is a subscription-based software program that connects all customer contact channels into a single interface. CCaaS is the next step up from a call center and allows you to communicate with customers via phone, SMS, or chat, all from one platform. 

Much like call center software, your agents get an interface to make, receive, and manage calls. On top of this, they also get access to other contact channels like email, web chat, SMS, and social media. This is called multichannel. 

This means you can service customers on the channels they use—rather than forcing them to call you. 

Why is this important? People are busy. People have preferences. Ultimately, people want to get through to you in the most convenient and least resistant manner.

That may still be a traditional phone call. In fact, 51% of people still prefer a voice call over any other form of communication. But that’s not to say the current and next generations will agree.

68% of millennials admit to texting “a lot” on a daily basis. This includes SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, and many more texting services. Generation Z prefers “face-to-face” communications including video calling. 

Email remains the most used non-real-time communication method, with more than 2.5 billion users. There are approximately 45 million people active on Meta (formerly Facebook). 

It’s easy to come to a quick conclusion here. Diversifying your contact channels is a no-brainer.

And that is precisely what multichannel cloud contact centers do.

For example, Nextiva’s cloud contact center helps customer service agents serve more agents with higher quality. 

There’s no compromise regardless of the channel a customer interacts on. There’s no extra hold time for an agent as smart routing technology combines with multi-channel contact handling.

Features to look for in CCaaS software include:

What are the benefits of CCaaS?

Much like the benefits of UCaaS, CCaaS introduces better and more productive ways to communicate. With CCaaS, there’s a focus on agent-to-customer communication.

Thanks to multi-channel contact options like email, web chat, SMS, and social media, you can serve customers wherever they are. There’s no more holding in long queues or having to repeat themselves when they get through to an agent who’s never spoken to them before.

As the cloud allows integration, you can share data between your agent desktop and your CRM or other line of business applications. This empowers agents to provide a customer experience like never before. 

Agents provide a personalized experience and remove the need to repeat information.

This data also triggers analytics to predict actions and inform changes. There is no more gut-feeling shots in the dark when trying to improve KPIs and metrics. You can make data-backed changes or have the technology look after that for you. 

For example, intelligent virtual agents can handle routine high-volume calls that don’t need a human touch. Things like opening hours only have one possible outcome, so you can free up agents to add the human touch where it’s needed.

Plus, don’t forget CCaaS is a cloud subscription model. So there’s no on-site equipment (except for headsets).

What are the differences between UCaaS and CCaaS?

It’s important to distinguish the differences between UCaaS and CCaaS to ensure you make the right choice.

Choose UCaaS when your focus is streamlining internal communications, you want to collaborate with peer better, or you don't field customer queries. Choose CCaaS if your focus is improving your customer's experience, you need to update your call center to multi-channel, or you don't you need to improve your internal communications.

Here are five key differences to help make this clear:

#1 UCaaS focuses on internal communication services

While also including PSTN connectivity, UCaaS streamlines your internal communications processes.

Long gone are the days when you call a colleague, leave a voicemail, and not hear from them until you bump into them in the canteen. Instead of losing time trying to get hold of them, you can check their presence status (available, busy, DND, offline) before calling them.

Or if you don’t need their voice, send them an instant message. This might just be to check if they are available or it might be because you can get what you need without disrupting their workflow.

When real-time communication is needed, you can turn that instant message into an audio or video call.

#2 CCaaS focuses on communication with the customer & lets you serve customers where they hang out

CCaaS helps streamline workflows to move your customers down the path of least resistance. 

While speed alone is not the goal of any customer service team, when you can solve problems efficiently, you provide a better customer experience.

Sometimes, you can use UCaaS solutions to run a basic call center if you only need a call queue. Callers can choose which option they need and get routed through to a user configured in that call group. But when you’re offering several inbound channels to contact you, CCaaS comes into its own.

Instead of only offering a phone number for your technical support team, CCaaS enables you to offer live chat on your website, emails into a skilled agent, and direct contact via the social media channels they use.

People are busy. Nobody wants to wait in a queue when they have an easier option.

#3 CCaaS can be omnichannel

We’ve mentioned multichannel a few times. So, what’s an omnichannel contact center

Here, we’re talking about ensuring that cross-channel conversations get connected. No matter which channels your customers use or whether they switch between several, all interactions and information gets shared between agents.

This means there’s no longer the scenario where someone chats on your website, emails to follow up, then calls the next day, but the agent doesn’t have track of the previous conversation.

Some service providers only support multi-channel. And while multi-channel may be suitable for some businesses, serious CCaaS providers will offer both multichannel and omnichannel contact center options.

#4 UCaaS tends to be ready to use out of the box

Aside from putting phone numbers and names together, UCaaS is plug-and-play. Except there is rarely anything to plug in! 

Unless you want a handset, you download your desktop or mobile app, and your software is pre-loaded with call functionality and collaboration features.

CCaaS, on the other hand, sometimes needs custom configuration so you can tailor available channels and call routing to streamline your customers’ journeys. When you spend time finding the optimum path, customers have a better experience. 

#5 CCaaS offers unlimited customization

When you first implement a CCaaS solution, it doesn’t have to be your final answer.

What you configure today might not be exactly how your customers want to access your teams. 

And that’s okay. Each customer interaction provides data that helps you decide what to do next and what to change.

The best CCaaS software includes automation and integrations that can help agents serve customers better. 

When you set specific KPIs, reports show what you need to change and where workflows are becoming congested.

The best customer experience is the one that is continuously improved.

“There will always be something else you can do to improve what you are doing in terms of customer experience and give your customers a continuously improved experience.”

  • Philipp Ringgenberg, Director of Business Consulting at Orange Business Systems.

How are UCaaS and CCaaS similar?

As both are communication technologies and both get deployed via the cloud, there are many similarities between UCaaS and CCaaS.

Both UCaaS and CCaaS include the following:

  • Cloud-based technology
  • As-a-service deployment models
  • Both improve external communication
  • Ability to integrate both platforms and apps
  • Ability to scale up and down users when needed
  • Desktop and mobile apps to control calls and collaboration

With those similarities in mind, the big question is whether you need UCaaS or CCaaS.

Should you pick UCaaS or CCaaS?

Choosing UCaaS or CCaaS isn’t quite like choosing red or blue. There are several factors that come into play. 

While reading this blog post, you will have identified which components are most needed in your business. 

Choose UCaaS when:

  • Your focus is streamlining internal communications
  • You want to collaborate with peers better
  • You don’t field queries from customers

Choose CCaaS when:

  • Your focus is improving your customer’s experience
  • You need to upgrade your call center to multi-channel
  • You don’t need to improve your internal communications

In all likelihood, it could be both you need.

So, does that mean you need a separate UCaaS and CCaaS solution? 

It might. But, if you choose the best solution in each category, you may end up with disparate solutions that don’t talk to each other.

Nextiva is unique in that it offers a single source for both UCaaS and CCaaS.

When you integrate UCaaS and CCaaS, everyone benefits. By combining apps, your frontline agents have access to subject matter experts, and all data gets passed between apps.

There’s no disconnect and both internal and external communications improve together.

Book a contact center demo to see what all the fuss is about.

Dominic Kent


Dominic Kent

Dominic Kent is a content marketer specializing in unified communications and contact centers. After 10 years of managing installations, he founded UC Marketing to bridge the gap between service providers and customers. He spends half of his time building content marketing programs and the rest writing on the beach with his dogs.

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