What is CPaaS? Everything you need to know

CPaaS transforms how enterprises use the latest communications capabilities to improve CX, reduce costs, and drive operational efficiencies.

Sam Watson

The cloud has unlocked many opportunities for modern enterprise IT teams. They are able to do so much more with their infrastructure, simplifying the deployment and scalability of new solutions that help their business to innovate and operate smarter.

While there are acronyms for various types of cloud technologies, one of the most exciting opportunities is CPaaS, which is short for Communications Platform as a Service. CPaaS is helping enterprises to harness real-time communications technologies to design solutions and applications that improve customer experiences, reduce costs, and drive operational efficiencies. 

This blog has been written to act as your introduction to CPaaS, answering key questions about what it is, how it helps, and key current trends.

What is CPaaS? 

CPaaS is a cloud-based platform that provides building blocks that allow developers and IT team members to embed voice, messaging, and other communications capabilities into existing customer and partner applications.

Fundamentally, CPaaS platforms provide APIs, sample code, software development kits (SDKs), integrated development environments (IDEs), and documentation to: 

  • Simplify access and deployment of a wide range of communications channels and capabilities — including voice, SMS, rich messaging, and video

  • Build intelligent communications solutions and streamline business processes

  • Enhance interactions and meet customer needs through proactive and richer communications

  • Improve speed to market for new solutions, products, and services 

What makes it so valuable to the enterprise, is that all the above can be achieved without the need to spend money and time reengineering existing back-end systems. 

The CPaaS market and growing demand from enterprises

For global organizations looking to keep their competitive edge, customer experience is a digital transformation priority. How an enterprise communicates with their customers to deliver services, keep them updated, take care of their needs, and deliver content is a huge part of the CX agenda. 

It’s why many enterprises are looking to take advantage of the flexibility and capabilities that CPaaS offers. IDC predicts that the CPaaS market will grow by 40% over the next three years, accounting for $17 billion of unified communications spend by 2023. What’s more, Gartner expects 95% of global enterprises to strategically use API-enabled CPaaS by 2023 to enhance digital competitiveness—a 75% increase from 2020. 

It’s little wonder that the market has seen a steady stream of new vendors entering the market and big tech players acquiring CPaaS providers as part of building their own cloud communications proposition. 

What makes CPaaS enterprise-grade?

Enterprises face a unique set of challenges and have certain needs when it comes to cloud communications, and they need to select a CPaaS provider that meets certain requirements. Some of the key characteristics that make a CPaaS provider enterprise-grade include:

  • Security — the platform must offer controls that help enterprises to regulate who has access and what capabilities they are able to utilize to help protect the business and customer data. Capabilities such as defining user access, user groups, and SSO is a must, and enterprises should ensure their potential provider is compliant with regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.

  • Reliability and proven infrastructure — enterprises need a high-availability cloud environment with zero-downtime updates and scalability to seamlessly handle peaks in customer interaction volumes. Forming part of this is that enterprises should prioritize providers that offer Tier 1 connections, which means they are directly integrated with mobile operators and digital messaging providers. Tier 1 connections allow enterprises to reach more people quickly over a single connection, benefiting from higher reliability, lower latency, cost-efficiency, and more secure data. 

  • An extended toolset —  an enterprise-grade CPaaS platform not only includes an extensive portfolio of APIs and SDKs, but also tools that fulfill different requirements across the application lifecycle. These can include tools and controls that help with debugging, regulatory compliance, managing customer preferences, cost allocation, and reporting. 

  • Professional services — alongside the platform, enterprise-grade CPaaS providers offer the expertise that enterprises need to design communication programs, optimize customer journeys, and automate interactions. The vendor will have experience and insight on what use cases deliver results and offer implementation services that can help to fast-track progress. 

The benefits of CPaaS

Using the wide-ranging capabilities and tools that CPaaS providers offer, you can drive a number of benefits:

  • Better customer interactions — enterprises can offer multiple channel choices, interactions that maintain context over channels, conversational self-service, proactive communications that take care of customer needs, and harness data contained in systems across the business to drive personalization. 

  • More efficient operations — journeys can be designed that help to reduce costs and streamline operations with intelligent automation. These can include solutions such as call deflection, appointment and disruption management, delivery reminders, and videos for advice and field staff expertise.

  • Enhanced employee experiences — there are a number of ways communications can be used to improve the employee experience. Messaging journeys and AI chatbots can be deployed to welcome new staff, record employee information, solve FAQs, and simplify mundane day-to-day tasks such as holiday requests, fault reporting, and submitting expenses.

Key CPaaS trends

With CPaaS offerings continuing to mature and grow with new capabilities and tools, it can be difficult to know what’s most important. We’ve identified the top trends currently driving the CPaaS market forward:

Advanced messaging apps 

Gone are the days when brands could dictate which communications channels their customers use. Today’s consumers want to talk to their favorite brands using their preferred channels. And if they can’t, they’ll simply go elsewhere. 

CPaaS providers offer support for a wide range of messaging apps—such as WhatsApp, Google’s Business Messages, Apple Messages for Business, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, WeChat, Viber, and LINE. These messaging channels provide deeper conversational capabilities beyond basic SMS and can be used to enhance customer experiences across multiple use cases.

Video 

COVID-19 restrictions forced countless services to move their in-person services online. This caused a surge in demand for real-time video capabilities to enable solutions such as virtual appointments and face-to-face customer support. There is no sign of demand slowing down and video support is quickly becoming a customer expectation.

Enterprises can take advantage of the flexibility of CPaaS video APIs and SDKs to create end-to-end experiences that use video at the perfect moment. An example is a customer may get in contact with a business through WhatsApp to report a problem with their boiler, they are qualified via a chatbot who seamlessly passes them to an agent, after which the agent can use video to see what the customer sees to help identify the problem to come to a solution.

What’s more, video interactions can harness AI capabilities and machine learning tools to deliver interactions that are as good as face-to-face, with noise cancellation, background blur, and speech recognition to deliver a high-quality experience.

Low-code tools

CPaaS has traditionally catered for developers, helping them to build communication-enabled applications using APIs. The challenge is that this approach is code-heavy and time-consuming. CPaaS providers have recognized that they must offer tools that help to reduce complexity and accelerate time-to-market. That’s why they are leading the charge in helping enterprise developers and IT teams shift to a low-code approach to development.

The centerpiece of their toolset is a low-code flow builder that allows developers to automate and progressively redefine customer journeys as flows. A wide variety of pre-built functionality, logic, and configurations are exposed as visual building blocks that can be dragged and dropped into flows. Using this approach, applications can be prototyped, tested, and scaled quickly. It’s easy to see why Gartner predicts that all software development will take place on low-code platforms by 2024. 

To learn more about how CPaaS platforms accelerate IT roadmaps through low-code tools, you can read our blog here.

End-to-end journeys across systems and channels

Modern enterprises rely on many systems and applications to power their day-to-day operations. Moving away from them would be costly and potentially waste years of accumulated investment. 

Certain CPaaS platforms offer a single platform to build and manage all communications to help solve this challenge. By acting as a centralized integration hub that connects multiple systems and channels, enterprises can achieve levels of interoperability that are simply too difficult to achieve by other means. 

With a platform that seamlessly coordinates thousands of interactions between multiple systems and channels—enterprises can deliver intelligent, end-to-end journeys driven by real-time triggers, where contextual data effortlessly flows across applications and channels. 

Take your first steps with sandbox trials

When starting the process of reviewing different CPaaS providers, we recommend that enterprise IT leaders bring developers into the conversation and begin the process of taking advantage of sandboxes and free APIs to trial functionality and test various use cases. 

You can try the Webex Connect developer sandbox for free, which is a pre-configured environment in which you can prototype applications that utilize channels such as SMS, voice, and WhatsApp. It is designed to allow enterprise developers and IT leaders to trial the APIs, SDKs, and advanced CPaaS capabilities of Webex Connect. It's a perfect way to test your ideas and discover what's possible when you have one platform for orchestrating all your communications channels.

For more information, download our new Enterprise CPaaS Buyer’s Guide

It’s important you choose the right CPaaS partner who will meet your needs now and in the future. To help you understand what sets providers apart, we have created an Enterprise CPaaS Buyer’s Guide, which details the key features and functionality that you need to look for in an enterprise CPaaS solution.