Warm transfer vs cold transfer: Which should you use?

Poor experiences with call transfers often feel like a universal trend. In fact, 68% of consumers get irritated when live agents transfer their phone calls to other team members. Imagine repeating the same question to dozens of the wrong call center agents before finally getting the help you need. 😩

Call transfers aren’t inherently bad business phone etiquette. They can help both your customers and your team. But first, you need to know when to opt for warm transfers over traditional cold transfers (and vice versa) to create a better customer experience. Here’s how the two types of call transfers differ and how you can successfully use each.

Types of call transfers

Call transfers can be divided into two distinct categories: cold transfers and warm transfers. While both describe a way to send active calls to another phone number or extension, they each impact the customer experience in very different ways.

Cold transfers, which are also known as blind transfers, are the simplest option. Most of us have experienced cold transfers when calling a business. Warm transfers, on the other hand, typically require more active collaboration between team members. So next, we’ll explain what exactly makes a transfer cold or warm.

What is a warm transfer?

A warm transfer occurs when the original call recipient speaks to a teammate about the call before transferring the call to the new agent. Then the current call recipient informs the caller who will be continuing the call with them and completes the transfer. The new agent receives any relevant information they need to provide quality support — for example, the caller’s account number and context about the issue. They’ll be able to greet the caller by name and work toward a call resolution right away, with no need to waste time on small talk. 💯

Giving your team member a head’s up before transferring an active call also gives you the chance to confirm if they’re available and  can help with an issue.

What is a cold transfer?

A cold transfer occurs when a phone call is transferred without anyone briefing the person who will receive a call. For instance, if a customer support agent cold transfers a call to their manager, the manager will have no prior knowledge of the call before picking up the phone.

Many cold transfers don’t begin with human interaction at all. Incoming calls are often automatically cold transferred after callers interact with an auto-attendant or interactive voice response (IVR) system. Clients choose an option from a phone menu — for example, by pressing ‘1’ for sales — and instantly get transferred to the right department.

When you do a cold transfer, there’s always a risk of the call recipient not picking up the phone. Whether they’re busy or away from their phone, callers may end up getting sent to voicemail. ➿

When to warm transfer vs. cold transfer

While warm transfers naturally create a more personalized caller experience, they’re not always the best solution. In some situations, warm transfers aren’t worth the hassle.

Cold transfers can be effective if your caller has a simple question that doesn’t require a specific person or any background information. For example, if a customer calls to ask what payment methods you accept, it’s more efficient for a receptionist to transfer them straight to any available billing agent. Your customer will still get an answer within minutes, since no further context is needed, without listening to hold music on repeat. 🎶

Cold transfers can also be helpful when your team is out of office. You can set up your IVR to transfer customers’ calls to a specific phone number, so their messages land in the right voicemail box or straight to an emergency number.

Warm transfers help when you’re dealing with issues that are complex. They can also be valuable when the issue is specific to a customer or situation. These issues can include:

  • Account questions
  • Product return requests
  • Local promotion questions

Warm transfers are often ideal for sales calls, too. Showing your leads that you’re listening — and limiting the number of transfers in one call — will keep them more interested in your brand.

How to transfer calls on a traditional phone system

If your team uses traditional desk phones to answer calls, it’s likely that your business phone system is only equipped with cold transfer features. Plus, the call transfer process isn’t always intuitive. You may need to train your team members to memorize dial codes and phone numbers if you want calls transferred correctly.

While the exact steps for transferring calls will vary from desk phone to desk phone, your process will probably look like this:

  1. Put your caller on hold.
  2. Press the call transfer button on your phone or dial your phone’s call transfer code.
  3. Enter the phone number or extension you want to transfer the call to.

You won’t be able to do a warm transfer with your device alone. Rather, you’ll have to reach out to your team members through another communication channel, like text or Slack. Many desk phones systems also very limited call management features

Most cell phones don’t allow you to transfer active calls at all. 

How to transfer calls in OpenPhone

A screenshot of the transfer button in the OpenPhone app

Using a VoIP phone service is an easy way to simplify the call transfer process. OpenPhone offers both cold transfer and warm transfer features that help you connect clients to the right team members as soon as possible. Here’s how these two transfers work.

Cold transfer

To do a cold transfer on the OpenPhone web or desktop app, you only need to complete two simple steps once you’re on an active incoming call — no need to put your caller on hold or memorize any codes or extensions.

  1. Tap on the transfer button. 🔁
  2. Type the name or the phone number of the person you want to transfer the call to.

The call will instantly disconnect on your end and connect with the person you’ve transferred the caller to.

Doing a cold transfer on the OpenPhone iOS app also takes two steps, only you’ll have more transfer options.

  1. Tap on the transfer button. 🔁
  2. Choose who you’d like to transfer the call to by selecting a team member (you’ll see their status and availability, so you know they’re free even without a warm transfer), searching and selecting a contact from your contacts list, or typing the person’s phone number.

Again, the call will instantly disconnect from your end and connect with the new agent.

Cold transfers are coming soon on the OpenPhone Android app!

Warm transfer

When you want to do a warm transfer, you can do so without leaving our platform, downloading a third-party app, or grabbing a different device. While you’re on your call, under “Your team” simply tap on the name of the team member you want to transfer the call to and direct message them. Then you can fill them in on your current call.

Once you’ve passed on the information your teammate needs, you’re all set to tap the transfer button.

Warm transfer best practices

If you want to provide the best warm transfer experience possible, follow these three tips as you transfer your call on your VoIP app:

  1. Take notes before you transfer: Jot down any relevant information your caller provides, so you can provide your team member with accurate insights. At the minimum, collect their name, so you can add them to your CRM and reach back out if your call drops.
  2. Keep your callers informed: Let your callers know before you put them on hold or transfer their call.
  3. Thank your callers for their time: The biggest downside of a warm transfer is the hold time your callers will experience. Make sure the caller knows you respect their time and patience, and reassure them that you’ll reach a resolution as soon as possible.

Improve your call transfers with OpenPhone

Warm transfer: Screenshots of the OpenPhone mobile and desktop apps

Call transfers don’t have to be a frustrating experience for callers. Rather, they can help your clients get the information they need faster. Cold transfers can help you boost efficiency when you don’t need a specific team member to answer or any background information to provide a solution. Warm transfers can improve the customer experience by limiting transfers, ensuring callers aren’t sent to a voicemail box, and allowing team members to provide personalized support from the get-go. Start your free trial of OpenPhone to get started.

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