When to Warm Transfer a Caller: Significance and Importance


If you are a receptionist or work in a call center, you might frequently need to transfer callers for a variety of reasons. While most callers can be cold transferred, there are many times when warm transferring a caller might be necessary, not only to resolve the caller’s problem but also to provide the best customer experience. 

What is a warm transfer? 

A warm transfer allows the initial agent to transfer a caller to another representative, while first having a conversation with the new agent. After the initial greeting, the caller will be put on hold while the initial receptionist calls the appropriate agent to speak with them directly. They should share valuable information with the new representative, such as the caller’s name, background on the situation, and the caller’s needs.

Before transferring the caller to the new representative, the original employee will typically speak to the caller one last time to let them know that they have the requested agent on the line and that they will be transferring them. Once the transfer happens, the initial representative will introduce the caller to the requested agent and will drop off the line, letting the new representative handle the rest of the call. 

What is the difference between a cold and warm transfer?

cold vs. warm transfers

When talking about the types of transfers, a warm transfer is just one type. A warm transfer is often seen as more courteous than a cold transfer, as it allows the caller to avoid repeating information that was already provided. 

In a cold transfer situation, the agent transfers the caller without speaking to the new agent first. In most situations, cold transferring a call is an acceptable (and preferred) method of transferring a caller. Examples of when to cold transfer a caller include:

  • If a caller was routed to an incorrect department
  • If a caller has a basic question that doesn't require gathering specific information from the caller
  • If a caller requests to leave a voicemail message for a specific representative

As with warm transfers, it’s important to let the caller know that you will be transferring them to another department or person to set expectations. Unlike a warm transfer, there’s no guarantee that the caller will reach their intended destination without reaching their voicemail, so it’s best to advise the caller to leave a voicemail in that situation.  

When should you warm transfer a caller? 

when to warm transfer a caller

Not every call and interaction requires a warm transfer; in fact, most simply require a cold transfer to ensure that the caller gets to the right department or representative. However, there are certain situations where a warm transfer is not only a good idea but the right thing to do for the caller. Some of these instances include:

  • Escalation calls
  • Emotional calls
  • Sensitive calls
  • Aggressive calls (these should be warm transferred to a manager)
  • Calls where the caller has reached out several times without resolution

In each of these instances, it’s imperative that the caller feels heard and understood, and that their situation is being handled appropriately. If these types of calls are cold transferred, it could bring about feelings of frustration, annoyance, and a sense that their call or problem isn’t important. 

What do you say when warm transferring a call?

When warm transferring a caller, it’s important to be empathetic to the caller’s needs, even if you’re not the right person to solve the problem. This can be done via active listening and using the proper customer service voice. Try to let them know that while you are not able to fully assist in their needs, you will be transferring them to someone else who can.

It’s also important to let them know that you’ll be speaking with the next representative before you transfer them to provide details about their case. This will help ease the caller and will eliminate any frustration with a perhaps longer hold time. An example warm transfer could look like this:

To the caller: “I’m so sorry to hear about XYZ. At this time, my colleague Angela would be the best person to assist you with this problem. Let me transfer you to them; before I do so, I’ll tell them that you’re on the line needing help with XYZ.”

To your colleague: “Hi, Angela! I have one of your claimants on my backline. Their name is [First Name, Last Name] and they are calling about XYZ. I’ll let them know that I’ll be transferring them to you directly.”

To the caller: “Thank you so much for holding, [First Name]. I have Angela on the line, and I’ll be transferring you now.”

By taking the time to appropriately address the caller’s concerns, you reassure them that their needs will be met and give them confidence in your company’s ability to solve problems. If you’re the one that is receiving the warm transfer, ensure that you are answering the phone properly to further ease the caller’s tensions. 

If the call needs to be transferred to voicemail

As you can see above, warm transfer calls usually involve the first representative transferring the caller to the second representative after a brief introduction. In some cases, however, after speaking with the second representative, you may be instructed to still transfer the caller, but that the call will go to voicemail. Reasons for this can include:

  • The second representative is busy working on another case
  • The second representative is currently working through the caller’s case
  • The second representative is actively on another call

While this might not be exactly what the caller wants to hear, there are ways to still make this a comfortable experience for them. An example of this interaction could be:

To the caller: “I’m so sorry to hear about XYZ. At this time, my colleague Angela would be the best person to assist you with this problem. Let me call them directly to see if I can get you connected with them.” 

To your colleague: “Hi, Angela! I have one of your claimants on my backline. Their name is [First Name, Last Name] and they are calling about XYZ.”

From your colleague: “Hi! Actually, I’m finishing up on paperwork for another claimant right now. Could you transfer [First Name] to my voicemail and let them know that I will call back as soon as I’m done?”

To the caller: “Thank you so much for holding, [First Name]. I spoke with Angela; she’s finishing up some paperwork for another claimant right now, but I can transfer you to her voicemail, and she assured me that she will call you back as soon as she’s done.”

Benefits of warm transfers

benefits of a warm transfer

Warm transfers ultimately make the customer experience more efficient, smoother, and less frustrating for the caller. It allows them to reach the desired person that they need to speak with, without having to repeat themselves or being rerouted to someone else by mistake. 

For the agents themselves, warm transfers can make jobs easier. First, they help to ensure that the caller is being transferred to the correct person or department, eliminating the need for multiple transfers. 

In addition, warm transfers help the representative better prepare to assist the caller since they will have background knowledge about the situation in advance. This leads to finding resolutions and answers more quickly, cutting down on average handle times. 

In addition to the reasons listed above, other benefits of warm transferring a caller include:

  • Increase in first-call resolutions
  • Higher customer satisfaction rates
  • More productive conversations between the caller and representative
  • Increase in personal connections with customers 

How today’s technology can help 

Past phone systems made call transfers difficult. Physically typing in the extension of the requested representative could lead to concerns of disconnected calls, confusion while making transfers, and other technical malfunctions.

Call technology has made great strides in improving the ease of transferring calls, making them capable of being done virtually on a screen and not on a physical phone. This allows employees to complete actions such as selecting a drop-down of departments and extensions or typing an extension on a virtual keypad, allowing them to seamlessly transfer a caller. 

Beyond a virtual way to transfer calls, a 24/7 virtual receptionist can help transfer calls after hours or if you’re on an existing call. This provides exceptional customer service, even before someone speaks with them. 

There are certain situations where warm transferring a caller is the right thing to do for both the caller and your company. Calls that are emotional or are escalated need a warm transfer to help de-escalate any further issues and to help the next representative best assist the caller. For more information on warm transfer software assistance, contact the team at Smith.ai today.

Warm Phone Transfers
Call Intelligence
Business Education
Written by Maddy Martin

Maddy Martin is Smith.ai's SVP of Growth. Over the last 15 years, Maddy has built her expertise and reputation in small-business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, partnerships, and SEO.

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