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Need to transfer a call? You just have to know which buttons on your office phone (or computer) to press. Right?

Well actually, there's a little more to transferring a call than that—especially if you work somewhere that has a business phone system (or uses softphones, or VoIP).

Not to worry though, we’re here to walk you through the ins and outs of transferring a call. From the basic (but sometimes overlooked) etiquette involved to the actual step-by-step instructions, everything you need to know is here.

After all, you want to make a good impression on your customers and make sure your phone experience reflects well on your business, right?

First, let's get one thing out of the way: call transferring and forwarding? Two different things.

The difference between call transferring and call forwarding

Although these two features might sound similar, they’re pretty different.

During a call transfer, someone presses a transfer button to pass an active call on to someone else before disconnecting themselves from the call. (Basically Pam's job from The Office.)

With call forwarding, incoming calls are automatically forwarded to a preset number without first going through a human recipient.

The 2 main types of call transfers

These two transfer methods are known as "warm" and "cold" transfers. Basically, a warm transfer is when you introduce the caller to the person you're transferring them to, while a cold transfer is when you just put them through directly.

1. Warm transfer

The process of a warm transfer begins when you receive a call from someone (doesn't matter if it's through a traditional landline or cell phone).

Your conversation with this caller will determine whether you need to pass them along to speak to someone else. If they do, then you'd put this active call on hold.

While you have them on hold, you'd make a call to the intended recipient to see if they're available to take the call. You can also give this person more information about the caller at this point. If they say yes to taking the call, then you can transfer the call to this person's extension number.

👉 Dialpad tip: You might want to make sure your on-hold music is up to scratch while your caller waits. If you're using Dialpad as your phone system, you can choose from pre-recorded on-hold music (and also upload your own):

choosing on hold music in dialpad app

The benefit of warm transfers is that your customer doesn’t have to repeat their question to multiple people—because you're doing it for them.

They also offer a more personalized experience, because the people you're transferring the call to would (theoretically) have the information they need to greet the caller by their name and know a bit more about their issue in advance.

2. Cold transfer

During a cold transfer, you simply transfer the call to a colleague directly—without asking them if they‘re available. (You might also have seen this referred to as a "blind transfer.")

The problem for your customers is that they can end up having to repeat their question to different people as they get transferred back and forth.

Also, if the cold transfer goes to someone who can’t take the call, your customer can find themselves confronted with the dreaded voicemail inbox. Not good for customer satisfaction.

Now, let's look at how to transfer calls.

How to transfer calls to someone else

Now that we’ve looked at a few ways to transfer calls, it’s time to address the question of how.

The specifics will depend on your call center management system, but the general process should be similar across different platforms.

We'll use Dialpad as an example in this tutorial, because it makes it pretty easy to do. You can transfer calls seamlessly between devices, see which colleagues are available at a glance, put someone on hold, mute people on the call, and more.

Basically, you have everything you need to provide excellent customer service from anywhere. (Even if you have a small or one-person team.)

How to carry out a cold transfer

  1. In Dialpad, you can just click the Transfer button while you're on a call with someone:

    transferring a call in dialpad app

  2. Search for a contact, select one of your most frequent contacts, or manually type in a number:

    choosing someone to transfer a call to in dialpad


  3. If a team member/department has more than one number, click on the drop-down to select the one you need.

  4. Depending on who you’re transferring to, your options include:

  • Transfer Now (cold)

  • Ask First (warm)

  • Transfer to Voicemail

  • Transfer to Hold Queue

    call transfer options in dialpad app

If you want to do a cold transfer, you'd hit "Transfer Now." That's it!

How to do a warm transfer

In Dialpad, a warm transfer (aka "Ask First") is available for team members, numbers outside your organization, other departments, and call centers (but they need to have a number assigned already—so that you have a number to transfer the call to).

The process is slightly different depending on whether you’re using the desktop app, Android, or iOS.

Desktop app

  1. Same first step as a cold transfer—just hit "Transfer" while you're on a call.

  2. This time, instead of "Transfer now," hit "Ask first."

  3. This will put your active call on hold while you new call is placed to your team member to confirm the transfer:

    putting someone on hold while asking for a transfer in dialpad

  4. Once they answer, you can give them any details they'd need (see your on-hold call in the top left corner?) and confirm the transfer.

  5. Ready? Just hit Transfer and you're done!

    putting someone on hold while asking for a transfer in dialpad

Android

To transfer a call on an Android device with the Dialpad app, it's just as easy:

  1. Tap More > Transfer caller.

  2. Type in your recipient’s name or number on your search screen

    transferring a call in dialpad android app

  3. Select Ask Now.

  4. Your current call will now be placed on hold as the new call is made.

  5. Once the new call connects, you'ved transferred the call!

iOS

If you’re using an iOS device and want to transfer a call:

  1. Tap More > Transfer caller.

  2. Type in your recipient’s name or number on your search screen

    transferring a call on iOS dialpad app

  3. Select Ask Now.

  4. Your current call is now put on hold as the new call is made.

  5. Select transfer once the new call connects.

When to use different call transferring methods

Okay, you're a pro now at both warm and cold transfers—so when would each come in handy?

1. When no context is needed (direct transfer!)

This is the most straightforward option. But it’s only suitable when it isn’t necessary to provide any background information before the caller talks to whoever they're being transferred to.

The other issue with this is you have no way of knowing if the second party is available to take the call.

Despite these disadvantages, direct transfers do still have their place. For example, your caller may need to speak to a different department entirely and wouldn't benefit from a short introduction from you.

(Maybe there's just too much information for you to provide to someone anyway or there's sensitive information that they should give that person themselves.)

👉 Dialpad tip: Before doing a cold transfer, consider whether the destination department is well-staffed to answer calls and whether they have voicemail set up. Otherwise, your caller will reach a dead end and have to start their call all over again...

2. Low call volumes (Ask first)

As we mentioned above, this has multiple benefits, including prepping your colleague in advance and freeing your caller of the annoying task of having to repeat themselves.

If you work in customer support, transferring a call in this way can boost your call center productivity—saving time by preventing repeat calls from people who weren't transferred successfully.

3. The fallback option (Send to the second party’s voicemail)

If neither of the first two options works for you, it’s possible to send calls to someone's voicemail. This might be useful when you know that your caller has to reach that specific person, and you also know that person is unavailable (maybe they're on vacation).

This option will put your current call on hold, just like with a direct transfer. But in this case, the call will then be directly transferred to that person's voicemail. Your caller can then leave a message for the person they need to speak to before hanging up.

👉 Dialpad tip: Make sure that everyone in your team keeps their voicemail greeting up to date!

Business call transferring etiquette tips

When it comes to business phone call transferring, there’s a certain etiquette involved. Transferring a call is about so much more than having your colleague on speed dial. It’s all about making a good impression on your caller as they’re hanging on in there to find a solution to their problem.

Quite often, a phone call will be a potential customer’s first point of contact with a business, so it pays to get this right. If they hang up feeling dissatisfied, it’s all too easy for them to simply pick the phone back up to call one of your competitors.

Below, we'll share five quick contact center tips for call transferring etiquette. One tip: include these along with other essential information in your team's training materials. Everybody should know how to transfer a call correctly, from your managing director right down to new contact center reps.

1. Provide and obtain information before transferring

Imagine: You’ve received a call and tried to transfer it without taking your caller’s details or providing your name and extension number. In the unlikely event of you becoming disconnected, this could be a problem. The caller would have to start the call from scratch and would be (understandably) frustrated.

As a best practice, give your caller the name and extension number of the person you’re transferring them to.

2. Don’t forget to explain why you are making a transfer

If you need to transfer a call for any reason, you should always explain why. It could be that your caller has simply reached the wrong person or department. Maybe you don’t have the right knowledge or proper authority to answer their query satisfactorily.

Whatever the reason, it’s always helpful (and polite) to keep your caller in the loop.

3. Ask permission before you transfer your current call

Don’t assume that you automatically have the right to transfer callers. When you ask for permission to initiate the transfer, this gives them the opportunity to ask any other questions they might have. (This also gives them a chance to say they'll just call back another time if they're on a tight schedule.)

If a caller refuses to give permission to be transferred, make sure that you understand why. To encourage the transfer and your customer’s journey to continue further, you can try explaining that it’s the fastest and most effective way for them to receive assistance.

You could also try clarifying that you will fill in the second party on their behalf and so they won’t have to explain themselves all over again.

4. Wait for the second party to pick up

If your caller expects to be put through to someone who has been fully briefed about their issue, it would be rude to just transfer the call cold.

Not to mention it's unfair to unleash a dissatisfied customer on a colleague without giving them the chance to prepare mentally. You should share your valuable insights about the call with your colleague and then make your introduction.

It almost sounds a bit like match-making, doesn’t it? Hopefully, this will be the start of a profitable business relationship...

5. The perfect ending

Once you’ve returned to your caller and confirmed the name of the person or department you’re transferring them to, it’s time to complete the transfer. Remember to thank the caller for their patience and ask if there’s anything else you can do to help before you transfer them.

After you’ve completed the transfer by connecting your caller to the second party, it’s crucial to think about how you end the call. Always strive to do this politely and professionally. Make sure you’re up to date with company policy when it comes to dealing with difficult callers.

Other call transfer FAQs

What are call transfers exactly?

A call transfer is the process of sending incoming calls to other people (or voicemail). You usually do this either with a dedicated transfer button on a physical phone or by using your phone system software. You've probably been on a few call transfers yourself when you tried to get in touch with companies.

Does my company need to be able to transfer calls?

Pretty much any company that relies on phones to provide customer service will need to transfer calls. There can be many reasons for this. Maybe your company is receiving a large volume of calls and needs to get multiple departments involved to field them all.

It might be simply that your customer needs to speak to someone from a different department or someone with a different knowledge base.

To make a transfer, you generally need to include the original caller’s phone number or other identifying information. More sophisticated business phone systems will also pull up additional information for you or your colleagues, like notes by previous call handlers.

👉 Dialpad tip: Did you know that Dialpad’s Call Summary captures all the critical information on a call for you? Its Voice Intelligence (Vi) technology transcribes your calls (more accurately than Google), creates reminders of follow-up items, and more—all without you lifting a finger.

Can I troubleshoot call transfers on my own?

If you have any problems with transferring calls, it should be easy to fix on your own.

(Although this depends, of course, on your phone or contact center platform. Some are easier to use than others.)

Some service providers have great customer support and help functions available. For example, Dialpad has 24/7 customer support—and not just in the US—in addition to a comprehensive Help Center so that you can get answers anytime, anywhere.

What are the most common call transfer problems?

One of the main causes of disconnection is when callers attempt to create a loop. This means that you’re trying to transfer the call back to someone who originally transferred it. This would make the call drop.

Another rule of thumb is to check that all your equipment is functioning and up to date. Some phone systems only support certain desk phones and handsets. (You can find a list of Dialpad’s supported IP desk phones here.)

And sometimes... call disconnection can simply be caused by human error. Maybe your caller hung up by accident. It's not always your fault!

Who cares about call transfers? What are the benefits anyway?

Call transferring offers many benefits for both large and small businesses alike. Here are the three big ones.

1. It makes life easier for distributed teams

Call transferring allows teams to work from anywhere—while providing full support for customers and colleagues. When you transfer a customer to a colleague, the caller has no way of knowing if they’re in the office next door to you or somewhere else entirely.

This means that you can take calls from home as usual—just like if you were physically in the office.

2. It smooths out the edges of your customer service

We don't have to tell you how important good customer service is. Today’s customers expect a personalized and integrated experience—and that includes not having to repeat their questions on the phone to five different people.

That's why having a warm transfer feature Dialpad's Ask First feature is key. It just makes for a smoother customer experience (that doesn't make them work as hard to communicate with you).

3. It gives your business a more professional image

Whether you're a small team—or if you're the only person on the team—being able to transfer phone calls competently is one of the most professional things you can do in terms of the customer experience on the phone.

Especially if your team works remotely! Let’s say you receive a call for a colleague who’s working from home. With Dialpad, it’s easy to toggle to this colleague’s cell phone number and put the call through. The caller is none the wiser. As far as they're concerned, the transfer could’ve just been made to the office next door.

Without a business phone system, your only option would be to give out a personal phone number. It's not as professional—and opens up your team to after-hours calls on their personal phones.

Keep these top tips in mind when call transferring

Call transferring systems are like knights in shining armor for call centers. (And many other customer service functions!)

Each time your phone rings, that's an opportunity to give your caller or customer an amazing experience. And call transfers are a simple—and inexpensive—way to provide better service on the phone. Doing these seemingly little things well, and doing them consistently, will go a long way in helping you build your brand and grow the business.

Who knew that something as simple as transferring a call the right way could do all that?

☎️ Want a better way to transfer calls?

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