As our group does customer satisfaction research for different clients, I’ve noticed that "getting answers without transfers" has been growing as a key driver of satisfaction in customers minds. Transfers are a necessary evil in todays business environment, and the larger the company the more likely it will be that customers must be transferred.
Your customers will never be excited about having to be transferred, but you can minimize customer frustration and how badly they penalize you by consistently doing a few key things:
- Whenever possible, "soft transfer" (a.k.a. "warm transfer") the caller. This means that you place the caller on hold, call the person or department to whom you’re transferring the caller. Provide the caller’s name (account/order number, if applicable) and briefly state the reason for the call. Now, the next agent can pick up the call, personally greet the caller and let the caller know they understand the reason for their call. Another variation is for the initial Customer Service Representative (CSR) to actually conference the customer in with the next CSR and introduce them: "Mike? Thanks for holding. I’ve got Barry on the line. He’s our specialist. I’ve told him about your problem and he has your account up. You’re all set!"
- Many business can’t "soft transfer" or refuse to do so because it would mean people sitting on the line in queue with the customer until another agent picks up. The lost time and revenue aren’t justified. In that case, it’s imperative that the CSR who initializes the transfer informs the customer where they are being transferred and what they can expect. Are they being transferred to a department or a specific person? Will they go into a queue? Will they have to navigate an IVR menu? Will they possibly go into voice mail? What information should they be ready to provide the next person? Anything you can do to prepare the customer for what they will experience will help soften the blow of the transfer.
- Apologize. As I’ve written elsewhere on this blog, customers want two things. They want the issue resolved, but they also want to know that you care. Transferring them is not going to immediately resolve their issue and they are likely not going to be pleased to have to sit on hold and explain themselves all over again. What you can do is let them know you care about their frustration. A simple, "I’m sorry, but that is not an issue I normally handle. Let me get you to a specialist in that area." It may not make them happy, but it communicates that you identify with the fact you can’t resolve their issue.