Types of call transfers: Cold vs warm transfer

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Any business that regularly involves phone calls will inevitably need to transfer a call. This could be because of the high volume of calls your business is receiving, or it can just be because a customer needs a different team member with more relevant knowledge to help them.

Although transferring calls as a whole is seen as a common or standard feature of modern telecommunications, not all call transfers are the same. To be more specific, there are two main types of call transfers: warm and cold.

A customer’s call in the process of being transferred to the phone of a more appropriate employee
But before we get into that, we’re going to make sure you know what you need to know about call transfers. We’re going to give you a simple and quick breakdown of:

Whether you’re a business phone veteran who thinks transferring calls is self-explanatory or brand new to the concept (especially in the context of business VoIP), you’ll get the up-to-date info you need right here. You’ll understand which types of call transfers are right for your business, and when to use them.

What does it mean to transfer a call?

Transferring a call means moving a live phone call from one user to another. It’s a telecommunications mechanism that lets you send a phone call that’s currently in progress to another phone.

If a caller reaches the wrong department or team member, you can transfer their phone call to the more appropriate phone rather than having them hang up and call a different number.

In this way, call transfers are an excellent tool for customer service and a great way to maximize your agents’ productivity. If you can connect your customers with the proper team members faster, then your agents can do their jobs better. It’s no wonder call management capabilities like this are commonplace across businesses.

The different types of call transfers

Before we get into the difference between a cold transfer and warm transfer, we should mention that these kinds of call transfers can go by many different names.

A warm transfer can be referred to as an announced transfer, a hot transfer, or a soft transfer. They’re also sometimes called attended transfers.

A cold transfer can also be called an unannounced transfer or a blind transfer.

Cold and hot, or blind and warm, however you refer to the two kinds of transfers doesn’t change the fact that the variety of names are still referring to only two different kinds of call transfers.

What is a warm call transfer?

A warm call transfer means that the receptionist will speak with the appropriate agent before they send the call to them. Meaning, the extension the caller asked for is informed of the incoming call transfer. Typically, the caller will be put on hold while the call center operator dials the desired extension. After being notified, the transfer destination can then accept the call, and complete the transfer.

Pro tip: If you’re going to be doing warm transfers, make sure you have some good hold music on the line for your customer while they wait for the transfer to be completed.

This kind of attended transfer allows your agents to learn about a caller’s issue and any background information that could be useful before they take over the call. Warm transfers give your team members the time and information they need to provide quality customer service that makes your customers feel valued.

In addition, your team members are able to give your callers a warmer welcome, perhaps even a personal greeting, instead of picking up the phone with a standard, “Hello.” A warm transfer script can be useful to keep your agents consistent and personable.

A cold transfer: Operators will blindly transfer calls

A cold call transfer doesn’t include the introduction or passing of information that a warm call transfer does. A cold call transfer happens when the caller is simply transferred to another agent without a receptionist or live agent speaking with them first. This means that the desired extension is not informed of the incoming call.

If the destination agent is not available at the time, this type of call transfer can result in your caller being transferred to voicemail.

When cold transfers are a better option than warm transfers

It might seem that warm transfers would always be the better option since they make your customers feel valued and help your agents perform. But this is not always the case. Cold call transfers are still useful in certain scenarios to move a call forward.

When a caller needs to get to a different department and their identity or the agent’s identity won’t matter,  that is a perfect time for a cold transfer. Let’s look at an appropriate example of transferring a caller cold.

Let’s say a caller made a phone call to your sales department, but they actually need assistance with a billing issue. Once your team member figures out where the customer should go, they should just transfer them to the appropriate extension. The caller doesn’t want anyone specific, they just need to connect with billing since they reached the wrong department at first.

How do I transfer phone calls to another phone?

Now that we know about the types of call transfers, we can discuss how making a transfer works. How you transfer a phone call depends on your call center management system. If your team members are operating with a desk phone, you’ll usually transfer a call with a transfer button.

We can take a closer look at how to transfer a call to a different phone by using a RingCentral-enabler deskphone as an example. Your agents will be able to transfer calls to a different phone in four easy steps. In addition, RingCentral’s software can prompt your agents with their call transfer options at every step in the process.

  1. Dial double pound or hash (##) key to place your caller on hold. After you’ve placed the call on hold, you may hear: “You have a call on hold, to return to the call, press #. TO transfer this call to an extension, dial the extension number. For more options, press *”.
  2. Push the star (*) key.
    Once you’ve pressed the star (*) key, you may hear: “To transfer this call, press 1. To cancel, press *”.
  3. Press 1.
    After pressing the number 1, you may hear: “Please enter the phone number or quick dial number (Flip Number) and then press #. To cancel, press *”.

    Note: If you transfer a call using the Quick Dial, you’ll have the option to make a warm transfer.
  4. Enter the phone number of where you want the call to transfer to and then press the pound or hash (#) key to finish the transfer.

Transferring calls with desktop software

Another option available to you would be to skip the expense of equipping your team members with physical phones and have your agents pick up the phone on their computers with a softphone instead.

With technology like the RingCentral App for Desktop, you’ll have the option to transfer your calls in three different ways.

Using the RingCentral App for Desktop: Warm transfer

Warm transferring a call with the RingCentral App for Desktop can be done in five steps:

  1. While on a call you want to transfer, click the Call Actions button.
  2. From the dropdown menu, select the Transfer option.
  3. Type the number or name of the desired transfer destination into the field, or dial the number on the keypad.
  4. Choose the Ask first button on the dial pad.
  5. After the call is patched through, you can speak with the person, and when both parties are ready, hit the Complete transfer button on the bottom of the dial pad.

Using the RingCentral App for Desktop: Cold transfer

Cold Transferring a call with the RingCentral app is easily done in four straightforward steps:

  1. While on the call you wish to transfer, select the Call Actions button.
  2. From the dropdown menu, click on the Transfer option.
  3. In the field above, type the name or number of the desired transfer destination. Or, dial the number on the keypad.
  4. Click the Transfer button on the dial pad.

Using the RingCentral App for Desktop: Transfer to voicemail

Instead of transferring the call to a live agent, you also have the option to transfer a call directly to a person’s voicemail. This type of transfer can be completed in four steps as well.

Note: Transferring to voicemail will only work if you’re transferring a call to a RingCentral Office extension, contact, or direct number.

  1. While on a call you want to transfer, click the Call Actions button.
  2. From the dropdown menu, select the Transfer option.
  3. Type the number or name of the desired transfer destination into the field, or dial the number on the keypad.
  4. Click the To Voicemail button on the dial pad.

What is the difference between a live receptionist and a virtual receptionist?

We’ve discussed the types of call transfers and how you can transfer a call by phone or desktop app, but what if you’re looking to get outside help to handle incoming calls to your business. Having receptionists for your business is a very popular solution for managing incoming calls. 

By hiring a receptionist service, you free up your agents to focus solely on providing quality customer support.

While both live and virtual receptionists are real people, it’s worth knowing the differences between the two and what they’re able to offer. You can think of them as a kind of contact or call center agent working for your business.

Live receptionists and answering services

In a live receptionist setup, operators answer incoming phone calls on behalf of your business and will typically respond to your customers according to a script. Their script should cover the basics of getting the caller’s information and taking a message. Afterwards, they’ll pass the info on to agents within the business who can attend to the customers’ needs.

Alternatively, you can consider using an IVR (interactive voice response) and ACD (automatic call distribution) system. If you have a limited staff, IVR can capture customer details and perform actions based on a customer’s voice response or by them using the telephone keypad. Then, intelligent ACD will use the data collected by IVR to automatically route the customer calls to the right staff.

Virtual receptionists and auto attendant systems

If you need more than a service that simply takes a message, then a virtual receptionist or auto attendant system would be what you are looking for. A virtual receptionist can do many of the same tasks a receptionist in your office might handle, but the difference is they work remotely. They’ll be able to answer frequently asked questions, send reminders, transfer calls, and relay messages.

As opposed to an answering service, virtual receptionists will typically be more familiar with your business and what its needs are.

A virtual receptionist answering a call from a customer on behalf of a business

An auto attendant system, like the one offered by RingCentral, can act as your virtual receptionist. It can greet your callers and route them directly to the right department or employee.

One benefit you can expect from using virtual receptionists or auto attendant systems is the cost savings. Having virtual receptionists be part of your business phone systems to answer your office phone can save you all the in-house costs of office supplies, healthcare benefits, and sick leave you normally would need to provide. Usually, all you’ll have to pay for is the time when they’re handling your calls—which is way more cost-effective.

Another great benefit of using an automated attendant with your IVR would be its customizability. Your account administrator can modify the settings from any device. You can customize greetings based on the date and business hours. Also, you can set advanced rules for handling calls with specific caller ID information, which can be useful for when a call comes in from one of your most valued clients.

A virtual receptionist or auto attendant system might be the best choice for your business if:

  • You need receptionist services, but don’t have a centralized office
  • Your business doesn’t have the budget for a full-time staff position
  • You need a service that provides receptionist services beyond taking a message

Transfer the call like a pro

Now that you know what transferring a call means and what it involves, consider improving your contact center’s phone system with more call center software like RingCentral customer experience solutions. You’ll reduce customer wait and hold times, maximize your team members’ time and potential, and speed up call resolutions. In fact, your agents will even be able to identify callers based on the incoming phone number.

Contact a RingCentral sales representative today for more information on RingCentral Contact Center and start transferring calls professionally.
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