Are chat transfers bad CX?

Chat transfers let your agents help each other out with difficult chats. They’re how your chatting customers move from first-line to second-line support. They’re the last step to get a lost customer back on track and talking to the right person for their needs.

But transfers create an extra hurdle for customers. They conjure memories of the phone transfers of old, as customers bounce from agent to agent.

This begs the question: are chat transfers bad CX?


Chat transfers

Chat transfers allow your agents to send chat sessions to other agents and teams in your business. The chatting agent needs only to click ‘transfer’, specify where to send the chat session, and the desired recipient takes the chat from there.

Chats can go to a specific agent — for instance, in the case of escalation, your first line agent can transfer the customer to their supervisor. Or you can transfer a chat to a different department or team altogether. For instance, from customer service to technical support.

From a business perspective, chat transfers facilitate cross-team support and collaboration. Relevant employees deal with relevant queries. Nobody is out of their depth dealing with a request they don’t know how to handle.

And from a customer perspective, chat transfers are a way to ensure the customer is routed to knowledgeable support. But this comes at the price of journey disruption.


A bad CX?

The issue is that chat transfers represent another hurdle for the customer; another delay in the help process. Chat transfers jar the customer journey as customers swap between agents.

It’s frustrating to be told that the person you’ve just explained your problem to can’t actually help. You’ve then got to wait for someone who can. And waiting isn’t part of our expectations for a so-called ‘live’ channel. Nor does it necessarily promote confidence in the competence of the company.

This is only exacerbated by the fact that chat transfers should be rarely (if ever) needed. Between pre-chat survey forms and skill or rule-based chat routing, the customer should come through to the right person, right away. In short, your customer routing settings work, and the only time you need to transfer a chat session is for escalations.

When you neglect to set up proper routing options and rules, it creates an extra, unnecessary step for customers. And the more they’re bounced between team members, the more of their time is wasted. Which, in turn, worsens their experience.

So, chat transfers make a bad CX when they’re due to poor routing and management. But what about more legitimate transfers?


A useful tool

Yes, some chat transfers represent poor CX. But that doesn’t mean they should be avoided altogether. In fact, used well, chat transfers don’t hurt the customer experience at all. A timely transfer can keep a chat-based support session from derailing.

If, for example, an agent is struggling with a chat, it means that they aren’t able to offer the best help to the customer. If there’s another agent better equipped to deal with the customer’s needs in such a situation, a chat transfer makes sense.

The key here is that the customer isn’t bouncing between agents, or having their time wasted. Framed right, a chat transfer can build trust. You’re escalating the chat to a supervisor. (And so taking them seriously.)

Or, you’re handing their case over to a team member that specialises in their problem — you’re ensuring they get the answers they need.

In short, chat transfers are fine when used appropriately and in moderation. For instance, for escalations. For when an issue is more complex than it might first have appeared. For times when the customer has more than one problem, and needs a different agent to continue to meet their needs.


Quick tip: keep people informed

The key to ensuring that chat transfers don’t make for a bad experience is to make them as smooth as possible.

  • Tell the customer you are going to transfer them

Never transfer a chatting customer without warning. It’s confusing and frustrating.

  • Inform the recipient agent that they’re getting a transfer

Don’t throw a customer at one of your teammates without warning. Make sure they’re aware that you’re sending a chatting customer through to them. If necessary, give them a chance to understand what the customer has said already. (A customer should not need to repeat themselves.)


Great in moderation

Chat transfers have the potential to disrupt the customer journey. Customers connect to chat for help, not to bounce from agent to agent. They want to connect to the right person in the fewest moves possible.

So, if your chat transfers are common and many, caused by poor routing rules, then yes, they make for a bad CX. But, if they are occasional, well managed and used for escalations, they’re a helpful tool at your disposal. As long as, that is, they’re handled as smoothly as possible.


Useful links

Live chat software: the unsung hero in improving employee morale

Every contact centre chat deployment needs skills-based routing

The difference between first and second line support