How to Effectively Utilize “The Hand-off” for Better Service Delivery

“Sorry, I can’t help you because this isn’t my department.” How many times has a customer service agent given you this excuse? And how many times have agents simply transferred your call or walked away from you without any additional help or explanation? A business associate recently relayed the following story.

Real World Story: This past weekend I went shopping at the dreaded orange box hardware chain. I started to feel apprehensive as I drove closer to my local store. Customer service experiences at this chain have nearly always been dismal in the past. But, man, was I surprised on this last trip. And it was a GOOD surprise!

Once at the store, I walked up and down the nails and screws isle looking for what I needed to complete a house sub-flooring project. I had samples of the screws that I needed, but I couldn’t quite find exactly the right product. A service agent walked by, so I stopped him and asked for help. He was more than gracious, but eventually he said,

Warm Hand-off

“I’m sorry, but I’m not very familiar with the products in this department. I work primarily in gardening. May I call an associate who has more expertise to help?” When the more experienced agent showed up, the first team member gave him all of the details about the project I had already explained. Wow, I didn’t have to repeat myself to someone else! The new agent picked up right where the first agent left off and proceeded to give me additional details like what type of drill bit I would need to purchase if I didn’t already have one to complete my job as fast as possible. The handoff from one service agent to another was flawless. I couldn’t have been happier with the service I had just received from both agents.

This was a pinch-me moment that caused me to look around the store and think to myself, “I AM at Home Depot, right?”

Strategies that Turn it Around:

  1. Explain the situation. Let your customers know when and why you’re not the perfect person to handle their requests. Explaining the “why” achieves the greatest understanding by your customers. Explaining also makes your customers know that you have their best interests in mind, and that you’re not simply trying to avoid helping them.
  2. Inform your customer beforehand. Letting customers know that you need to transfer them or hand them off to someone else—before you do so—will help to avoid confusion. Preparing customers to know what follows in the transaction process, especially when someone else is required, allows customers to know they are important and not a problem to be solved.
  3. Recap the situation. Let your team members know what you have already covered with customers before you make any transfers or handoffs. You don’t want your customers having to repeat everything they just explained to you. Recapping allows for smooth transitions in the customer service experience.
  4. The Handoff. You always want to make customer service experiences flawless, especially when you need to refer customers to other team members who have the necessary experience and expertise to help best. And just because you don’t have the necessary expertise to help every customer does not mean the service experience has to be less then perfect for your customers.

Remember: It’s perfectly fine not to have the right answers every single time. But when you need to transfer or handoff customers to other team members, you can do so in an effective way that keeps the service experience enjoyable and memorable.

What do YOU say to customers when you need to transfer or hand them off to other agents in your company? Please share your comments and stories.