Going through the options offered by a high quality answering service company can be confusing at times.

There are so many offerings, and many that sound a lot alike. Take, for example, call patching and call transfer. Both of these result in a caller being connected with an extension at your office, so what does it matter which one you choose? Is there really a difference?

Call Patching and Call Transfer: Like Night and Day

The differences between call patching and call transfer are like night and day when it comes to how your business is perceived by your customer base. Call transfer is the basic issue, but it can work well for no-nonsense types who don’t like a lot of fanfare.

Call patching, on the other hand, is a little more involved. Here are a few of the main differences:

  • Call screening. With call transfer, your answering service operator or virtual receptionist will answer the phone and ask the caller for the extension they want to reach. Then they’ll transfer them through to that extension without question or hesitation.

    On a call patch, however, the operator will ask a few questions, learn a bit about the caller, then dial the requested extension. This allows the operator to screen calls if there’s a problematic caller who shouldn’t be transferred under certain (or any!) circumstances.

  • Caller introduction. Because call transfers are a simple process of answering the phone and transferring the call, there’s no opportunity for introducing the caller to the destination extension. They’re simply dropped in the laps of the people answering the extensions.

    A call patch, on the other hand, allows customers to feel like they’re being personally assisted in their call, since the operator will keep them on the line as they introduce their call to the requested extension and stay on the line with the caller until they’re certain that the connection has been made. It’s a small thing that can mean a lot to a caller.

  • Customer service opportunities. Call transfers are simple, basic transactions that give you little or no opportunities to extend additional customer service to callers. On the other hand, call patches can be huge customer service opportunities. For example, if a caller tells the operator that they want to speak to a particular person who happens to not be in, the operator might be able to suggest someone else in the department who can handle the same problem the caller has, or provide information on when the wayward employee will return.

Depending on the type of business you’re running and how you typically handle your customers, either call transfer or call patching could be the better fit for you. Call patching will generally cost a little more, but it can also make your callers feel like they really matter, especially if you generally deal with retail customers. On the other hand, you can save a little with call transfer, and if your main callers are other businesses it might save some aggravation to cut out the song and dance and just transfer those callers directly where they want to go.