Warm Referrals: A lower-tech approach to one-call

Providing customers with a one-call experience can be as simple as implementing a warm referral procedure for transferring calls.

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This week I’m writing about something that has been on my mind for a while: lower-tech (relatively) alternatives that build one-call infrastructure for non-drivers looking for transportation options.  I’m assuming most of my readers know what I mean by “one-call.” For those who don’t, CTAA provides a helpful primer on the “one-call/one-click” concept. The basic idea is to provide a one-stop shopping experience for customers who are looking for a ride.

In my consulting practice I have come across a number of mighty proposals to build  systems that aspire to provide an “Expdia.com” experience for human services transportation trips. Indeed, FTA recently awarded over $60 million in one-time capital funding to build one-call/one-click systems. While I fully expect trip planning software to eventually move toward online multi-modal trip booking, I think there are other simpler technologies that are often overlooked in the rush to build new systems.

Implementing Warm Referrals

Providing customers with a one-call experience can be as simple as implementing a warm referral procedure for transferring calls to partner agencies.  A warm referral is accomplished using the attended transfer function on an upgraded business phone.  The process places the caller on hold while the receptionist dials the number of the agency to which the call is to be referred.  With the caller’s permission, the receptionist can transfer information given by the caller verbally to the referred agency.  Once the referral has been completed, the caller can be fully transferred to the new agency, thus eliminating the need for the caller to provide the same information twice.  From the caller’s perspective, this process can be accomplished by dialing a single number, even if the first number dialed was the wrong one.  This approach is often referred to as a no-wrong-door approach.

In order for no-wrong-door systems like this to work, agencies need to know and have access to information about other programs in their area.  Distributed information and referral data is critical to facilitating a warm referral.

While simple on the surface, this approach accomplishes much more than simply providing a one-call experience for the caller. Warm referrals also increase interaction between agencies which helps to build trust and teamwork. As we all know, trust and teamwork are essential ingredients to effective, long-term coordination.

Do you have a warm referral policy?  Do your phones allow for attended transfers? Share your thoughts and experiences with warm referral in the comments below.