Telephone Operator

Job Duties

Telephone operators are the human side of telephone-based communication systems. They operate electronic consoles based on the needs of customers they speak with over telephone headsets. They listen to the customer, determine exactly what the customer requires, and then translate that requirement into electrical signals. Many telephone operators work for telephone companies where they serve as directory assistance or long distance operators. Director assistance operators talk with customers who are requesting specific numbers of businesses or residents. They pull the numbers up on a computer and then read the number to the customer, all as fast and accurately as possible. Long distance operators execute calls that are person-to-person, collect, reverse charge, overseas, or conference long distance.

Operators who work for telephone answering services answer calls on behalf of the company’s clients. For each client, operators have a specific “answer phrase” and a file that contains information they can give out to the callers. Sometimes they write sales orders, make appointments, or perform other simple tasks for the client. Private branch exchange operators work for commercial, industrial, or government institutions. They screen and transfer calls to the appropriate individuals. Sometimes they make outgoing calls for employees. In smaller organizations, they may also execute other office duties, such as typing, filing, or sorting.

Job Skills

Telephone operators need to have a clear speaking voice. They need to be able to spell correctly. They should have good manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. They need to be able to work quickly and efficiently. They also need to have normal vision and hearing.

Income

Earnings for telephone operators varies depending on experience, amount of responsibility, and geographic location. In larger metropolitan areas, operators typically earn higher wages. Service operators earn between $1,200 and $2,300 per month. Private branch exchange operators earn between $950 and $1,900 per month. Most work a typical 40 hour work week. Some facilities are open 24 hours, and their employees work swing and graveyard shifts. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health and other insurance, and retirement plans.

Training and Education

Many employers of telephone operators look for candidates who have 6 months to a year of experience in jobs that involve some public contact. Other employers prefer those with at least 1 year of experience as an operator. Some companies give applicants tests related to the job, as well as physical examinations. Those applicants who are fluent in another language besides English may have an advantage. Depending on their job performance, as well as the size and location of the organization, telephone operators may advance to clerical and office positions. This usually requires some additional training or experience in office work. Usually, the larger the firm, the better opportunities for advancement. Visit this page about trade schools for more information on related careers.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of telephone operators is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Automation of the occupation hampers job growth, but most automation has already occurred. Touch-tone features, voice synthesis, computerized call handling devices, and the popularity of cellular phones will all reduce demand for operators. However, the overall growth of the economy will counterbalance this trend and demand for operators should stay about the same.