Telephone Operator Careers

How to become a Telephone Operator

What does a Telephone Operator do?

Telephone operators, also known as switchboard operators or telephonists, are the first point of contact for callers to an organisation. They answer incoming calls, directing callers to the appropriate person or department, and connect outgoing calls, where internal staff encounter difficulties in obtaining a number.

Work varies between organisations, but generally includes connecting calls, answering enquiries from customers, reporting faults, testing lines and taking messages. Some typical types of work include:

  • college switchboard work
  • directory enquiries services
  • local government services
  • emergency response services
  • customer service helplines.

Operators normally wear telephone headsets and work at a computer. They call up directory databases and connect calls using automated equipment. The role is increasingly combined with that of a call centre operator. For further details, see Call Centre Operator.

What's the working environment like working as a Telephone Operator?

Full-time telephone operators normally work 35 to 40 hours a week. Where a 24-hour service is provided this may be on a shift system. Part-time, evening and weekend work is common.

Telephone operators work in offices or call centres. In smaller companies, they often combine the role with reception and clerical work.

What does it take to become a Telephone Operator?

To be a telephone operator, you should:

  • have good hearing and a clear telephone voice
  • be confident and polite with a pleasant telephone manner
  • be able to work quickly and accurately under pressure
  • have a good command of English
  • have basic IT skills
  • have excellent customer care skills
  • be able to deal with difficult calls in a calm, patient and professional manner
  • be aware of confidentiality issues
  • be aware of health and safety issues.

Depending on the business, multilingual skills may be required.

Telephone Operator Career Opportunities

The telecoms sector is growing and there are opportunities for this kind of work throughout the country in the public and private sector, for example, banking, insurance, telesales, hospitality and front-of-office.

Career progression would normally involve moving into supervisory and management roles, training, administration or human resources.

Further information

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