Career Development

What Does a Telephone Operator Do?

Find out what a telephone operator does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a telephone operator.

Telephone operators are responsible for handling incoming and outgoing calls to a company or organization. They answer phone calls, route them to the appropriate department or individual, and take messages when someone is unavailable.

Telephone operators may also be responsible for providing general customer service over the phone—answering questions about products or services, resolving issues with billing or account information, etc.—but their primary responsibility is handling incoming calls in an efficient and effective manner.

Telephone Operator Job Duties

Telephone operators have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Handling incoming calls to answer questions, refer callers to other departments, or transfer them to specialists
  • Receiving incoming calls and routing them to the appropriate department or individual
  • Responding to incoming calls in an appropriate manner, based on call type and content
  • Helping customers use the phone system by providing information about rates and services offered by the company
  • Performing clerical tasks such as filing or data entry
  • Providing information about products or services over the phone, including ordering items or scheduling appointments
  • Assisting with internal communications by answering phones and relaying messages within the organization
  • Providing post-call follow-up to ensure that customers have been satisfied with the experience
  • Processing incoming faxes and email messages and forwarding them to the appropriate person

Telephone Operator Salary & Outlook

Telephones are an integral part of a telephone operator’s job. They use these devices to connect callers to the people they are trying to reach. In addition to telephones, operators may also use computer software and other equipment.

  • Median Annual Salary: $36,000 ($17.31/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $64,500 ($31.01/hour)

The employment of telephone operators is expected to decline over the next decade.

The widespread adoption of cell phones and other types of mobile devices has reduced demand for landline telephone service. As a result, fewer telephone operators will be needed to maintain the same level of service. In addition, some states have allowed competitive local-exchange carriers (CLECs) to enter the market, which may reduce the need for traditional telephone operators.

Related: Telephone Operator Interview Questions and Answers

Telephone Operator Job Requirements

A telephone operator typically needs to have the following:

Education: A high school diploma or GED certificate is often a minimum requirement for telephone operators. Some employers may prefer an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business or communications.

Training & Experience: Many telephone operators begin their careers as customer service representatives or call center agents. These roles provide the necessary training to become a telephone operator. Training for these roles typically includes instruction on how to use a computer and phone system, how to transfer calls, how to use a phone system and how to use a computer to find information.

Certifications & Licenses: While certifications are not required for a candidate to qualify for a telephone operator role, they can help you compete for available positions.

Telephone Operator Skills

Telephone operators need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are a necessary part of a telephone operator’s job. You should be able to clearly relay information to customers and coworkers. You should also be able to listen to and interpret information from customers and coworkers.

Attention to detail: When taking calls, a telephone operator must be able to listen to and understand the caller’s request. They must also be able to read and write information accurately. This skill is also important when recording information in a database.

Computer and typing skills: Computer and typing skills are essential for telephone operators, as they are responsible for taking messages, entering data and recording information. It’s important that you have strong computer skills and can type quickly and accurately.

Organizational skills: As a telephone operator, you may be responsible for scheduling appointments, entering data into a computer and maintaining records. Organizational skills can help you perform your job duties efficiently and effectively.

Customer service: Customer service is the ability to interact with customers in a friendly and helpful manner. As a telephone operator, you’ll be expected to provide excellent customer service to the people you speak with. This means you’ll need to be friendly, knowledgeable and willing to help customers with any questions they have.

Telephone Operator Work Environment

Telephone operators work in a variety of settings, including large telephone companies, small businesses, hospitals, and hotels. They typically work in well-lit, clean, and quiet offices or cubicles. They spend most of their time sitting in a comfortable chair and talking on the telephone. Some telephone operators may be required to work in a standing position for long periods of time. They may also be required to work in a noisy environment, such as a call center. Telephone operators typically work a 40-hour week, but they may be required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work overtime to handle a high volume of calls.

Telephone Operator Trends

Here are three trends influencing how telephone operators work. Telephone operators will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Rise of Voice-Activated Technologies

The rise of voice-activated technologies is quickly becoming a popular way to interact with devices. This trend is being driven by the increasing popularity of smart speakers, which allow users to control their home automation systems and listen to music using only their voice.

As voice-activated technologies become more popular, telephone operators will need to learn how to work with these new devices. They will need to be able to understand customer requests and provide the appropriate support. In addition, they will need to be familiar with the latest features and updates so that they can help customers get the most out of their devices.

Telephone Operator Roles Will Evolve

The role of the telephone operator is evolving as businesses look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

As technology advances, businesses are finding new ways to utilize telephone operators in roles that were not possible just a few years ago. For example, some businesses are using telephone operators to handle customer service calls, while others are using them to manage data entry tasks.

Telephone operators who are able to adapt to this changing landscape will be in high demand in the years to come. By learning new skills and developing new abilities, they will be able to stay ahead of the competition and find success in any industry.

How to Become a Telephone Operator

A telephone operator career can be a great way to get started in the communications industry. It’s a stable job with plenty of opportunities for growth, and it offers a chance to work with people from all walks of life.

As a telephone operator, you’ll answer calls, take messages, and handle customer service issues. You’ll need to have excellent communication skills and be able to deal with a variety of situations calmly and professionally. You’ll also need to be able to work independently without supervision.

Advancement Prospects

Many telephone operators start their careers as customer service representatives, call center agents, or telephone salespeople. With experience, they may move into positions such as team leader, supervisor, or manager. Some telephone operators may also advance to other customer service or call center positions, such as training coordinator or quality assurance specialist.

Telephone Operator Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we are the first point of contact for our customers, and it is our job to make sure they have a positive experience. We are looking for a telephone operator to join our team and provide outstanding customer service. The ideal candidate will have experience working in a customer service role, excellent communication skills, and a friendly and professional demeanor. He or she will be responsible for answering incoming calls, routing calls to the appropriate departments, and taking messages. The telephone operator will be the face and voice of [CompanyX], and as such, must be dedicated to providing the best possible experience for our customers.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Answer all incoming calls in a professional and courteous manner, using proper telephone etiquette
  • Route all calls to the appropriate party or department in a timely and efficient manner
  • Take accurate messages for parties who are unavailable, and ensure that messages are delivered promptly
  • Monitor the company switchboard, and take appropriate action in the event of an emergency
  • Keep updated records of all extensions and phone numbers for the company, as well as any changes or updates
  • Assist callers with questions or concerns, providing information or transferring them to the appropriate party as needed
  • Handle all customer service inquiries in a friendly and helpful manner
  • Remain calm and efficient under pressure, while maintaining a high level of professionalism
  • Follow all company policies and procedures regarding telephone use and operator protocol
  • Update the company directory and other reference materials as needed
  • Notify the appropriate party of any system outages or technical difficulties
  • Perform other related duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Friendly and professional demeanor
  • Ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office, with aptitude to learn new software and systems

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Previous experience as a telephone operator or in customer service
  • Bilingual (fluent in English and another language)
  • Working knowledge of PBX systems
  • Experience managing schedules and appointments


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