What Does a Telephone Operator Do?

Telephone operators take calls from customers who are typically looking to contact an individual, business or organization for which they do not have a telephone number. Telephone operators check a variety of telephone directories and other information resources to help callers find a current contact number for a second party.

Telephone operators work with computers and telecommunications equipment. They typically spend the full length of their work shift sitting at a desk. Operators sometimes deal with unhappy, rude or otherwise unpleasant callers and must keep a professional demeanor at all times.

Telephone operators must have excellent interpersonal communication skills, including strong speaking and active listening skills. Critical thinking and analytical skills are also crucial for performing well in this occupation. Some positions may demand fluency in a foreign language such as Spanish. Most positions require initial tests to determine suitability for the work, which often include both listening and speaking exams.

Many telephone operators work directly for telephone companies, whose customers can call in for assistance by dialing 0 or another toll-free number. Telephone operators also work for medium- and large-size businesses and organizations, taking phone calls from customers and routing connections to the appropriate office. These telephone operators may also handle interoffice telephone communications.