Job Descriptions, Definitions Roles, Responsibility: Communications Equipment Operators

Most communications equipment operators work as switchboard operators for a wide variety of businesses, such as hospitals, business support services, and employment services. Switchboard operators operate private branch exchange (PBX) or voiceover Internet protocol (VoIP) switchboards to relay incoming, outgoing, and interoffice calls, usually for a single organization. They also may handle other clerical duties, such as supplying information, taking messages, and announcing visitors. Technological improvements have automated many of the tasks handled by switchboard operators. New systems automatically connect outside calls to the correct destination or automated directories, and voice-mail systems take messages without the assistance of an operator.

Some communications equipment operators work as telephone operators, assisting customers in making telephone calls. Although most calls are connected automatically, callers sometimes require the assistance of an operator. Central office operators help customers to complete local and long-distance calls. Directory assistance operators provide customers with information such as telephone numbers or area codes.

When callers dial “0,” they usually reach a central office operator, also known as a local, long-distance,or call completion operator. Most of these operators work for telephone companies, and many of their responsibilities have been automated. For example, callers can make international, collect, and credit card calls without the assistance of a central office operator. Other tasks previously handled by these operators, such as billing calls to third parties and monitoring the cost of a call, also have been automated.

Callers still need a central office operator for a limited number of tasks, including placing person-to-person calls or interrupting busy lines if an emergency warrants the disruption. When natural disasters such as storms or earthquakes occur, central office operators provide callers with emergency phone contacts. They also assist callers who are having difficulty with automated phone systems. An operator monitoring an automated system that aids a caller in placing collect calls, for example, may intervene if a caller needs assistance with the system.

Directory assistance operators provide callers with information such as telephone numbers or area codes. Most directory assistance operators work for telephone companies; increasingly, they also work for companies that provide business services. Automated systems now handle many of the responsibilities once performed by directory assistance operators. The systems prompt callers for a listing and may even connect the call after providing the telephone number. However, directory assistance operators monitor many of the calls received by automated systems. The operators listen to recordings of the customer’s request and then key information into electronic directories to access the correct telephone numbers. Directory assistance operators also provide personal assistance to customers having difficulty using the automated system.

Other Communications equipment operators include workers who operate satellite communications equipment, telegraph equipment, and a wide variety of other communications equipment.