Switchboard Operator Job Description - Skills, Tasks and Career Path
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Switchboard Operator Job Description
A switchboard operator is a telecommunications professional whose main duty is answering and directing incoming telephone calls for a company or organization.
So, what does a switchboard operator do?
Switchboard operators are responsible for operating telephone switchboards. They receive incoming calls from outside the company and answer them promptly and in a professional, friendly and polite manner.
Sometimes a switchboard operator may be required to follow a specific company telephone answering policy. When answering the telephone, switchboard operators must quickly evaluate and identify the nature of the call, provide any requested information and direct the call to the requested person or appropriate department.
If it is not immediately clear who the call should be forwarded to, an operator should ask the caller for further information in order to establish the most appropriate recipient of the call. For example, if a customer is enquiring about an order, the operator will decide whether to transfer the call to the logistics and shipments department or to customer services.
If it is not possible, for whatever reason, to transfer a call (e.g. the requested person is absent or not available), a switchboard operator may take down a brief message - e.g. noting the caller’s name, surname and telephone number and the reason they are calling - and pass this information on to the appropriate department or person.
But that’s not all:
Other key tasks of a switchboard operator include keeping a log of calls received and made during the day (today, of course, this is increasingly done using a computer) and updating the company’s internal telephone directory to ensure it contains the correct numbers for the various departments and employees. They may also be required to record voicemail messages for the company’s main telephone line, for example giving the opening hours of a medical practice or the dates on which an office is closed for holidays.
Switchboard operators also carry out a range of administrative tasks similar to those performed by a receptionist or secretary, including receiving and distributing incoming correspondence, preparing outgoing letters and parcels, distributing and sending faxes, welcoming visitors and customers and enforcing access control procedures. They may also perform a number of general office duties, such as copying, scanning and filing documents of various kinds and providing organizational support with front office activities.
Switchboard operators may also work in a company’s contact center or call center, carrying out customer service duties, such as interacting with users and customers, providing telephone assistance, gathering customer data and handling administrative tasks. These duties are typically carried out using software such as customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
Where does a switchboard operator work?
Switchboard operators work for companies, offices, public and private businesses, hospitals, schools, medical surgeries and professional practices.
Contracts may be full or part time and involve working daytime, nighttime and weekend shifts, as well as public holidays, making flexibility a key requirement for aspiring switchboard operators.
Operators working for medical, police and fire emergency services switchboards need to be able to handle incoming emergency calls effectively and efficiently in accordance with specific procedures and be prepared to work rotating shifts that provide coverage 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Switchboard Operator - Responsibilities and Tasks
The tasks of a switchboard operator include:
- Operating switchboards and answering and forwarding incoming telephone calls
- Transferring calls to the appropriate person or department
- Taking down and passing on messages where necessary
- Updating the company’s internal telephone directory
- Working with front desk personnel and performing general administrative tasks
How to Become a Switchboard Operator
The minimum requirement to become a switchboard operator is usually a school leaving certificate, high school diploma or equivalent qualification. However, it may be useful to attend a course for switchboard operators and receptionists in order to learn how to communicate efficiently and professionally over the telephone and use modern virtual telephone switchboards and call management software.
Newly-hired switchboard operators typically undergo a period of mentoring under the supervision of more experienced staff or a brief period of training to gain familiarity with company procedures and ensure they learn all the skills they will need to carry out their job.
Switchboard operators may also operate emergency telephone switchboards (emergency telephone switchboard operators). Such positions typically require specialist training, as well as mentoring under the supervision of experienced switchboard staff.
Skills and Qualifications
Switchboard operators need the following skills:
- Ability to operate a telephone switchboard
- Telephone communication skills
- Ability to speak clearly and concisely
- Strong listening, interpersonal and mediation skills
- Customer service skills
- Ability to use standard office equipment (e.g. printers, faxes etc) and computer systems and software
- Organizational and problem-solving skills
- Knowledge of a second language
- Ability to work without supervision
Switchboard operators also need to be able to work quickly and precisely under pressure and handle challenging telephone calls while maintaining a calm, polite and professional manner.
Switchboard Operator Career Path
The career of a switchboard operator typically starts with a period of on the job training, during which more experienced colleagues help them to gain familiarity with company procedures and practices.
As they gain in experience, switchboard operators may take advantage of a range of career development opportunities. A switchboard operator working in an office or professional or medical practice, for example, may become an administrative assistant or secretary, while an operator working at the reception or front desk of a hotel may move into a receptionist role.
Switchboard operators working in customer service positions may advance to become team leaders and eventually rise to a position such as customer service manager.
Finally, the skills and experience acquired in a switchboard operator role can be easily transferred to a number of other telecommunications professions, such as call centre operator, telemarketing operator, freephone line operator and emergency telephone switchboard operator.
Top Reasons to Work as a Switchboard Operator
Since there are no specific requirements for a job as a switchboard operator,.access to the profession is relatively simple.
The work is especially suited to people with strong communication skills who enjoy speaking on the telephone. Switchboard operators are very often the first point of contact between a company and the outside world, so it is essential that they provide a rapid, efficient and professional service and ensure that incoming telephone calls are transferred directed to the appropriate person or department. Although the job mainly involves answering the telephone, on any given day, a switchboard operator will handle a range of different callers and requests, making the job a varied and interesting one.
Finally, a job as a switchboard operator is an excellent way to begin a career in office administration, secretarial work or customer service.