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A telecommunications operator answers telephone calls, provides relevant information to callers, and routes calls to the appropriate parties. A professional might work for a telecommunications provider, call center, private company, or emergency services organization. The specific duties of a telecommunications operator vary by job setting, though most professionals are required to quickly and accurately help calls reach their desired destinations. Recent advancements in automated technology service limit the number of new jobs available for operators, though many industries still depend on skilled professionals to handle complex tasks.
Many call centers and telecommunications companies staff operators to manage large volumes of incoming calls. A professional at a call center or telecommunications provider usually receives an inbound call, determines who the caller is trying to reach, and connects the call with the aid of a switchboard or computer transfer program. A telecommunications operator might provide directory assistance or specific information about collect and long distance phone calls. Some operators work at relay networks for deaf and hard-of-hearing services, transcribing spoken and written messages to facilitate phone conversations between two parties.
A telecommunications operator may also be employed by a hotel, office building, hospital, or a private corporation to direct phone calls. An operator is usually in charge of a multi-line phone system, answering lines and transferring calls as appropriate. In companies that utilize automated systems, an operator might be responsible for ensuring that such systems are kept in working order. A caller who has difficulties with an automated system can usually select an option to speak directly with a telecommunications operator, who can answer questions and direct the call correctly.
Emergency services providers depend on competent telecommunications operators to quickly answer and manage large volumes of incoming calls. Operators might work at police stations or public safety call centers, such as 9-1-1 dispatching centers in the United States. When a person calls about a crime or an accident, the operator usually records the conversation and gathers as much information as possible. He or she then patches the call through to the appropriate authorities or dispatches emergency personnel to the caller's location.
There are generally no set educational requirements to become a telecommunications operator, though most professionals enter the field with customer service experience. Employers usually prefer to hire individuals who are able to speak clearly, work independently, solve problems, and learn new computer programs. Most new employees receive formal, on-the-job training for up to one month before working alone. Individuals who wish to work as emergency dispatchers may be required to hold certificates or degrees from specialized training programs, which are offered at many community colleges and vocational schools.
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