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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Telephone Operators (1414)

Telephone operators operate computerized or conventional telephone systems to advance and assist the completion of telephone calls. Telephone service operators assist, monitor and train telephone operators in the performance of their duties. They are employed by telephone companies.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Consult on-line manuals searchable by keyword to locate information for customers. (2)
  • Read memos about changes in procedures or administrative reminders. (2)
  • Read employee newsletters and notices for information about the company and career opportunities. (2)
  • Read notices about changes in compensation benefits or about new technology. (2)
  • Refer to on-line manuals using a search engine which contains area codes, emergency numbers, telephone and repair numbers, rates, policies and procedures. Operators identify the relevant information to apply to each call. (3)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Read names, addresses and phone numbers from computer screens and use phone directories and printed lists when the computer system is not operating. (1)
  • Refer to time zone maps which show locations within their time zones and area codes. (2)
  • Read production statistics graphs which show the number of calls handled and the number of keystrokes per call. (2)
  • Refer to a manual with area codes, emergency and repair numbers and rates. (2)
  • Scan a search display in tabular format with acronyms of organizations' names and abbreviations which may help in placing a call. (2)
  • Fill in on-screen forms for service complaints, refunds and callbox repairs. (2)
  • Complete forms to record technical difficulties with phone equipment such as static, inability to hear or be heard, or headset problems. (2)
  • Complete emergency response forms when an urgent call has been placed to police, ambulance or fire fighters. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write down notes and numbers when taking calls. (1)
  • Prepare lists of hard-to-find listings. (1)
  • Write trouble reports to describe equipment problems. (2)
  • Complete "customer contact" forms to give details of customer complaints. (2)
  • Complete Operator Toll Tickets to record details of emergency response calls, such as sending the police to an accident site. (2)
  • Write anecdotal comments about unusual calls in case they lead to later queries. (2)
  • Write memos to supervisors, suggesting changes to operating procedures. (3)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • Give change to coinbox customers, noting charges and subtracting them from the coins already entered in the box. (1)
  • Calculate costs for overseas calls, such as the cost of a ten minute call to Cairo. (2)
  • Calculate relevant discounts and taxes on phone calls. (3)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare their daily production statistics to the average for all operators. (1)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the cost of conference calls of various lengths and numbers of participants to advise customers on the cost they can expect to pay for calls placed through the conference operator. (2)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Interact with customers to place long distance calls and provide directory assistance or emergency routing of calls. (1)
  • Explain difficulties with technical equipment to service technicians. (1)
  • Talk to long distance operators or interpreters in other countries who are assisting them to place or receive calls. (1)
  • Communicate with supervisors to discuss production, service problems and procedures. (2)
  • Discuss work processes and schedules with co-workers. (2)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • May have a conference call disconnect in mid-conference. They establish new routings to reconnect the call. (1)
  • May be asked to find a phone number when only part of a name or an incomplete address is provided. They try alternative spellings of the name and narrow the task as much as possible using the search features of the computer system. (2)
  • May have difficulty communicating with foreign operators because of language or cultural differences. They persevere, calling upon another operator for assistance if necessary. (2)
  • May find that an excited person in distress called 411, directory assistance, instead of 911, the emergency number. They decide quickly which agency should receive the emergency call and put it through. (2)
  • May put a call through to a suicide line, only to find a recorded message. They keep the distraught person on the line until they can establish an alternative service, such as the Salvation Army or a family member. (3)
Decision Making
  • Decide when it is appropriate to terminate an abusive call. (1)
  • Decide on the most effective routings for calls. (2)
  • Decide, in exceptional circumstances, whether to charge a call from a pay phone to a number which is not the caller's. (2)
  • Decide whether adjustments to charges are justified when customers claim to have difficulties calling from pay phones. (2)
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

The pace of telephone operators' work is determined by the volume of incoming calls. Operators respond to calls consecutively, with little or no planning required to perform their tasks. (1)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember frequently-called phone numbers such as the hospital.
  • Remember details from an emergency call several weeks later in order to provide information to authorities or health-care professionals.
  • Memorize routing codes for long-distance connections.
  • Remember procedures for multiport calls.
Finding Information
  • Refer to cardex listings of conference call operators in other cities. (1)
  • Find information about policies, procedures or rates by searching a database. (2)
  • Call industry representatives to find out if they have heard of a business which is not listed in the directory or whether it exists under another name. They may do this if the person calling for directory assistance is agitated or insistent. (2)
  • Poll other operators and supervisors for advice in finding an elusive phone number. (2)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • They use a database to conduct a directory search. (2)
  • They may use e-mail to communicate with co-workers and supervisors. (2)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Telephone operators work independently, answering calls automatically routed to their positions by computer. Occasionally, they route calls to co-workers or supervisors but generally, they handle calls autonomously. Since several operators are working at the same time, they co-ordinate their workday so that they can provide relief to co-workers for short periods of time.

Continuous Learning

Telephone operators update their skills through attending in-house training seminars which focus on new procedures and practices, technology, billing systems and use of e-mail. They may take courses to improve their second or other language skills. Lead operators are encouraged to take first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses. Courses are also available for operators who wish to assume supervisory roles in the future.

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