When people call a business, they are often referred to a customer service representative known as a communications equipment operator. The communications equipment operator then directs customers in some way to take care of their immediate needs.
Depending on the company, communications equipment operators perform these tasks: relay of all calls (incoming, outgoing, and interoffice) using a switchboard, customer assistance, message management, and possibly billing requests and emergency calls. Other titles within this field include telephone operator, switchboard operator, and answering service.
This human interaction is important and becoming a rare commodity in our increasingly automated business world. As a communications equipment operator, you may be able to care for customers in a way that electronic communications services cannot.
If you plan to become a communications equipment operator, here’s what you need to know:
- You will receive on-the-job training. Because communications equipment can vary by business, you will need to be trained for the specific equipment your employer uses. Experience with communications systems is a plus, but not necessary. Large companies may have complex call-handling processes while smaller companies may have simpler communications equipment.
- You need a high school diploma or its equivalent. Because so much of the job description comes from hands-on training, communications equipment operators can get by with a high school diploma or its equivalent. But there are certain skills you should have to be successful as a communications equipment operator. You will need to be able to multitask and handle multiple calls and inquiries at once. You should have an excellent memory and note-taking abilities. Even if your memory isn’t what it used to be, you should be able to learn or develop organizational skills because good notes are often better than working from memory.
- It’s a tough industry. How often have you as a customer been upset because you needed to resolve something with a particular company and it was a huge challenge to speak with an actual person instead of an automated system? That’s because many companies now use communication technologies for their customer service tasks. Other companies have turned to outsourcing their switchboard operating needs to save money. By the time customers talk with you, they may be either extremely relieved to hear a human voice or very frustrated and angry. As a communications equipment operator, you will likely be in the position to defuse customer anger by speaking with customers in a calm and accommodating manner, thereby helping them to have a positive experience with your company.
- Jobs are scarce. Because of outsourcing and automated systems, demand for communications equipment operators is declining sharply, at a rate of about 10 percent. This means two things: there aren’t as many communications equipment operator jobs available and there’s a lot of competition for the open jobs.
It can be discouraging to see so many jobs become automated, especially when so many of us as customers become frustrated trying to navigate automated customer service phone calls. If you are in the communications equipment operator field, you have the opportunity to provide human contact and care for the customer in a way that automated call-answering services cannot. Some companies continue to value this concept and you should keep an eye out for those job opportunities.
But here’s the good news. If you aren’t able to find many communications equipment operator jobs right now, just wait a few days and try again. The turnover rate is very high in this field, so new jobs open up all the time. Depending on your official title, you can earn from $25,000 to $35,000 a year as a communications equipment operator. If you have several years of experience or more, you will likely earn more than an entry-level novice. Higher education and customer service training courses may also increase your earning potential.