Switchboard Operator Job Description

Switchboard operators answer incoming phone calls and direct them to the right person or department, answer customer questions and complaints, and direct visiting customers to various locations within the property. Hospitals, businesses, and call centers hire switchboard operators for full- and part-time shifts that can include evening and weekend hours. Switchboard operators commonly work in office environments and call centers, and do not leave this area to perform their work duties, as they must remain in close proximity to the switchboard. Switchboard operators may work independently or within a larger team of receptionists and office assistants. They primarily report to a direct supervisor.


Switchboard Operator Duties and Responsibilities

Daily duties for switchboard operators vary depending on their work environment and how many incoming calls and customers they must manage. However, there are several tasks commonly associated with the job, including:

Answer Incoming Calls

Switchboard operators answer incoming phone calls and route them to the person or department needed to properly address the customer on the other end of the line.

Clerical Tasks

Switchboard operators perform various clerical tasks, such as filing, copying, and receiving incoming packages from the post office or private services.

Take Messages

Switchboard operators take detailed messages for individuals who are not available to accept phone calls. They also retrieve voice mail messages left by customers.

Direct Incoming Customers

Switchboard operators direct visiting customers to areas within the property where they can have their needs, questions, or problems addressed.

Arrange Calls

Switchboard operators make outbound calls to various parties as requested, including international calls. They also contact multiple parties to arrange conference calls upon request.

Monitor Phone Lines

Switchboard operators monitor phone lines to see how long customers are waiting on hold and to address them when hold times become too long.


Switchboard Operator Skills and Qualifications

Switchboard operators are customer service professionals who manage multiple phone lines and perform light clerical duties. Employers hire switchboard operators who have the following specific skills:

  • Customer service – because switchboard operators interact with customers over the phone, employers look for individuals who have strong customer service skills
  • Communication skills – switchboard operators use verbal communication skills to take and route incoming phone calls, and written communication skills to take detailed messages
  • Mechanical skills – switchboard operators manage switchboards and may work with other technical equipment such as headsets and intercoms, which requires some mechanical skill
  • Computer skills – switchboard operators work with multiple software programs to take messages and perform clerical duties, which requires some computer skills
  • Attention to detail – monitoring multiple phone lines requires good attention to detail


Switchboard Operator Education and Training

Employers often require switchboard operators to have a high school diploma or equivalent, and many additionally require applicants to be at least 18 years of age. No additional work experience or education is typically required, but candidates with past customer service or call center experience stand out to potential employers.

Training is provided for this entry-level job, the length of which varies by employer. Training usually lasts no more than two or three weeks while new switchboard operators learn how to work with various equipment and memorize company phone protocols. While in training, switchboard operators work closely with a senior staff member or training supervisor.


Switchboard Operator Salary and Outlook

Information from PayScale shows that switchboard operators earn a median hourly income of $12.55. Receptionists earn $13.65 per hour, the equivalent of $28,390 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Receptionists answer phones and receive visitors, performing many of the same tasks as switchboard operators. In some companies, the two titles are interchangeable. BLS projections show industry employment will rise 9 percent through 2026. This rate is as fast as the national average.

Full-time switchboard operators may receive basic benefit packages that include medical insurance. Paid vacation days may also be provided. Part-time switchboard operators normally do not receive benefits.


Helpful Resources

These helpful resources offer job listings, training programs, workplace strategies, and other useful information:

International Customer Service Association – this organization for customer service professionals, including switchboard operators, offers free webinars, information about certification programs, online training programs, job listings, research reports, and a blog full of useful content

Operators, Switchboard Red-Hot Career Guide – learn how to answer all the interview questions that employers are likely to ask with this helpful book, which contains more than 2,500 potential interview questions

National Customer Service Association – access education and training resources and find certification programs for customer service specialists at the NCSA website

Receptionist and Information Clerk Career: The Insider’s Guide to Finding a Job at an Amazing Firm, Acing the Interview and Getting Promoted – this comprehensive career guide provides tips and advice for finding a job, acing the interview, and performing well enough to earn a promotion

National Association of Professional Receptionists – visit this website to look for jobs and learn more about the tasks performed by professional receptionists and switchboard operators

Call Center: A Focus on Customer Service – written by a customer service expert, this book was written to provide techniques and strategies for managing common situations and daily duties


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