Telephone and cellphone 411 operators provide directory assistance, and must stay on their toes so they can quickly search databases, answer customer questions, and think of alternate spellings of last names, streets and businesses. Some callers feel frustrated and impatient when they dial "4-1-1" because they were unable to find the information on their own. As a result, 411 operators must be calm, reassuring and accommodating. Even though 411 operators can help callers contact police departments, fire departments, hospitals and ambulatory services, they don't provide emergency help themselves.
The job description for a 411 operator often calls for excellent customer service skills and experience with customer relations, not to mention a ton of patience. Directory assistance operators must be prepared to help callers who have complaints about their phone service and directory options. Some customers have technical concerns or billing issues that can't be solved by 411 operators. Operators might need to transfer those callers to other departments or provide phone numbers for additional service. Other callers need assistance finding phone numbers or addresses for residences and businesses. Some directory assistance operators have the authority to refund callers for incorrectly dialed numbers or inaccurate cellphone charges, or they can issue complaints for customer service experts to resolve.
One of the main aspects of a 411 operator's job description is directory search. Operators must search electronic databases and online phone books for commercial and residential listings. As a result, they must be familiar with computers, computer functions, computer applications and software programs, so they can quickly locate contact information. In some cases, a caller might have a misspelled name, business or street location and need help finding the correct spelling so she can find the information. 411 operators often think outside the box, so they can assist customers with unusual spellings. For example, a Chinese restaurant might have a different spelling than it's pronounced, or a last name might have an additional syllable.
Even though most traditional, old-fashioned switchboards have been replaced with modern technological devices, 411 operators must be able to operate current telecommunications equipment. They often operate technical circuit boards that contain multiple controls and switches, allowing them to effectively route incoming and outgoing calls. As a result, 411 operator job descriptions often list multitasking as a required job skill. Phone-service companies don't want customers to experience dropped or misrouted calls, which might encourage them to switch to another provider.
Directory assistance operators must possess strong interpersonal skills, such as communication strengths, the ability to articulate clearly, and overall friendliness. They must give concise, well-defined directives and clearly recite telephone numbers, addresses and business information. Callers will likely get upset if they can't understand a 411 operator's instructions or have difficulty retrieving the information they need. The job description might list interpersonal qualities, such as patience, kindness and helpfulness as part of the job requirements. These operators can't be all things to all people, but employers often want them to accommodate callers as much as possible.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.