Colleen Figg

Smooth operators?

2008-12-10 08:38

Colleen Figg

I'm a bit arrogant about switchboard operators because, having been one myself, I know it's really easy to answer the blinking telephone and doesn't require a degree in order to do the job properly and well.

I find I get quite annoyed with people who can't do this extremely simple job decently and often get embroiled in bitter conflicts with rude operators who don't seem to realise that they are paid to do what they do! Instead they seem to think that they are conferring a privilege upon us by answering the phone.

But today I want to talk about the various kinds of telephone operators there are in the world. They can all be quite amusing, in their particular ways.

The Hearty Type

She is usually over forty, and is extremely efficient to the point of aggression.

Usually will answer the phone in clipped and precise (and quite loud) tones and before you've got out who you want to speak to, transfers you, again with that hearty brand of violent efficiency.

This type will consider the switchboard to be her personal domain and views those who pop in to answer the phone (if she isn't there right at that minute) to be intruding upon her territory.

Helpers are dispatched with jolly heartiness, very quickly.

The Sexy Type

These are the dolly birds who are very cute and young and like to think of themselves as super sexy and on top of things.

They usually like to put on a fake accent that they think makes them sound sophisticated and give convoluted greetings like this: "MrAndrews'officeSimonespeakinghowcanihelpyoutoday?"

You can't make out a bloody word they've said and I generally take great enjoyment in bursting their artificially efficient little bubbles by grimly demanding that they repeat themselves. This takes the wind out of their cute little sails, entirely.

They are usually to be found filing their nails and flirting with the salesmen and will happily hand over the switchboard at any time to anyone who wishes to answer it.

They are purely decorative and usually take at least a year before they know the CEO's extension number off by heart, but for the rest of the staff they have to continually consult the telephone list - well, that's what it's there for isn't it?

The Arrogant Type

This kind can come from any walk of life and look like anybody else. However, what sets them apart is that they are under the mistaken impression that anyone who rings in, is imposing upon their time.

They tend to answer the phone in tones that imply that you shouldn't have phoned, but since you have they'd better get rid of you as fast as possible in order to continue reading their tabloid magazine.

This type often puts you through to the wrong person, because, quite simply, they don't give a continental damn whether you get through or not, as long as you are not making demands on their time anymore.

The Nervous Type

This type can comprise very young ladies or very old ones.

The young type probably had overbearing parents who were forever telling her she couldn't manage the simplest tasks. She will eye the phones nervously and with shaking hand, answer, and smile skittishly at you while she does so.

Invariably this type drops calls, puts people through to the wrong extension and dissolves into tears when someone on the other end bullies her. She usually leaves after day 3, claiming a nervous breakdown. The older types are from the "we are really nervous of technology and prefer the old plug-and-pull telephone systems we worked on in the fifties" school of thought.

They differ from the YNT in that they are very game old birds and wade into the thing with alarming inefficiency and continually make the same mistakes, no matter how many times you try to correct them.

If more than one call comes in at a time, they get extremely nervous and also tend to drop calls, put calls through to wrong extension, or more likely, lose calls altogether. ("I don't know what happened", is a refrain you get used to, from them).

However they never leave until they are prodded out by managers who have had enough! And when they finally pack their stuff and go the air echoes with them saying they really don't know what the problem was, they would have learned the system eventually.

What type have you got at work?

Send your comments to Colleen.

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