Answering Service Operators

You can’t always find the ‘perfect’ telephone answering service (TAS) agents on a reasonable budget, but you can find highly effective agents by looking for the right competencies. 

No, I am not suggesting that you find agents with 5-10 years of experience, although that would be great! I am talking about the competencies required for the job that don’t necessarily require experience. Of course, answering service software would make it a lot easier for operators. Find these practical skills will ensure the agent is successful at the job and will help you find a more suitable candidate for the job.

What Does an Answering Service Operator Do?

Answering service operators handle inbound calls for their clients, typically in a call center. The duties of an answering service operator consist of:
  • Taking calls
  • Transferring Calls 
  • Delivering messages to the appropriate people 
  • Relaying information provided by the company to answer questions
  • Following up with clients customers 

These are just the main job duties, but essentially answering service operators act as virtual receptionists.

Top 5 Phone Answering Skills for an Answering Service Operator

The most important answering service operator skills are:
  • Customer service skills
  • Knowledge retention
  • Rational problem solving
  • Time management skills
  • Being organized
Let’s explore them in further detail so you can know what to look for when you’re either going to start a telephone answering service business or getting new hires for your existing one.
  1. Customer Service Skills

  2. TAS agents not only represent the call center, but they also represent the companies that use the telephone answering service. Therefore, being able to communicate with customers in a friendly and helpful manner is beneficial in representing both companies well. Ensuring that the end customer has a good experience with your agents, will help to keep your clients happy. As with any business, just one bad experience can turn away a customer for good and frustrate your clients. 

    Good customer service also requires that agents listen to the customer. Good listeners will be able to help identify quickly what the customer needs, so they relay that information to the correct recipient. If the customer feels heard and understood by the agent then they are more likely to continue using the company’s services. This encourages your clients to continue using your TAS services.

  3. Knowledge Retention

  4. The ability to retain and use information appropriately is vital for any employee, but it’s especially important for agents in the telephone answering service industry. 

    TAS agents have the responsibility to learn the material provided to them by the companies that use their services. Of course the TAS agent will not be as knowledgeable as an actual employee of that company would be, however, they do need to be able to answer frequently asked questions or find the resources provided with that company to give a response.

    With most TAS software, there will be detailed scripts along with places for extra documents and important information. TAS agents should be able to quickly recall where to navigate to find information and take the appropriate steps to handle the call (ex. Warm transferring to the right contact or texting the appropriate group.)  If you have a large TAS, it’s helpful to divide up your agents between clients so the same agents will continue to get more and more comfortable and familiar with certain clients over time.

  5. Problem Solving 

  6. For every incoming call there will be a script. While most calls are easily managed with the script, we know that occasionally customers respond in ways that the script doesn’t always account for.  Often they don’t use the right terminology, and no script can account for every single scenario agents will encounter. The TAS agent is expected to have adequate problem solving skills when phone calls go off from the script or when the circumstances are unique. 

    Being able to quickly redirect the conversation or find a solution helps to make the call run smoothly even when an issue arises. Whether the solution is transferring the caller to someone else in the company to help or finding the solution themselves,  TAS agents must be comfortable and confident in their problem solving skills. 

  7. Time Management Skills and Multitasking

  8. There are a lot of moving parts when you are a TAS agent. It requires that you listen to the customer on the other end of the line, type their message/find the right documentation, and think about the next steps for the call (EX: Do I transfer the call? Who do I give the message too?). 

    Over time the agent will get a rhythm down, but it’s important that the individual feels comfortable with their time management/multitasking skills because it is a must in the position. 

  9. Being Organized

  10. With all the reminders to set, calls to follow-up on, and information to be sent/shared, someone who isn’t organized is not going to succeed in this role.

    This type of job requires someone who can maneuver the TAS software efficiently, knowing what/where each tab, button, and drop down is and does. Furthermore, being able to follow instructions in note taking and call handling needs to be done in an organized manner, so there is uniformity and a formal process.

    This also ties into time management and multitasking. The more organized the agent is with the data the quicker they are able to get the software to do the task they need it to. 

Qualified vs. Experienced Answering Service Operators

As touched on earlier, finding experienced TAS agents is great, but they are hard to find and who is to say just because they have experience that they will be excellent at their job. 

Since you don’t always have the convenience of finding already experienced agents, use our recommended list of competencies to look for as you hire your TAS agents. Having these skills checked off the list, all other training will be quickly learned, so you can focus on running your call center!

How Do You Become an Answering Service Operator?

To be an answering service operator all that’s needed is a high school diploma or a GED. Having customer service is a plus but it’s not necessary for the position. However, being comfortable talking with customers is a must-have quality/skill. Other skills needed to be an answering service operator are good note taking, effective time-management, and the ability to use the equipment (headset, computer, software, etc.)  

Hiring Answering Service Operators: Pro Tips

You can greatly expand your agent candidates by using cloud-based answering service software. This way agents can login remotely from anywhere in the country (or world) without having to obtain hardware or even download anything to their computers.

If you are looking for other must-have skills in new hires, continue reading what are the top 5 sales competencies to look for in agents.


Works Cited

Meyers, J., 2021. Answering Service Operator’s Job Description. [online] Work – Available at: <> [Accessed 30 July 2021].

Montgomery, J., 2021. 5 Sales Competencies to Look for In New Reps | EVS7. [online] EVS7. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 August 2021].

EVS7. 2021. How to Start an Answering Service Business | EVS7. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 July 2021].

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