Operator Services

Operator services have changed tremendously in the past few years. The main driver of this change was the advancement of technology in automated systems, speech recognition and recording, online information databases, and SS7 service-invoking capabilities.

Today, central office switching systems can handle most of the calls that once required operator intervention. This enables operators to focus on special-need and value-added types of revenue-generating services. The typical operator services available today are as follows:

• Toll and assistance—Even in today's PSTN, operator intervention is required to complete some longdistance (toll) calls and provide general assistance. The reasons for using toll operators include accounting for coin usage in public payphones, alternative billing needs such as called party charging, and controlling guest bills for hotels. By simply dialing 0, hotel guests can reach a hotel operator who can provide room rate information, can accurately transfer calls, and can provide valuable emergency assistance.

• Directory assistance—Directory services are available by dialing a three-digit national code or an area-specific code. Directory assistance operators can search for telephone numbers based on directory listings. After the operator finds a match, he or she transfers the call to an audio response unit that quotes the number to the customer. The database search engines available to SPs are extensive and provide effective and timely responses for requesting subscribers.

• Billing services—Operator intervention is still required for about 20 percent of long-distance calls in the U.S. The bulk of this intervention is for collect calls, third-party billing, calling cards, and credit card services. The remaining 80 percent of long-distance calls are handled by automated systems, speech recognition, recording technology, and databases all linked together through an underlying SS7 network.

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