Starting April 15 Operator Assistant to Automate Access to Faculty & Staff Phone Extensions

Rebecca Dewey
Monday, April 8, 2013 - 11:00am

On Monday, April 15th 2013, Tufts Technology Services (TTS) will upgrade the interactive voice recognition service currently used on both the Medford and Boston campuses main switchboard to a new service called Operator Assistant. Operator Assistant uses state of the art voice recognition technology that allows callers to speak the name of the person they are trying to reach in order to connect without the assistance of a live operator.

Operator Assistant enables callers to reach an extension day or night, simply by speaking the name of the person they’re trying to reach. Currently, callers must enter a 5-digit extension, listen to a menu that lists all departments in the university, or connect to an operator for assistance.   By switching to Operator Assistant, callers will no longer need to enter extension numbers and the list of departments will be eliminated. Operators will still be available during normal business hours, 9 am-5 pm Monday through Friday.

John McKiegue, Manager of Telecommunications, explains, “The update will eliminate the need for menus and callers can directly reach someone without an extension.  Calls will always be answered on the first ring and each caller will be asked, ‘Who would you like to reach?’” If the caller says something other than a name recognized by the directory, they will be routed to an operator.

Currently, 80% of calls are routed to faculty and staff directly through the 5-digit extensions according to McKiegue. He hopes that this service will allow even more calls to be directed to the recipients, “leaving the operators free to deal with more in-depth or difficult questions and calls.”

Operator Assistant will be linked to the Tufts Whitepages, so it will have an up-to-date list of faculty and staff names and extensions.  Students will not be included in the directory.  The service will also recognize nicknames, so if a caller asks for “Bill Smith” they can be connected to “William Smith.” The service provider also attempts to help accommodate multiple pronunciations of names. A database has already been created with faculty and staff pronunciations of their own names from their voicemails. This database of 5000+ names will be augmented with any failed attempts that are recorded by Operator Assistant.

Faculty and staff phone

McKeigue and the telecommunications staff are excited about the upgrade. He notes that the service will be “a real enhancement to the main switchboard to create full-time, round the clock access.”

Prior to Monday, April 15th, you may wish to edit the contact information displayed in your White Pages entry as the number listed in the directory will determine how callers may reach you. Instructions for editing your White Pages entry are available on the at