I'm a little hoarse.
October 9, 2007 9:08 PM   Subscribe

My call center job is making my throat sad. Help?

I'm one of those people who typically doesn't do more than an hour of talking in a day (and that's under duress), but for the next six weeks I'm taking tech support calls and two days in, I think I'm already losing my voice. I'm in a heavily air-conditioned cube farm, and I can't suck on lozenges while I'm on a call because I think it'll make me impossible to understand. I have always had a pretty sensitive throat due to a lifetime of seasonal allergies, but I need to be able to talk, nonstop, every weekday until Thanksgiving, or I can't do my job.

Right now I drink about 12oz of hot coffee in the morning (becomes warm and gradually cool coffee as the morning drags on) and try to drink as much water as I can in the afternoon. I need the caffeine to be able to function as I find the job quite draining, but I'm open to different delivery methods. I have no control over the air conditioning at work, and it's still warm enough here that my apartmentmate wants air conditioning on at home too - and I think I'd be pretty uncomfortable without it, to be honest.

If you talk for a living, how do you do it?
posted by crinklebat to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stop with the coffee. I know, it's hard, but it dehydrates you and dries out your throat.

Drinking natural glycerin in water will help. And just lots and lots and lots of water--but I've always found it's better closer to room temp than cold.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:19 PM on October 9, 2007

I would do a lot of things that keep singer's voices in tact.

Wear scarves all the time.
Get a vaporizer or something that pumps out steam like a vicks steam inhaler.
Don't smoke.
Drink more tea with lemon and honey than coffee. Tea will relax your throat while coffee will make you tense up.
posted by spec80 at 9:19 PM on October 9, 2007

At my call center job the best course of action is throat coat tea. The kind I use is from Traditional Medicinals. I would skip the lemon, as it *seems* like a good idea in theory, but in practice seems to irritate my talking-parched throat more often. Try to keep to a cup of coffee in the morning (and if you're positively dying, one in the afternoon). Cups of water in between cups of hot throat coat tea. Eat some ice cubes on break. You will pee. A lot.
posted by SassHat at 9:22 PM on October 9, 2007

This is going to sound like a joke, but it is not: when the person you are talking to is responding to you, go "hmm" quietly in an affirmative response.

Humming and yawning are relaxing to and therapeutic for the throat muscles; getting in the habit of gentle, conversation appropriate "hmm"ing is not going to have much of an impact on an individual basis, but over the course of days and weeks you'll be helping your throat muscles stand up to the abuse.

Also, make sure your headphone mic is properly placed so that you can attain the highest volume (into the mic) from the lowest volume (produced by you.) In an environment where you and others are all talking, and people on the other end of the line are likely agitated, you're probably speaking much more loudly and stridently than you really need to. Think of it like this: if you had headphones on with cranked, distorted music on, you'd be screaming to be heard, even though there was no need. Similarly, the voices around you (as well as on the phone) form a background cacophony that pushes your own volume level up.

how did we get even four comments in without someone yelling "telemarketing is evil"? Wondrous.
posted by davejay at 9:41 PM on October 9, 2007

I kept a small pretty dish on my desk to store my lozenge during calls when I worked at a call centre. Hot herbal tea was one of my choices, but then, sigh, my bladder filled, and toilet breaks were frowned on. Try to talk as low as you can (volume), the phone (hopefully headset) should be able to pick up your voice, even if you can't hear it over everyone else's.
posted by b33j at 9:42 PM on October 9, 2007

"telemarketing is evil"
I'm taking tech support calls

I put away my hittin' stick when I saw that. Tech support has it rough.

posted by spec80 at 9:44 PM on October 9, 2007

Tech support is a rough gig, you're lucky to only be doing six weeks.

Hydration is important. Steer clear of the coffee, go with tea or not too cold water. Dress warm, the AC in call centres tends to be way too powerful.

Those headsets usually have a decent mic in them, get it nice and close to the corner of your mouth, and bring up the volume so the callers can hear you.

You can probably tuck a lozenge into your cheek when you're on a call, or get a small dish as b33j suggested. I almost always had a candy or lozenge in my mouth on calls and didn't have any trouble.

Good luck!
posted by jjb at 10:04 PM on October 9, 2007

Happily, since I am only here for a short time and this definitely isn't a permanent gig, I'm not as averse as I otherwise would be to taking a few extra minutes to go to the bathroom if I drink too much tea. So I'll definitely look into some - I have had Throat Coat before (actually used it for allergies in high school!) and may or may not be able to find it here. Lozenge dish is a good idea - I don't think I have enough space in my mouth to tuck away a lozenge. I don't think I can bag the coffee (I've been addicted for half my life, and I'm 22...yeah, I know) but I'll keep it to one cup a day and try to drink it fast so I can start hydrating ASAP.

Keep 'em coming, I look forward to implementing some of these ideas. And, yes, this stint has given me a whole new perspective on tech support. Be kind to them, it's a job that's stressful to the point of being physically draining.
posted by crinklebat at 10:42 PM on October 9, 2007

Your fingers may get sticky from lozenge travel, so keep wet wipes (or whatever you call them where you are) handy too.
posted by b33j at 11:20 PM on October 9, 2007

Drink lots of water. And look after your general health - it might seem bad now but it'll be a million times worse if you catch a cold or get the flu!
posted by dcbarker at 12:07 AM on October 10, 2007

Make sure you're hydrated before you start talking -- take it easy on your voice first thing in the morning.

Make sure you're not slouching while you talk; good posture encourages good breathing, which encourages better voice production.

Any caffeine is a little rough; if you can handle doing herbal tea - without hibiscus (no red or lemon zinger tea - stick with mint or chamomile or rooibus) -- that's really best. The warm tea will also help your voice warm up.

Your vocal chords are like muscles; using them roughly, without warming up first, is hard on them. Also using them while swollen (caffeine) is hard on them.
posted by amtho at 7:06 AM on October 10, 2007

Throat Coat Tea, a favorite of singers and DJs.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:39 AM on October 10, 2007

I just heard about this a few days ago, and I swear it works: as soon as you start to feel your voice going, eat a banana. Do not follow it up with water or any other liquids, and it should prevent you from losing your voice.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:44 PM on October 10, 2007

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