Balancing “Swoopers” and “Peckers” in your Customer Service Team

With a happy balance, you’ll have a team that is able to handle high-volume situations, but still have the focus and care to work with individual customers to understand their problems.

Everyone had that friend in school that procrastinated while everyone else stressed … and still got straight As every time. The good news is: we aren’t in college anymore, worrying about turning papers in on time. The further good news is that these people still exist in the professional world and, if you aren’t one, you probably have one on your customer service team.

Yes, it’s good news. Though it may seem that a workhorse who can churn out a great deal of work in a short period of time is the only type of employee that you might want, finding a balance can be an incredibly important way to make sure that all of your customers have a uniformly good experience.

So, whether you were (or are) the person that spent four hours in the library writing a paper that took all of your friends several days to finish, or the person that prepared for months for your final presentations, there’s a place for you on the modern support team.

I’ve decided to call these two types “Swoopers” and “Peckers” after an anecdote that my graduate thesis advisor told me about theses writers: “Peckers” are the people who type out just a few sentences (or words even), and then painstakingly go over them again and again until they are sure that everything is in its place.

“Swoopers” are individuals who swoop down on a topic, write out everything on their mind, and then give a precursory glance over the piece before sending it out with minimal editing.

In support, this presents itself as someone who is able to write 100 emails in the time that it takes their colleagues to write 20. However, speed is not always the name of the game.

Here are some positive aspects and areas for improvement for both Swoopers and Peckers, as well as how to identify and manage your type of employees.

How to identify your type

Here are a few things to consider when trying to determine where you or one of your customer service team members might be on the spectrum from swooping to pecking. While it might be tempting to want all Swoopers on your team, it is important to have a good balance between the two—we’ll get into why a bit later.

How fast do you type?

This might seem like common sense, but how fast do your employees type? Swoopers tend to be fast with their decision making and, because of that, can usually type faster—they’re often typing the words as they are thinking them! On the other hand, someone who types more slowly can be more intentional with their words.

Because it takes them longer to type, they can often reassess whether what they are typing is exactly what they are looking to say. They are also, out of necessity, more likely to go back and look for errors in their typing or logic.

What is your confidence level?

For many employees, as they get more confident with the product, their support responses also come more easily. Just as with typing (where someone who has been typing for longer or is more familiar with the keyboard can type faster), if you perceive yourself as being knowledgeable, you will be more successful in your responses and selected methods of resolution.

As a manager, I almost always expect a new customer service team member to move slowly and be a “Pecker” as they ramp up to speed. After they’ve successfully onboarded, though, their actual type will shine through: were they slowed by their need to learn the material, or are they, by nature, more methodical and suited to handling certain types of tickets.

How do you solve problems?

Do you like solving problems where you need to come at it from one angle, and focus on solving that one issue, or do you prefer coming at something from all angles and, once you find the one missing piece, everything falls into place?

Swoopers are more innately skilled at understanding surrounding context, whereas Peckers have to work harder to understand the big picture. Because of that, Swoopers like to exert effort laying out all of the information at the beginning of solving an issue, and then letting the rest fall into place. Peckers prefer to uncover things slowly as they go.

About the Swooper

It might sound like Swoopers are the ideal employee: they ramp up quickly, and accomplish a lot of things in a short amount of time. They are able to multitask well, and because they are so quick on their feet can often be thinking about many different things at once.

For example, at any given moment they might be thinking about the current ticket that they are working on, a conversation with a co-worker about common bugs last week, whether the ticket they’re working on is related to a bug that was brought up this morning, and maybe even what they want to eat for lunch. They are masters of context. While for some people this probably sounds exhausting, for a Swooper it is second nature.

The downside

Despite sounding like they are some kind of high-bandwidth, ticket-machine wonder pony, there are some issues with Swoopers that can be balanced out on your team by including Peckers.

Uncomfortable in the passing lane, when a Swooper senses that something is slowing down, their instinct may be to move to another project or stop putting emphasis on completing it.

Similarly, Swoopers like to be involved in lots of things at once, which is great for team collaboration, but can also mean that they spread themselves so thin as to be a detriment to their own productivity and health. A big “jack of all trades, master of none,” the Swooper’s ability to execute can be their own worst downfall.

That procrastination that worked in university doesn’t always work in the business world. When other people are depending on things moving forward at a steady pace, or if something unexpected happens, Swoopers can be left with a lot of unfinished work, leaving others in the lurch.

Managing Swoopers

If you have Swoopers on your customer service team, it is especially important to pay attention to their time management. Here are a few things that you can do to keep Swoopers on track, and protect them from themselves:

  • Ask them to keep track of how much time they are spending on each of their objectives each week
  • Balance projects for your team versus projects for outside teams
  • Encourage them to set three key objectives or focuses—otherwise they may end up over-promising and under-delivering
  • Keep track of individual customer satisfaction scores to see if their speed comes at the price of an excellent experience

Swoopers are an excellent addition and can be a huge help with moving forward large projects while still helping keep the inbox down. Helping them manage their time better gives them the opportunity to let those traits shine.

About the Pecker

Peckers are great troubleshooters, and will very often be amazing technical additions to your customer service team.

Their deep focus and commitment to perfection allows them to track a bug to its end, and then provide an eloquent and polished answer to your customers. They are excellent for helping to maintain a unified team focus, and peacekeeping with their coworkers. Peckers are more cautious than their Swooper brethren, which means that they are generally very considerate and helpful team members.

Because of their diligence, they are also good conduits between development/technical and customer-facing teams.

The downside

Peckers can sometimes get so mired in trying to dive deep on an issue that they can have trouble recognizing that the value of their effort may be diminishing over time.

For example, if a customer emails in a confusing, one-off issue, a Pecker might spend hours trying to solve it. While it can be a good use of time to dig deep on certain issues, Peckers have trouble discerning what those might be. Similarly, Peckers are perfectionists and might not want to put something out into the world until they perceive it as completed—this can cause a lag on launch times and deadlines.

Lastly, because Peckers function best while being able to wholly focus on something, they can become quickly overwhelmed in a loud office or on busy days.

Managing Peckers

Just as with Swoopers (and everybody), time management is hyper-important. In your meetings with your team members who are Peckers, have them keep track of how long they are spending on each objective that they are tasked with.

  • Let them know it’s okay to have the inbox as a “home base” but that they are expected to contribute elsewhere as well.
  • Give them ownership of a specific project or aspect of the team to play to their singular focus. For example, a technical escalation position that requires more continuous deep dives and less context-switching.
  • Ensure that all team members are aware of the best working conditions for themselves and those around them—this can be especially important for Peckers, who can become derailed quite quickly with overstimulation.

Where Swoopers help to churn through high-volume tickets with ease, your Peckers are able to go through and handle customers with white gloves. They are excellent in customer success roles, relationship building, and technical escalation.

Conclusion

No team can function with just one type alone—you’ll need both Swoopers and Peckers to ensure your team’s success.

With a happy balance, you’ll have a team that is able to handle high-volume situations, but still have the focus and care to work with individual customers to understand their problems.

Managing to the strengths and personalities of your individual team members will help both them and you perform to the best of their individual archetypes and really drive your team and its goals home.


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Mercer Smith-Looper Mercer Smith-Looper

Mercer is the Head of Support at Appcues, a yoga fanatic, and strives to make the world a little bit happier one customer at a time. You can find her at mercenator.com and on Twitter at @mercenator.

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