Demanding customers bring headaches for managers


The customer may always be right, but the increasingly demanding nature of many customers these days is creating headaches for managers at all levels.

Two new studies have concluded that customers are becoming more challenging, meaning managers are having to react faster and ensure their teams are better trained if they are not to lose their competitive edge.

A poll by NFI Research has found nearly nine out of 10 business leaders believe customers are more demanding than they were a few years ago.

Nearly a third described their customers as "extremely" more demanding and more than half said they were "somewhat" more demanding.

As one manager who took part in the research said: "With new technologies, everything can be done faster, so expectations rise for speed and effectiveness from the customer's standpoint, but one still only has two hands to accomplish more work faster."

So it's no coincidence that separate research by consultancy Novations has concluded that two-thirds of organisations are also seeing a surge in demand for customer service training.

Its poll of more than 2,000 senior HR executives found nearly two thirds reporting a rising demand for customer relations or customer service training.

More optimistically, the NFI poll of 146 senior executives and managers also indicated that most managers are managing to meet the needs of these demanding customers.

Nearly two thirds of senior executives and managers described themselves as "somewhat" successful in dealing with demanding customers, with nearly a third saying they were "extremely" successful.

"Meeting customer needs will continue to be a challenge for businesses as customers can so easily switch," said NFI Research chief executive Chuck Martin.

In this fast-moving environment there was growing awareness among managers that employees may not always be sufficiently responsive or attuned to customers, hence the demand for more training, added Novations vice-president Peter Ambrozaitis.

"More employers are extending customer relations training beyond the traditional sales or call centre areas into other departments such as product development or fulfilment," he pointed out.