Customer-centricity is nothing new. Whether you’re a CEO or a business student, we’ve all been told time and time again that we need to focus on customers. So, why am I here writing yet another article about the importance of being customer-centric? Haven’t we all heard enough about this topic? I believe no matter how much you read about customers or interact with them, there’s always more to learn. In this piece, I’ll be taking you through my views on customer-centricity as a current Country Manager of Pierlite New Zealand and former General Manager of Sales.

Where there’s a need, there’s a business. Customers and clients seeking products or services are at the heart of every business. Pierlite is no different. For us, the satisfaction of our customers is what defines everything we do. Some people ask me, as country manager, why am I so focused on clients? Don’t we have a dedicated sales and customer service team for that? While it’s true that Pierlite has talented and passionate customer-facing employees, the sales and service departments aren’t the only ones thinking about customers on a daily basis. Our customers shape the goals and tasks of every other department at Pierlite. 

Personally, I find it hard to believe that a business can be truly successful without this sort of customer-centricity. We must be continually adapting areas such as our products, services, marketing campaigns, and advertisements to cater to our customers – whether they’re returning customers or potential customers. Almost every industry is built around its customers. For example, whether you’re in engineering, IT, hospitality, construction, retail, or entertainment, your source of income will be from your clients or customers. Therefore, they should be at the heart of every department in your business.

While no two customer bases are the same, many business competitors have overlapping customers. That’s why it’s essential to prove to your customers that you can serve them best. Every business does this differently, but there are some common ideas of customer-centricity shared across many organisations. This includes developing a complex understanding of your customer base’s identity.

At Pierlite, we research our customers’ needs and wants through methodologies such as market segmentation, behavioural observation, and industry and competitor analysis. These methods allow us to consider our customers through a diverse lens and to celebrate them as individuals, rather than as a singular identity. 

We also seek feedback, good and bad, directly from our customers and partners. This enables us to get to know our customers on a personal and qualitative level. When it comes to understanding your unique customer base, you cannot simply rely on academic journals, third-party statistics, and desktop research alone. At Pierlite, we love talking to our customers, not just about our products and services but also about their day, their interests, hobbies, lifestyles – pretty much everything down to their favourite coffee spot. Having this information in the back of our minds allows us to have a genuine relationship with our customers that no online research could provide. 

We are very fortunate to have such high levels of feedback and information shared with us by our wholesale partners. One of our large clients conducts annual internal surveys across their branches. They openly share the feedback from this survey with their network, which includes Pierlite, allowing us to identify what we can do better for them each year. Another wholesaler partners with us for their national roadshow. This gives us an opportunity to have genuine discussions with their staff and customers in a low-pressure environment. I’ve found that in relaxed environments, people can be more open and honest with you, which is an excellent way for us to get sincere feedback.  

Getting feedback is one thing, but acting upon the criticism is another. I’m lucky enough to have a responsive and passionate sales team that love feedback as much as I do – I honestly believe we have the best sales team in the industry. Our sales team take each and every piece of customer feedback seriously. Their dedication to constant improvement never fails to impress me. Even when criticism is blunt and harsh, our sales team never views the situation negatively. Instead, they are excited to reinvent their processes to ensure customer satisfaction.

Criticism is also a fantastic chance for the entire Pierlite team to align with customer needs, deliver better solutions, and develop even greater products. It is a privilege to gain insights on what’s working, and what’s not from different branches and contractors. Through our commitment to constant advancement and customer satisfaction, Pierlite is well on its way to being the most flexible, nimble, and customer-centric branded lighting supplier in the country.

At Pierlite, our primary customers are wholesalers, and we work closely with them to ensure their extended network of customers are satisfied. Our wholesaler customers might include wholesalers who stock Pierlite products on shelves right through to ones that work on key industry projects across the country. We also interact with a variety of other customers throughout the year, including end-users of our products. No two customers are the same. So how do we ensure that all of them receive the service and solutions that they need from us? Excellent customer service and high-quality products are a given. Pierlite also go above and beyond to ensure our customers receive the best solutions to their problems. One way we do this is by closely working with electrical contractors, electrical consultants (such as engineers or designers), developers, and installers. By partnering with a range of industry experts, we can recognise and support the needs of the project, asset owner, and client. 

As a result of having such a diverse customer base, we need to adapt the way we respond to customer needs and how we measure our efficacy across different customers. For one of our wholesalers, stock availability and responsive customer service are the key measures. For developers and consultants, having clear information that is readily accessible and 100% reliable is key. For contractors, the top factors we cater to are the importance of easily installable products, products that are designed for local conditions (such as the more volatile power supply that regional New Zealand often has), and products that are easily accessible.

Customer service doesn’t only fall on our sales team. Every department at Pierlite is focused on the same goal of maximising customer satisfaction. Currently, Pierlite’s Operation Manager and their team are working with one of our largest clients to ensure we create the best possible solutions for the client. We also have an in-house marketing team based in New Zealand that allows us to create specification documentation made for clients and tailored to the products that we use. As another example, Pierlite also has an in-house Lighting Design team that enables us to create full project solutions and options. This reduces the workload for consultants while ensuring that the most current and innovative ranges are being offered. Our team is adaptable, communicative, and organised to ensure that our customers receive an abundance of whatever they need most. 

Every business is different, and “going above and beyond” for your customers may not involve working with electrical consultants. Think about how your business supports its customers. Are you conducting adequate research? Are you asking customers what you can do better? Do you always have your customers’ best interests in mind? Maybe you’ve already discussed this in a business meeting you attended a few years ago, or maybe it’s already written down in a company brief. However, if this is the extent to which you assess your customers’ identity, then it’s not enough. Customer needs and desires change all the time, even if it’s only on a minor level. Strong businesses recognise and adapt to these changes accordingly. Just take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, when unprecedented public health orders were put in place, people’s needs changed. Some businesses became redundant, many shifted their products and services online, and others changed their entire marketing strategy. At Pierlite, we focused on streamlining remote communication with our customers, as well as creating intelligent lighting solutions that would directly address COVID-19 and help keep communities safe, such as Pierlite Connect

Pierlite is constantly working on innovative new projects to meet our customers’ current and future needs. For many businesses, it can be daunting to plan for a future project as it takes up time and resources and without any immediate benefits. However, if your business knows your customers as well as we know ours, you may find that the benefits outweigh the risks.

At Pierlite, our complex knowledge of our customers allows us to understand the long-term needs of a project. Therefore, the success of our projects, such as Pierlite Connect, far outweighs its immediate cost as customers are receptive to the product when it launches. It’s this preparedness that sets Pierlite apart from our competitors – we often know what our customers need before they do.

Setting yourself apart from competitors is a key part of developing a strong customer base. Every business wants to outperform their competitors and be the first choice for customers. Like everything else in business, surpassing your competitors requires customer-centricity. At Pierlite, we stand out from our competitors because we understand our customers. For example, we are unique because we have international expertise as the Pierlite Group is a global brand, however, we operate based on our New Zealand ethos. Therefore, we can offer our customers globally leading technology while adapting our products and services to a specialised New Zealand environment.

Furthermore, we outperform our competitors when it comes to customer convenience. We focus strongly on ensuring our wholesalers have a balance between the stock they have on hand and their supporting sales output. While many companies would deliver three months’ worth of stock to wholesalers to save on costs, Pierlite partners with our wholesalers to create initiatives that will sell out products. This creates in-store demand, which provides an effective solution for our wholesale partners and their customers. This ethos is reflected across our New Zealand-based customer services team that actively seeks alternatives and solutions to best support our customers.

Another way Pierlite outshines our competitors is through our thorough and efficient production network. At Pierlite New Zealand, we have our own warehousing facility and assembly teams. This allows us to be highly responsive and adaptable to customer needs – we modify products, take returns, manage deliveries, split products, or consolidate into job lots. I believe that this sort of customer-centric warehousing network is what keeps our customers returning to us. We have that perfect balance of having innovative technology, accessible and available products, fantastic warranties, and the commitment to serve customers better than any of our competitors.

I believe Pierlite is one of the most (if not the most!) customer-centric companies in the industry. That’s why I’m passionate about sharing Pierlite’s perspective on customer-centricity, and how we continue to ensure customer satisfaction. The possibilities are limitless when you actively seek out customer feedback and commit your business to meeting the current and future needs of your customers. One of the highlights of being Country Manager of Pierlite New Zealand is being able to see every department work together towards the shared goal of keeping customers happy.