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Mueller and Sur-Seal: Partnering to Better Serve Our Customers


‘Customer-centric’ is no new business term, but it’s been the phrase that’s replaced the previous use of customer-service oriented or customer-focused. The new term is a more accurate description of how a company or individual can go about best serving and enhancing their customer experience. 

Gartner Marketing Glossary defines the term as follows:

Customer centricity is the ability of people in an organization to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations.

A centric approach, therefore, would include a strong emphasis on thorough communication in all of its forms, as well as the individual and collective ability to be empathetic and compassionate towards a customer’s needs and wants. 

Many organizations strive for this as they understand it’s a foundational element in long-term business success and can really drive customer retention and referrals. 

Despite being a relatively simple concept, strategizing and implementing supporting tactics can be quite challenging for many organizations. 

With that in mind, it’s inspiring and fascinating to see how Mueller has remained at the forefront of their industry for their excellent customer centricity. 

It Begins with Our Employees 

Chief Operating Officer Pete Futia, one of the most impactful influencers at Mueller for nearly 20 years and counting, has a deep commitment to maintaining Mueller’s customer-focused identity. And for Pete, that starts with building an excellent team of employees. Pete stands by the belief that what matters most is people. 

“It takes a village to win. When you find people that are passionate about serving customers and being great teammates, that shines through to customers. 

We have a saying that we want to start with ‘yes’ and mean it. When 450 people hear that slogan, it shines through. 

We don’t exist without our customers and we’re thankful for all the opportunities they’ve given us. We invest in people, not just management. 

Every single person matters in our organization, and they’re going to be part of the solution. We want to make sure we are good communicators, we have daily meetings, weekly standing meetings, monthly reviews, we meet as a management team. Everybody in the organization is communicated or touched, whether that’s a new customers or a new opportunity, we are engaging that workforce. We know what we need to do to take care of them and we rally around them. 

If you don’t have good, committed teammates you won’t last. Customers see right through it. They want what they want, how they want it. Our job is to make it seamless for them, and when we do that, we earn the opportunity to win. Not just about the converting or fabrication business, but any business.” 

Pete Futia, Chief Operating Officer 

“The secret sauce to any business is the people that are committed to a common cause that are well-communicated to what the objective is and are willing to make the effort to serve a customer or that next opportunity.”

With a strong base team in place that feels appreciated and well-supported by management and leadership, the team has the basic foundation set to deliver an amazing customer experience. 

This is where customer centricity can be executed on a daily basis, consistently across the team and at all levels. 

Fresh Ideas, Time-Saving Processes and Excellent Communication 

CEO Dana Waterman speaks to the customer-centric focus of the entire organization:

“One of [our] key strengths is that we partner with our customers to understand their specific needs and work alongside them to help them grow. We don’t just provide a component – we provide advanced engineering solutions, deep materials expertise, and added services – such as warehousing and kitting – that simplify the process for our customers.”

Having a thorough understanding of customer pain points and how to be the solution provider in those areas is a simple formula for customer-centric success. 

As Waterman points out, Sur-Seal has spent a great amount of time identifying problems and engineering solutions that the customer would have never otherwise considered. 

“Sur-Seal is known for working with design engineers during the emergence of new product categories,” boasts Dana. “For example, we worked alongside customers in the lighting industry to help solve challenges in bringing the innovation of LED lighting into the marketplace. We are highly successful at working upstream with our customers on innovations. Of course, with any new category innovation comes big challenges. We are equipped for it and are currently working on solutions in new spaces, such as EV charging.”

Chief Growth Officer John Grisdale offers similar sentiments and says the keys to being innovative are staying close to trends and being excellent communicators

“We have a lot of material partners that we work with and communicate with often and thoroughly. We stay on top of and exchange trends. The partners do a lot of their own research on trends and share observations and ideas with us, which we can pass on to our customers and partners,” John states.

“We have challenges with the supply chain and getting materials for our customers. Through it, they want us to be able to communicate and be transparent around deadlines and commitments. We find that to be an opportunity.”

Customers want communication. They need to know ahead of time so they can communicate with their customers.

We have a strong team that works close to our customers to move quickly, make adjustments, provide alternative solutions on when and what we can deliver.”

John Grisdale, Chief Growth Officer 

RELATED: How Mueller is Managing Supply Chain Shortages 

We Innovate Real Solutions 

As an expert in sourcing quality materials and providing solutions, John recalls how his team recently helped an HVAC customer to troubleshoot a problem, identify the cause, pinpoint the solution and realize cost savings and increased efficiency. 

“Our HVAC customer came to us with a big problem: they were experiencing a 25% failure rate on the manufacturing line. We learned that the source was a failure in the gasket line and the gaskets were splitting during assembly. 

Our team identified that the material they were using could not withstand high heat, pressure, moisture and chemicals. Our process involved conducting on-site testing with 6 different materials. 

In the end, a new highly engineered material was established. The new material was implemented across several models. Results were analyzed, and our customer realized immediate cost savings, manufacturing efficiency increase, plus reduced outside warranty claims due to failure of old gaskets.”

Additional Services and Simplified Processes 

In addition to innovations, both organizations provide value-added services that make the customers’ processes simpler, and also save them time and money. This is demonstrated specifically through the storage, kitting and parts assembly services provided by Sur-Seal, which are now magnified through implementation across all three site locations and distribution facilities. 

So now, customers of Mueller can enjoy the additional services, to include: 

  • Parts Assembly: If a customer has 2-3 parts that make up a larger component, we can pre-assemble them prior to shipping, saving the customer time and simplifying their processes. 
  • Storage: Customers can store parts and components on-site with us, which makes the process of shipping much faster. 
  • Kitting: If a customer has multiple components that work together, kitting is the process of pairing those components together in a bag, ready for customer use. This also saves time and money. 

The Mueller advantage lies in the following areas, which are now available to customers of Sur-Seal and Spectex: 

Better Quality Ingredients at Better Cost

Mueller has always focused on obtaining the highest quality ingredients and raw materials. Sur-Seal has a very formidable international sourcing arm. By combining these two strengths, the umbrella organization can offer the best global materials at the best price. 

Strength in Numbers 

This industry is very fragmented. There’s not a lot of room for market entry, and those that are key players have had a stronghold on their share of the industry for quite some time. Rather than fight fire with fire, the companies realized that they are much stronger together. By becoming a unified front aligned through a passionate commitment to excellent service, the strong minds at Mueller and Sur-Seal have been able to exponentially increase their knowledge, expertise, aptitude and reach by joining forces. 

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