A Tradition of Excellence

Founded in 1938, CWT-Culligan was the first Culligan USA franchise. Over the last seven decades, the company has seen its share of change, but one thing stays consistent: its commitment to both its customers and employees.

The company, based in Wheaton, Ill., began by renting “portable exchange” tanks, which were installed in customers’ homes, and had to be exchanged for fresh tanks. CWT recharged the spent tanks at its regeneration facility in Wheaton. In the 1950s, the company began renting and selling softeners and filters that could be recharged at the customers’ homes, which phased out the portable exchange tanks.

Today, CWT continues to flourish under the leadership of company president Tim FitzSimons and general manger Frank Panzeca. It still rents and sells softeners and filters, plus bottle-less water coolers, and provides bottled water and salt delivery services.

WQP Managing Editor Rebecca Wilhelm and Culligan of Wheaton General Manager Frank Panzeca.

Panzeca credits the company’s long-term success to a set of goals established when the company was founded: customer satisfaction and retention through excellence in service. “I look at our business as a service to our customers,” he said. “We feel that any water concern or problem that may arise, we have the knowledgeable service personnel and equipment to solve it.”

One way CWT attains its goal is continuing to educate customers on the benefits of water treatment. According to Panzeca, this is not always an easy task, however. One of the company’s biggest challenges came when its main service area, DuPage County, was first connected to municipal water supplies from Lake Michigan. “The first thing customers thought was that they no longer needed a water softener because of this,” Panzeca said. “We had to educate customers about how the softener could still be beneficial.”

CWT continues to educate its customers today on the benefits of softeners and treatment systems. Many residents in the area continue to rely on private wells, so information on how to treat iron and sulfur odor is key. In addition, CWT helps to educate its customers on any water quality issues raised by the press, such as the recent news reports about chromium-6.

Employee education is also critical to keeping customer service high. CWT ensures that its employees stay up-to-date on the latest technology and techniques with regular training and staff meetings. “We send employees to Culligan local service trainings, and we have our own internal education program in place,” Panzeca said. “We meet every morning with our servicers and installers and discuss any situation or problem that they might encounter.”

The showroom includes antique water softening equipment.

The company has also seen changes over the years in the other component of its business—water bottle delivery. When the economy took a turn for the worse, so did bottled water sales. “The bottled water business seemed to be hit the hardest,” Panzeca said. “We responded by offering bottle-less point-of-use coolers and other special offers.” Increasing the sales of bottle-less coolers may be the wave of the future for CWT, however—Panzeca predicts that as customers look to become more environmentally friendly, bottled water will become less popular.

While CWT has been affected by the down economy, Panzeca is thankful no layoffs have been necessary. The company puts great pride in its ability to retain high-quality employees. It keeps them around not only by providing competitive wages, a good benefits package and proper training, but also by creating a family atmosphere—the reason, Panzeca said, that several employees, including himself, have been with the company for more than 30 years.

With his years of experience, Panzeca is optimistic about the future. “I see the trend toward more drinking water systems, less bottled water and more high-efficiency water softeners and wireless monitors,” he said. The company will take any new opportunities the way it always has, though. “Our goal today is the same as when the company started—customer satisfaction and retention through excellence in service.”

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About the author

Kate Cline is managing editor of Water Quality Products. Cline can be reached at [email protected] or 847.391.1007.