When Steve Schneiderwind goes home at night, he doesn’t do puzzles. As Miller Electric’s Service Manager, he solves scheduling and service conundrums all day long. It’s stressful at times, but every day is different and he wouldn’t change that for the world.
“Many days, I come in to work expecting to do something and 15 minutes later the whole schedule is blown up,” Schneiderwind says. “Something changed. A customer canceled something. It’s raining. You need a backup plan for everything. It’s challenging, but I love it.”
With Miller Electric since 1986, Schneiderwind has seen a lot of change during the course of his career. Technology has changed. The company has grown. The electrical service department has increased from seven full time workers to more than 20 and administrative assistance.
A lot about electrical service has changed, but some things have stayed the same.
“I began driving a service truck for Miller Electric more than 30 years ago and today, I’m still serving some of the same customers as I did at the beginning of my career. It’s rewarding. Today, people might find us by Googling, electrical company near me instead of opening the phone book, but they still know Miller Electric has a reputation for excellent service.”
Along with daily variety, a stellar reputation has remained constant over the course of Schneiderwind’s career.
“I had heard Miller Electric was a good company to work for,” he says. “They had a reputation for treating their people right and doing good work. When the company I was working for at the time ended up closing, a friend of mine who I had gone through apprenticeship with recommended I check out Miller. The first four years I worked electrical construction projects in the field and then, in 1990, I was asked to drive a service truck. I had never done anything like that before but my manager at the time trusted me and gave me an opportunity to see if it was a good fit. Turns out it was.”
Schneiderwind Gets Out of the Electrical Service Truck and Into the Office
In 1997 when the previous manager passed away, Schneiderwind took over management of the Service Department. What began as an interim position proved yet again to be an ideal fit as Schneiderwind discovered he enjoyed scheduling and sourcing the department with the right guys to get service calls done quickly and to customers’ satisfaction.
“The department has grown a lot in the time I’ve managed it and a lot of that has to do with the growth of Miller Electric overall. We’ve managed that growth well because we trust each other.
“My guys know I’ve been in their shoes so the fact that I used to drive a service truck and respond to calls helps them trust that I know what I’m talking about when I recommend taking a certain tool or electrical service approach. They know I have their best interests as well as the customers’ interests at heart. I believe in them and they believe in me. Overall, that has probably been the single biggest contributing factor to our success.”
Trust is Mutual Among the Electrical Service Crew and the Customers it Serves
Customers have come to trust Miller Electric’s service department to handle any need, no matter how unusual or critical. Schneiderwind remembers one incident a few years ago where his team brought resolution to a particularly tragic arc flash situation.
“We had a call come through our 24-hour service line at about 5 a.m. from a customer who had experienced a service outage after an electrician from a different service company suffered an arc flash incident. I followed one of my service electricians to the site.
“A good size explosion had knocked out a Sprint cell phone facility downtown, which resulted in a large number of people in that area not being able to get cell coverage. As soon as the Fire Department let us in, we devised a plan to resolve the situation and get the facility back up and running. From the time we received the call to the time power was restored and the facility was working again, about nine hours had passed.
“About two weeks later, we got a letter from Sprint thanking us for getting them up and running. We were glad to have taken care of the customer, but it was also a sobering reminder for all our guys of the danger inherent to our work. We used it as an opportunity to remind everyone again to wear proper PPE and follow all the safety protocols we are regularly trained in.”
Diverse Skill Sets and Winning Attitudes Lead to Positive Outcomes
Unexpected circumstances and last-minute calls are the norm for the electrical service department, so Schneiderwind tries to handle them as efficiently as possible by sending the right guys to each service call. Sometimes that means pairing up more experienced electricians with newer ones.
“We get calls from customers asking us to service electric issues on everything from lighting repairs to outlet moves. A customer will call because a breaker tripped or they need a new circuit for a printer. On each call, I try to find a guy with the right skill set and who can respond the quickest. I try to get more experienced guys paired up with younger ones whenever possible.
“The younger guys can learn from the more experienced guys’ skill sets even as they pass on their knowledge of the latest technology.”
While all electrical service workers must have excellent customer service skills and enjoy interacting with people, Schneiderwind sends his crew out on different calls to discover what they are particularly skilled at.
“I’ve had some guys tell me that they’ve never done a particular task before and so I’ll send them out with a guy who can help him gain that skill so that now two guys can service that type of issue when it comes up again instead of one.”
While the work changes daily, one constant Schneiderwind sees is the need to feel comfortable thinking on one’s feet and solving problems spontaneously.
“It takes a special guy to go out and figure stuff out. Not everyone can do it. Electrical service guys have to be able to figure out ways to fix problems on site and often, independently. I’m thankful to have such a wide mix of guys at different stages of life who all enjoy independent problem solving and working with customers as much as our guys do. It gives me confidence that we can resolve any problem our customers encounter with speed and excellence.”