[Tech of The Year] Randy Miller

Features - PCT News

A Bugman Through and Through

January 22, 2010

Randy Miller combines interpersonal skills with a love for entomology to excel as a residential technician.

Growing up in eastern Oregon, PCT’s Residential Technician of the Year Randy Miller described himself as a bit of a "black sheep." "It’s cattle and lumber country and I was more academically-oriented. I was interested in biology, things like bugs, reptiles and dinosaurs," he said.

That childhood interest in insects never has left Miller, which is one of the reasons he’s become the go-to technician at the Greenville, S.C., Orkin branch. "I started at Orkin as a termite inspector and was often called upon to help other service technicians identify insects. I became more interested in residential pest control as a result."

During the past nine years, Miller has become an ambassador for Orkin, gaining the admiration of customers and co-workers alike. "Randy is truly a people person. To meet Randy is to like him immediately," says Scott Moody, branch manager of Orkin’s Greenville, S.C., office. "He is a very knowledgeable professional who will always go the extra mile for his customers and fellow co-workers."

A MILITARY BACKGROUND. Miller grew up in and around Baker City, Ore., and his father was a rancher-turned logger. Like many young men who grow up in small towns, Miller thought the military would be a good post-high school option, so he joined the Navy in 1976.

"I decided to become a hospital corpsman because medicine is biological in nature," Miller said.

In 1978, Miller enrolled in the Navy’s Preventive Medicine Technician (PMT) program in Oakland, Calif. After graduating from the PMT program in 1979, Miller went to work full time as a PMT, which provided him with some incredible opportunities to see the world. For example, Miller took part in malaria training in the Philippines.

"I became a certified pesticide applicator to treat for mosquitoes and ticks in combat or disaster areas. The Navy gave me a good background for pest control. I did a lot of sanitation inspections and disease vector monitoring. We usually contracted out to local pest control companies, so I became familiar with this industry."

Miller retired from the Navy in 1999 and began a short stint as a mosquito service technician for the state of Maryland. It was work he enjoyed, although he found it challenging to make ends meet on his salary.

DESTINATION: ORKIN. Miller came to Orkin in 2000, beginning as a termite inspector for the company’s branch office in Waldorf, Md. He was promoted to service manager two years later, and remained in that position until 2003, when he and his family moved to Wichita, Kan.

While he has had other opportunities within Orkin, Miller said he’s more comfortable running a route. "I like that you get to take a lot of ownership running a route. I like being able to build relationships to the point where your customers respect and take your recommendations. I also love dogs and I carry dog biscuits around, so that dogs can’t wait for the next time I visit."

In 2004, Miller arrived at his current location, Orkin’s Greenville, S.C. branch. He and wife Diane decided to move because they had friends in the area as well as oldest daughter, Amanda, and her family.

SIGNATURE SERVICE. It did not take long for Miller to put his stamp on service. Miller says his route "runs the gamut" from high-end homes to customers with few precious dollars to spend on pest control.

"I’ll do a lot of German cockroach control in lower-end apartments, but mostly it is a lot of ant and mosquito work, and a good rain will bring out occasional invaders such as earwigs and millipedes," Miller says.

Another major problem is a peridomestic cockroach common in the area — the smokybrown cockroach. "You’ll see them in places with a lot of leaf cover. They’ll get into areas such as gaps around chimneys."

One of the keys to Miller’s success is his ability to build value in the service he provides. "Don’t just show up and solve their problem. Take the time to write down the conducive conditions you’ve observed and communicate that back to the customer," Miller says. "Show them that you have a vested interest in getting rid of their problem and keeping it from recurring."

Miller also understands the value of building relationships with customers. "One of my customers had a son join the Marines a few months ago, so I always try to ask about him when I visit. These type of things let them know that you are a person, too, and it makes it a lot less likely they will cancel in the future."

Moody appreciates that Miller goes the extra mile for his customers to help craft a plan that best meets their needs. "He understands the pest, the products we use and everything that IPM brings to the table. He also takes into account the needs of the family, and will offer as many eco-friendly solutions as possible. In short, he customizes a plan around the insect and the customer."

A BRANCH LEADER. Miller has also been able to add his own personal touches to his route. For example, he created a grid that shows each workday of the month divided into 30-minute increments. This enables him to forecast any morning or afternoon and easily re-schedule a customer if needed. It also helps immensely with route organization. "It’s been said that organizing a route is like trying to change your oil while driving down the highway," he said. "But it has also helped me with my productivity, since I have several days each month where I will run 16 to 18 stops and put less than 50 miles on my truck."

Miller has shared this chart with co-workers to help them get organized, just one example of his willingness to do whatever it takes to help his co-workers succeed.

"Randy does the extras around the office, helping train others both at the office and in the field," said Moody. "He will meet coworkers at problem accounts when asked. He will pick up extra services to help fellow co-workers. He often shares a smile and a joke to lighten any mood."

When informed he was this year’s PCT Residential Technician of the Year, Miller was quick to share the spotlight with his co-workers. "We really have a great team here and everyone at the branch has been really supportive of the way I run my route, from administrative assistants up to the management team," he said.


Up Close

Randy Miller’s interest in insects extends beyond his day job. He also is proprietor of Critter Keeper, a traveling "creepy-crawlie" show that he says "provides memorable entertainment, education and reinforcement of traditional values to children of all ages through bug- and reptile-themed presentations."

Some of the animals that Miller introduces to children include: Julius Squeezer, a 9-foot albino Burmese python; several other snakes that he refers to as "Weapons of Mouse Destruction;" Flash, the iguana; Mr. Beasley, the Bearded dragon; Clyde, the Savannah Monitor; and a collection of live arthropods that include tarantulas, emperor scorpions, a giant Asian centipede, a vinegaroon (whip scorpion) and hissing cockroaches. All in all, Miller maintains more than 20 species of reptiles and arthropods from all over the world.

Miller takes his traveling show to a variety of venues such as birthday parties, schools, churches and scouting events. "We have fun, but we also educate. Schools love this program because I can show how science overlaps with math, word stems, geography, and character. Responsible pet ownership is always stressed." Right now, Miller says he puts on about 90 presentations a year. That includes schools, "where I can do six hour-long presentations per day as they rotate classes into me. I take vacation days when those are scheduled." Between Orkin and Critter Keeper, Miller’s free time is precious, but he enjoys spending time with wife Diane and their three kids Amanda (age 28), Stephanie (27) and Michael (24) and five grandchildren. He also enjoys reading, writing, and playing guitar.



The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT magazine