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Lindsey Hudock is a product manager with years of experience in managing software development. She draws inspiration from a variety of places, both in the industry and outside of the industry, to oversee the product roadmap for MuniBilling.
For today's Ask The Expert blog, we'll be diving into Lindsey's favorite product features, product development process, and decision making frameworks.
This is a weird answer since most clients want to avoid these, but I love our late charge templates.We’ve developed a great group of features that elegantly and empathetically handle disconnects that entities can use to communicate with their customers effectively.
A not-so-secret benefit is that these templates can also do so much more than just late charges because, at its core, it’s just a communication feature.
Users can set account-specific templates up to do so many other communication types than just late notices, and a lot of our user base generates communications for their needs.
We continue to see that customer communication is a massive challenge to a lot of our clients, so having those templates are valuable to solve a common problem.
We depend a lot on client and market feedback, both from our external clients as well as our own internal clients. We pride ourselves on listening and responding to our customers, so when we look to prioritize and develop solutions, we want to base them on what our clients are telling us.
We’re incredibly lucky to be a software company employing billing experts through our managed services arm. We’re essentially a nationwide utility entity, so we’ve seen and heard a lot about solving problems for our managed services clients.
That feedback is crucial to understanding market trends and actual use cases, and we love to develop features to solve those common issues.
We also have developed processes where every new feature or product optimization is rooted in real user stories. That allows us to prioritize our development to solve real-world problems we hear from clients.
As I mentioned, we emphasize a lot of decision-making from what we see and hear through the market and user demand. So, we always check to ensure all features can be rooted in solving those REAL problems.
We leverage actual and fictional user stories to ensure that these solutions solve real problems for real people.
The worst thing is to develop a software feature that doesn’t solve any problems for our clients or is too complex that our users don’t use it.
We also need to consider all opportunities from a cost-analysis perspective. So, when we’re looking to prioritize specific features, we want to look at how much engineering investment it takes to build out a feature, what the market viability of the solution will be, and if that value compares to the level of investment that’s needed to produce it.
We also try our best to quantify the impact and urgency of features to determine the impact on the current client base and new market potentials. As you can imagine, there’s an endless supply of unique and life-changing feature ideas, but it’s hard to normalize all those dreams and ensure they get into our engineering queue appropriately.
Understanding the impact on clients and how urgent the need is to solve helps us turn those dreams into reality.
We must be incredibly careful about rolling out new features and be very clear when we make changes since so many organizations depend so critically on our software.
Since we’re dealing with not only our client’s data but their customer’s data, we take that responsibility incredibly seriously inside our team.
We understand that if we’re off fractions of a penny or get a rounding error in the wrong place when determining usage data, that could mean the difference between hundreds of customer calls or, worst case scenario, a family having to choose between paying their utility bill and putting dinner on the table.
Because we come up with so many great ideas, developing features and rolling them out quickly is very tempting. But when dealing with something mission-critical, we MUST have restraint and consider the impact from all angles before rolling it out.
That takes time and intentionality.
It’s funny, but I’ve started looking at my own bills in a whole new light…. not because I love to pay them…. but because I get inspired by how I’m getting my own personal bills and want to understand that process deeper so I can learn from others outside of the industry.
I’ve gotten really into looking at my banking and phone system’s online payment portals. I see how they’re laying out different tabs or presenting different data to see if I can learn from them and improve our experience.
My eyes are a lot wider when experiencing user flows and the intuitiveness (or sometimes lack thereof) of how these systems work while still maintaining a high level of security and accuracy.
I also sign up for webinars for different products, even if they’re not in the utility space, to learn how different industries are launching & positioning products, implementing artificial intelligence & machine learning, and building deep reporting & analytics capabilities.
I wouldn’t be signing up for these if I didn’t want to position our product as unique in the industry. Looking outside of what utility billing competitors are doing is a great way to get inspired and think about how others maintain success.
I’ve also been inspired by how some organizations leverage empathy in their product development. When you have a system that touches so many lives, it’s critical to take ownership of their experience and think of that user experience in a new way, even in something so regular as utility bills.
Can I say every feature inside of our product? There are so many that it’s hard to choose just one!
But seriously, entities should leverage the reporting features and functionality.
Our system collects so much data that, in an unstructured view, people can easily get overwhelmed by the information.
Our system may be the only one in an organization that collects tenant history, parcel usage history, or even billing rate history. Seeing and learning from that data is critical for organizations to understand the past and make informed decisions about the future.
Extracting data is another exciting feature that opens much more detail and information. Since we collect so much data, it’s challenging to create a report for every kind of variable. Our system does a fantastic job of giving users control of their data through exporting into all sorts of different formats
We believe in not holding your data hostage, so we want to allow you to solve problems anywhere you need and be there to help consult on those big questions.
I think when you pair the correct data with someone who can help to interpret the data, like our client success team, you can make a difference in an organization by helping to make them more efficient, or more profitable, or whatever the organization’s goals are.
Lindsey Hudock is a passionate product development manager, overseeing MuniBilling's product development and roadmap. If you're interested in learning more about our product and services, signup for a personalzied demo of the MuniBilling system.