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Kimberly Wrenn is the Service Delivery Manager at MuniBilling, where she has been working for 4.5 years. Prior to her work in the utility industry, Kimberly worked in banking for over 25 years.
In addition to her professional experience, Kimberly has lived in Turkey as a teenager and used to be responsible for ensuring that the hot doughnut signs in all US Krispy Kreme shops were communicating with the mobile app, an incredibly meaningful job for all the Krispy Kreme lovers in the world!
There are three common challenges to Utility Operations that cause inefficiencies: Data integrity & Accuracy, Technology Integrations, and Seasonal Variations.
Data integrity and accuracy is easily the most common challenge I come across and have come across in my time in this position.
Ensuring accurate meter readings, data entry and billing calculations have always been a challenge for billing departments, either in Utilities or elsewhere.
I’ve found there are a few effective strategies to reduce the Data integrity challenge. One is implementing more automated systems, like automated meter reading systems.
Utility Billing operations can also implement regular data validation checks and quality control processes to ensure that any of those automated processes don’t “run-away” or keep producing inaccurate billings.
Technology integrations is crucial to ensuring success but is equally challenging to setup. When systems are split apart and not sharing data, then moving data between those systems involves uploading spreadsheets, or worse manually entering in data points. Investing in a utility billing software that offers integration capabilities creates opportunities for more efficiency as well as more accurate data.
Finally, seasonal usage variations can cause a host of unforeseen problems, from increased customer support issues to increased operational costs. Having a system that provides robust analytics can help to accurately predict and prevent seasonal variations, giving you the opportunity to better manage those seasonal issues.
These are the best KPI’s that we use for our Managed Services Team. We leverage dashboards and meet as a team to review these numbers regularly, which is incredibly important:
These are, in my opinion, some of the best metrics to understanding a successful billing operation. They often take time to begin to measure correctly, especially if you’re not started measuring them now.
We’ve recently implemented a close measurement of our Billing Cycle Time, which helps us to gain an understanding of how effective and efficient our global operations are.
One strategy that we’ve implemented to streamline those operations in the context of the billing cycle time KPI is a standardization of billing procedures and workflows. We created a central resource where our billing operations managers could reference not only best practices for using the MuniBilling platform, but also client portal specific requirements and billing best practices.
That helped us to create documentation and give newer team members the confidence to come into the position and quickly produce bills. That helps us to maintain a standard billing cycle time and goal long-term.
We have also established dedicated process for several different common occurrence issues, such as identifying and resolving billing errors promptly, which greatly reduces our billing error rate and billing dispute resolution time.
Not only has implementing those processes decreased our cycle time, but it has also reduced errors and inconsistencies in the billing process, which then reduces our billing error rate and compliance rate.
No one can be a master of everything. In the context of the Managed Services department and our organization, we focus on creating and leveraging cross-functional expertise, especially when looking at improving our billing operations. We aim to involve experts from various departments that can bring a diverse perspective to the billing process.
We’ve found that this can lead to innovating solutions and process improvements that we may not have thought of. It also helps us to continually improve.
Collaboration between departments helps to create standardized billing processes and workflows that reduce organizational errors and inconsistencies, not only departmental inconsistencies.
Departments can also collaborate on cross-training initiatives to enhance the skills of employees involved, making the workforce more versatile and adaptable.
Focusing on customer service and communication skills are critical in any billing operations role. Being able to quickly and effectively empathize and diffuse customer support situations, especially billing situations, really does impact operational efficiency.
Developing some other soft skills, like effective communication, cross-departmental teamwork, and emotional intelligence are great places to start.
Being solid in the fundamentals of financial concepts and technologies related to billing is also critical to finding success and improving operations.
Personally, I love that my team and I can work anywhere by leveraging the cloud-based accessibility. I know I can trust that anywhere I can get to an internet connection and a browser, I can login to see a report or update some data. It seems basic, but so handy.
Kimberly Wrenn is a passionate service delivery manager for MuniBilling. If you're interested in learning more about our product and services, signup for a personalized demo of the MuniBilling system.