Think about what it's like to be in a long-term relationship: you've spent time talking about your wants and needs and you've built up that comfort level - but you still need to put in effort to impress each other and work towards being your best selves, right? That's how we at Amilia like to think about our customers, and why partnering with them to improve our products is so important. We believe that working directly with our customers is the best way to ensure that we are meeting their ever-changing needs.
Our Access Management solution is one such example of collaboration between the product team and our customers. By gathering feedback from our customers, we were able to take a feature from 🙁 to 😍!
We sat down with Laila Salah, the Product Manager who worked on this solution, and five collaborators (customers who actively participate in the product development process) to chat about what draws them to play an active role in product development and why Access Management is key to their daily operations.
Why collaboration matters…
“We usually have a rough idea about how we can improve our solutions through insights collected by our various teams, but interviewing customers really helps us either confirm or refute those insights,” says Laila.
Choosing who those collaborators are is equally important! “We try to get different perspectives across the various industries we serve so we don’t develop stuff based on just the loudest voices. We like to ensure that future development meets the needs of as many customers as possible,” she adds.
Why our customers are thrilled to participate…
Participating as a collaborator has its advantages because it is a way to influence how the solution evolves. “It’s a way to make sure it’s right for our organization. If that requires a little extra work from us to help get it right, then we're willing to do that. If it's one of those things where we didn't have any say, and then it's rolled out and we realize, well, this doesn't work for us at all – I’d feel like I missed an opportunity there,” explains Hunter Hardeman, Recreation Supervisor at Grapevine Parks and Recreation.
It’s a way to make sure it’s right for our organization. If that requires a little extra work from us to help get it right, then we're willing to do that. If it's one of those things where we didn't have any say, and then it's rolled out and we realize, well, this doesn't work for us at all – I’d feel like I missed an opportunity there.
– Hunter Hardeman, Recreation Supervisor at Grapevine Parks and Recreation
For Charlene LeRoy, Recreation Supervisor at Town of Erie, it was all about the data. “We use attendance tracking heavily – it’s a really big deal for us. We’re able to get the data from the new reports of how many visits happen per day, per month, and know how many people are in the building. That’s been huge – using that data for decisions on opening hours, staffing, and budgeting.”
What working with Amilia’s product team is like
Given our team’s iterative approach, our collaborators often get to witness the solution evolve from mockups to fully functioning features. Hunter from Grapevine shares, “I love that the new access management has that little sidebar that pops up every time someone scans in. It shows you the last couple times they’ve checked in, admin notes, and anything that we may need to know. It’ll give an error message and the reason someone is blocked – it was ‘cause they had a balance owed. It makes our front desk staff’s life a lot easier. It was really cool that we got to say how it would help us in our daily operations and then to see a lot of those things come to fruition.”
Having an open line of communication with our product team really helped Michelle McGhee, Facility Manager at The Trails Recreation Center. “Laila kept us up to date on everything and listened to what we were saying. Having easy access to expiration dates, showing us how many visits were remaining on the punch passes – that was big for us. She stayed right on top of those small yet really important improvements.”
The impact of collaboration
We often hear our customers say they decided to go with SmartRec to grow participation through online registration or for our exceptional customer support. But we didn't realize how highly they valued being able to play an active role in our development process.
After all, finding the right solution is key to long term success. Laura Cousineau, Owner at U.N.I Training shares, “It was super important because we simply could not find a software that made sense for our business because we do so many different things. We have a clinic side, we have group classes, personal training. I think that was a big part of it – knowing that you were very open to working out solutions for our business.”
On the other hand, Town of Erie was fed up with rigid solutions. “Our previous software provider was such a large company, they would say, oh this feature might come out in x months, but we didn't get to talk to a person necessarily. They wouldn't be ready if we needed the Ferrari. One of the selling points for Amilia was like, oh we don't have the Ferrari yet, but we do have the Honda Pilot. We could see those small improvements being made on the way to the Ferrari,” explains Charlene.
For Michelle from The Trails, having flexibility mattered. “We felt like we'd be able to grow with Amilia by working together – make it a system that's really going to meet our needs for a long time. The other systems we looked at were pretty established, and we just felt like we'd have more flexibility and a say in how yours developed.”
We felt like we'd be able to grow with Amilia by working together – make it a system that's really going to meet our needs for a long time. The other systems we looked at were pretty established, and we just felt like we'd have more flexibility and a say in how yours developed.
– Michelle McGhee, Facility Manager at The Trails Recreation Center
Laila, our Product Manager, emphasizes the importance of understanding our customers’ pain points. “Our process is iterative because we only work on stuff once we are 100% sure what the market needs. And that serves us well because it means that our customers feel a sense of ownership in our product which they don’t see with others in this space.”
She isn’t wrong. Hunter from Grapevine shares, “We don't have any plans on switching. We like where we're at, we're in it for the long haul. And if we're going to be in it for the long haul, we want to make sure that we're trying to put together a product that we can use for the long haul.”