It was the best of software and it was the worst of software. Let me tell you the tale of two payroll companies. No this is not a tale about the French revolution but about the software revolution and how if you're not careful your customers are going to revolt and behead you.
I'm at a new company and I'm back to doing payroll. I've done it before and the task comes back to me as I move from one start up/small business, grow it and move on to the next one. So right now we're early stage and I'm wearing a lot of hats. Currently, but not for long, we're using two payroll vendors (the why is a long story and not relevant). One is pretty big, Paychex, and the other is a small but growing Chicago based company called Paylocity. Both companies provide us exactly the same services. Both companies provide an account manager and a tech support person.
I've had support conversations with both account managers. I've had to call them both more than once. But I know the Paychex account manager very well. In fact I'd say too well. I've gotten to know both of my Paychex software support persons well, and once again, too well. I've never met the Paylocity support person. And in there lies the key difference.
You see it took 24 times longer to get "up and running" with Paychex than with Paylocity. I've also had to make five times the number of support calls with Paychex than Paylocity in three months. The big difference? Paychex uses a legacy desktop based software "band-aided" with Citrix software technology to web browser "enable" their offering. That means a whole lot of complex software and tech support needing to be applied to allow Paychex customers to access and use Paychex software. It's clunky and prone to issues and configuration misses by the support staff. Paylocity is a true cloud based system. Go to their website, log in and use the software. Once you learn the six steps to running payroll you're done with Paylocity. You go about your business. And the reporting, wow, what a world of difference. Paychex is a text file only. They don't even put commas or periods in salary numbers. Yeah, you made "345611" for the pay period, not "$3,456.11". Now imagine staring at a series of salaries numbers with no dollar signs, periods or commas. How do you correct this? Massive manipulation in Excel. So much so, you don't even attempt it unless you like writing Excel macros. Paylocity doesn't have any of those deficiencies in its reporting. It's as easy as using any other cloud based software tool I use such as Salesforce or Quickbooks online.
So before you think "gosh this is just a flame blog against Paychex, it's not". It's a lesson to everyone. It's also a lesson I'm all too familiar with. Although I certainly get frustrated with Paychex software I have empathy for the staff there. They are victims of a lack of software investment by their company. So instead of replacing their current product with a modern architecture they are "throwing" support people at the deficiency. And I can say, I've been there. I understand. I worked at a company that developed core desktop software and wouldn't budget to overhaul the architecture in an eight year period. The worst part is I was the CTO and in charge of support. I had the rocks in my shoes. I lived the pain with our clients. But for various reasons we never created a new architecture. So as the company grew and grew its client base we had growing support effort demands. It wasn't a one-to-one ratio either. We had support growing at an accelerating rate faster than our sales growth.
I call this the swan effect. We were trying to look like a graceful swan crossing a pond while under the water our little feet were paddling fast and furious. Eventually your customers figure it out if not immediately. And this leaves you vulnerable to revolution. "You suck vendor, off with your head!" Your competitors are all too happy to stir up the mobs for revolt.
Certainly it won't be easy for Paychex to replace their architecture and move their customers over. They are a large company and the data, particularly tax compliance, is complicated. It will be difficult, expensive and a major challenge but it has to be done or as they say "short the stock".
So here I am a customer with a tale of two vendors. They both offer the same service. They both have nice and competent staffs. The larger company, Paychex, is more expensive, required a total of 12 hours of support to get the first payroll out from my computer (yes, I tracked it), has unusable reports and can only be used from my singular laptop (everyone else in the company has Mac computers). The smaller company, Paylocity, is less expensive, required no technical support to get the first payroll out (30 minutes of software training only), has usable reports and can be used from any computer with Internet access. So tell me my mob, they are both at Madame Guillotine, whose head will come off? Yeah, easy decision. Let's let that be a lesson to us all.
Seven Signs You're Destined for the Guillotine
- Your average support hours per customer is continually increasing
- Your ability to resolve a support issue in the first call is decreasing
- You must add third party software to your own software offering in order to acquire a new customer
- Your software is desktop based
- Your reporting does not allow for modern business use, viewing or import into common business tools (like Excel)
- Your support hours are significantly higher for technical support (fixing broken stuff) than software training
- Your company purposely tells you to point out to your customers that you don't support Apple products and various other "common" technologies