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5 Crucial Questions to Ask before Choosing a New Payroll Provider

September 24th, 2021 | 4 min. read

By Gia Rolen

Have you ever strolled into an auto dealership, signed some paperwork, and drove off the lot with a new car that you knew nothing about? Yea, me either!

For most of us, purchasing a car is a big decision and there’s a lot of research to do before stepping onto the car lot. You want to purchase a reliable vehicle that saves you time and money, keeps you safe, and that you enjoy hopping into every morning. Ideally, you will research the car of your dreams extensively before taking one for a test drive.

When you research a car, you have several questions. How much is it? How fast does it go? What is the MPG? What is the safety rating? How does it compare to its competitors?

Evaluating a potential payroll provider comes with 5 big questions, too. You’re going to be talking to a few salespeople, booking demos, and asking fellow business owners for advice so that you make the right decision.

As a payroll provider, we hear a lot of concerns about making the switch and finding the right fit. So, we’ve done our research and come up with five crucial questions you need to ask a potential payroll partner.

# 1. What does customer support look like for your services?

Will your new provider have a dedicated support person assigned to your account? How often does your support person change? Will you talk to someone new every time you have a question? Does the partner prefer you email them, call, or use their knowledge base online?

You don’t have the time to be stuck on hold for hours or browse self-help articles when you’ve got a problem. The world is full of frustrating 1-800s and unhelpful chatbots who don’t understand your specific needs, so it’s important to find out what ongoing support will look like before you change partners.

Thoroughly investigating a payroll company’s customer support ensures you won’t be stuck on hold for hours or speaking with someone you don’t know. Be sure to ask potential providers for client references and check out their reviews online.

Developing a relationship with a customer service representative will give you peace of mind and a personal connection with a complicated business. Find a payroll partner who dedicates a specialist to your account, so that you’re speaking with the same person every time you call.

#2 What would implementation look like with your company?

Once you’ve selected your partner, the real work begins. This is a major conversion for your business, so keep these four questions in mind before picking a provider:

  1. How long is this going to take?
  2. Will I be loading my historical payroll data into a new system?
  3. Will my employees get paid accurately and on time while I’m changing systems?
  4. What does my initial training schedule and time investment include?

Your time is valuable to you and your team. Usually, an implementation process takes anywhere from 30 to 90 days. The provider you choose should always manage the heavy-lifting, from converting historical employee data to ensuring you understand how to log on to your account and make changes.

Ensure that you have time with your specialist to train and explore how to use self-paced learning tools. This will help your new provider prevent future issues and find ways to help you run your processes more efficiently.

#3 How much does your service cost and what’s included in that cost?

By now, you’ve established that your potential provider has reliable customer service and that the implementation process will be a smooth ride. But how much does it cost? Most payroll companies charge per payroll frequency, i.e., how many times you pay your employees per month (weekly, bi-weekly, or semi-monthly) or based on the total number of employees you have each month.

Many payroll providers charge a flat rate per employee per month + a base rate based on the services and modules you need. Since this is a fixed, recurring fee, it helps you better understand and manage your budget, plus, you usually aren’t charged additional fees for things like adding in a bonus or forgetting to pay an employee.

Refer to the table below to get a better idea of how PEPM pricing works!

#4 What other HCM companies should I be talking to?

HCM companies know their competition better than you do. Don’t be afraid to ask your potential partner what other companies they would suggest talking to.

You and your business deserve the best - so don’t settle for less without taking your time to research several options. Ideally, you don’t want to undergo another payroll switch in the future. Determining where you want your business to go and thinking ahead will help you eliminate certain providers that are better suited for different industries and sizes.

Create a list of these top needs in a payroll partner and ask for references from an owner who you know and trust. At Whirks, we encourage prospects to request references from recently onboarded businesses, owners that have worked with us for years, and even ex-clients. Switching providers is a big decision and you need to be happy with what you purchase.

#5 Do you understand my industry and states?

Every industry has unique intricacies, and your HCM partner needs to have a thorough understanding of your industry-specific challenges and compliance. It’s always a good idea to ask your potential partner how many businesses they help in your industry or if they’ve worked with someone in your industry before.

Another key question to ask your potential payroll provider is how many states they service. If you have employees in California, and your HCM partner doesn’t have clients in California, they might not be familiar with the state-specific wage laws, benefit laws, and HR regulations unique to that state. If you’re a multi-state employer, be sure to ask your potential partner how many states they work in and if they work with employers like you.

Explore all of your options.

There are many trusted payroll and HCM companies you can choose from, but it’s important to find one that aligns with the aspirations you have for your business.

Think about what your needs are. How are you processing your payroll, timekeeping, and onboarding? Review your current technology, recognize your blind spots, and be open to accepting the changes that will come with picking a new provider.

Assess local and major players in the industry, keeping in mind their character and customer service, ensuring that what you’re paying is worth the cost. Ask about their implementation timeline so that it fits with your schedule.

For example, you may not be a great fit for Whirks if you’re not tech-savvy and or open to change. But if you want to discover new ways to streamline and organize your back office, then we’ll dedicate our time to helping you get one step better every day.
If you’d like further help choosing an HCM partner, check out our Comparison of National Payroll Partners vs. Independent Service Partners.