By: Matt Ingold

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February 1st, 2016

What's the Secret to Predicting Payroll Customer Service?

Strategic HR | HRIS | Payroll

Long-Line.jpgAny sales associate will tell you, nine times out of ten it’s emotion that drives an employer to dump one payroll vendor for another. When we dig into the dissatisfaction, we get responses like the following:

“I don’t feel like I’m valued.”

“I can never get ahold of anyone.”

“Every quarter I’m assigned a new rep.”

"I'm sick of taking a ticket and waiting in-line for my rep."

Pricing can be pretty compelling, but more so than cost, employers are changing payroll vendors because they can’t stand the impersonal customer service.

So, how can your payroll vendor’s average client size be a telltale of the type of service you’ll get?

What Does the Rep : Account Ratio Mean?

The typical payroll rep can handle somewhere between 2500-4000 lives. That means handling the ongoing needs of two 2,000-life clients, 100x40-life clients, or 400x10-life clients. As you can imagine, as the average client size decreases, the number of assigned accounts increases for a rep, and your rep : account ratio decreases.

And the more accounts assigned to your rep, the greater the chances are you’ll be taking a ticket and waiting in line for your service needs.

Payroll vendors, like any other business, are going to push their reps to max capacity in order to keep overhead low and feed the bottom line. The move to ticket-service systems is their way of helping rep’s better manage their time, handle more clients, avoid hiring a new rep, incurring more overhead, and having to up their fees. Believe it or not, those ticket-service systems are lowering your fees, even though they might be raising your blood-pressure.

That being said, there is a sweet spot where a rep can keep margins high and still deliver personalized payroll customer service. Here’s the rule of thumb.


Low average client size translates into more accounts for a single rep to handle, and less time to dedicate to the needs of each individual account.

You might be tempted to think that servicing smaller employers would be easier, as their business needs are presumably less complex than a larger employer. Perhaps, but smaller companies also have less technical expertise or dedicated payroll personnel on staff to answer questions. They’re service needs can be as demanding, if not more, than those of a mid-market company.

Related Blog: Why Do Obamacare Solution Vendors Try to Sell Me Payroll?

On the flip-side, large companies with complex department breakdowns and boutique demands often require greater customization, and carry an expectation of preferred treatment based on their volume. If your rep is handling multiple large accounts and you are on the smaller side, those large clients have the potential monoploize your rep's time.

For the mid-market employers (employee populations between 25-500) there is potential to fall into the service "sweet spot". Reps maintain a sustainable account volume, have increased time for client questions, and aquire a mid-market needs expertise. This expertise lends itself to increased custom payroll services and system flexibility.

Where do you fit?

What’s the bottom line? If you are looking for personalized and accessible customer service from your payroll provider, reps may be spread too thin across varying accounts to meet your expectations. Learn their average client size and rep/account ratio and see if it falls into the customer service sweet spot you’re looking for. 

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About Matt Ingold

Matt serves as Benetech's Director of Business Development. He helps employers reduce the cost of personnel management, and discover where improved talent management can give their business a competitive advantage.

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Mistakes are expensive, especially when building benefit plans.

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