When Twitter Rocks: Payroll Pain Eliminated


As a startup, there are days when you’re ready to pull out your hair. You thought you’d be spending your time doing what you’re passionate about, but somehow “business” has gotten in the way. This was one of those days. This post highlights how Twitter helped turn it around and a few key takeaways from the experience.

One of my least favourite activities is payroll. There are about a thousand little things you have to remember, such as the differing levels for CPP, EI, tax deductions, taxable & non-taxable benefits, submitting remittances, etc. Over time I’ve learned more about payroll than I ever hoped I would. Most importantly, I’ve learned that my talents are best utilized elsewhere. To that end, I had engaged ADP to take away this pain!

For those who aren’t familiar, ADP is Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (NASDAQADP). They generate about $10 billion in revenues with approximately 545,000 clients by providing business outsourcing solutions, such as payroll management. For a nominal fee, I give them the number of employee hours (via web) and they figure out the rest.

At least, this is what happens in theory.

The ADP Problem

The difficulty lies in two things. First, they’re extremely large. Second, I’m forced to use Internet Explorer when doing payroll online. So when technology fails–which happens regularly with Internet Explorer–I have to call them. When I have to call ADP, I usually have to wait. Lately, the wait time has been absurd.

Let me define absurd: over 45 minutes. I’ve actually started calling in on two different phones and aiming for different queues, just to see if I can get to a human faster. If I do manage to contact a human, they often pass me on to another queue. Sometimes apologetically, usually indifferently.

Yesterday was no different. I’ve had some staff turnover and didn’t have an administrator who could help by staying on hold with ADP to sort it out. I had been dreading it all week. I blocked out an hour just to stay on hold and deal with the situation as I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be smooth. (This just goes to show that being right isn’t always fun…)

My day was already packed with onsite visits, stopping by different offices to catch up with the CEO/CTOs, and dropping off files. When I finally arrived back at the office around 2pm I pulled together the numbers required and around 2:30pm I started the multiple-phone-queue dance. The issue was this: the computer that payroll is normally done on is currently in about 20 parts on another desk being repaired. I had to use Internet Explorer on my computer, quickly finding that none of the security certificates would install using the passwords on hand. Thus, no payroll.

After 40 minutes on hold I was really starting to lose my patience. With an evening packed with awesome events (Ottawa Employees’ Choice Awards @ 5-7pm, The 20/200 Launch Party @ 7pm, and Startup Drinks – Ottawa @ 8pm) I wanted to go home for a few hours to avoid a 15 hour day. This time was quickly being whittled away; first by the horrible hold muzak and then by customer service. My tweets captured the exchange taking place:

At this point, there are a couple of other things in play:

  1. I was planning on taking a late lunch, but since I’m the only one in the office who can do payroll and I have to stay on hold, I am REALLY hungry,
  2. Every minute I spend on hold I lose $2-4 in billable time, which makes me pretty grumpy. I’d love to hire someone for the day just to deal with this, but the ADP security guidelines makes it difficult to set up someone new on short notice.
  3. Finally, after reaching a human,  explaining how long I’ve been on hold, and asking if I could simply provide the payroll numbers and deal with this the next day, I was informed that this was possible–at a cost of $75.

Want to meet an angry customer? That was me at 3:45pm as the window of time to go home before my first event was rapidly shrinking, my stomach was grumbling, and I couldn’t get any work done.

After 80 minutes and finally reaching someone who could theoretically help, it became apparent the issue was my computer. I had technical support working away using remote support to control my computer, but I couldn’t work on anything else as periodically I needed to click “continue”  to keep things moving. Of course, he’s annoyed that he’s not getting my undivided attention and I’m annoyed that I can’t talk to one of my consultants about a big contract we need to deal with today. Oh, and I can’t multitask (read: rant on FB/Twitter) on my computer while he’s using remote support. I’m clearly thrilled.

Enter: My ADP Angel

Fortunately enough, ADP’s Director of Web Strategy happened to be online at the same time as me. What did she do? She messaged me immediately, acknowledging my frustration and sending help my way. Within 10 minutes someone got in touch, and I was able to provide her with the payroll numbers for processing so I could leave in time to make it to the first event by 6pm. 80 minutes and little to no progress was turned around in 10 minutes, after which I was able to jump in my car and catch up with other local business owners and enjoy a (much-deserved!) glass of wine.

As of writing this, the underlying issue isn’t entirely resolved. At some point next week I’ll still need to find a way to get the IE plugins to work on my computer. At least now it can wait until I have a quiet day, when there aren’t long queues at ADP (and I’m well fed!)

What Can We Learn from ADP?

Of course, there is always an underlying lesson to be found in every unpleasant experience. Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Be Proactive About Brand Management. Gina did an amazing job of seeing an issue, jumping in and quickly helping resolve it. The result was a memorable story I was able to share at all the events (incl. one event with the Mayor of Ottawa). That’s free advertising. Leverage it.
  2. Plan For Technology Fails. Always budget at least twice four times as long as you think it will take to do something involving technology. If something can go wrong, chances are that it will. Especially with Internet Explorer (can you tell I’m not an IE fan?)
  3. Never Underestimate Social Media. While I was on hold I was messaging dissatisfied former clients to discuss what companies they had used post-ADP. There is always competition and this allows clients to find it. Know that there will always be a competitor and someone who can vouch for them–so monitor this medium carefully. (To see a list of companies that are making it easier to monitor these platforms, be sure to visit 500 Startups: Batch Three.)
  4. Giving A S**t Can Save A Client. The first customer service individual could have cared less about how long I had been on hold, how hungry/tired/annoyed I was  after almost two hours of my life drained away with no relief in sight. He was merely “doing his job” and abiding by the company guidelines. By contrast, Gina was also going by the guidelines, but found a way to make it work for both parties. Entrepreneurs: remember that front-line customer service will make or break your relationship with a client. I’d take a Gina over that other guy any day–I’ll have to see who I get next time I call.

Finally, if I wasn’t a twitter convert before, I certainly am now. I really appreciated the personal touch.  So, to the many people in my network who will one day be a big success: please remember to hire people who care and be sure to monitor social media. You just might make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

Do you have a social-media-saves-the-day story? I’d love to hear it!

Article by Elizabeth

Award-winning policy consultant by day (SR&ED, OIDMTC, Arts Funding), music advocate, board member, and fundraiser by night.
Elizabeth tagged this post with: , , Read 30 articles by

  1. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for that insight. Does not matter how big or old you are ADP can still growth.


    PS: Plan on calling the mayor : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Recent Awards

Forty Under 40

Do you know SR&ED?

Our Comprehensive Guide to SR&ED was written by an expert with 20+ years as a Canada Revenue Agency Research and Technology Advisor and a seasoned SR&ED consultant.