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Back to Basics #2 – Strengthening the Operational Relationship with your Global Payroll Provider

David Leboff
David Leboff
Aug 14, 2019 3 mins

Recently our office has discussed at length what it takes to deliver world class service to our global payroll clients.

Among the many insightful responses from the team, there was one that struck me as obvious almost to the point of taking it for granted. However, as I thought about it, it was truly foundational – the concept of “partnership”.

A true partnership relationship between a client and service provider begins from the very first point of contact, through to implementation interactions and continues throughout the ongoing payroll operations. This close knit relationship is critical all along the way for service providers to consistently deliver their services at, or above expectations regularly.

However, superior service can only be provided with equal commitment from both parties – the client and service provider – open lines of communication and both parties taking responsibility for the success of the whole program. Rather than just the actions that one party or the other performs.

Building a partnership also builds trust and comes with an understanding that both parties have each other’s backs if and when the inevitable hiccups arise (who has ever seen a payroll without hiccups?).

If for any reason a particular transaction doesn’t go as planned, or an error occurs on either side of the engagement, there needs to be an expectation ( or perhaps faith?) that the other partner will do whatever it takes to help resolve the issue and not just point fingers or escalate matters.

This does not mean that either or both parties should not track and hold each other accountable for consistent delivery – performance should always be measured and managed – but it means that in the thick of monthly payroll processes where there are bound to be miscues from time to time, the client and provider need to pull hard for each other as best they can, learn from mistakes made and build strong solutions. The issues should be logged and analyzed so that causes can be understood and repetition avoided.

Global payroll programs are complex to manage with many moving parts to coordinate. While I wish we could say that operations and control in our industry are already at the level of ATM-type automation, unfortunately they are not that evolved – yet.

In the meantime, there is still some reliance on manual processes and oversight to make sure that the thousands of data transactions result in accurate calculations, timely compliance and controlled operations. With the concept of partnership in mind, partnering with a service provider can never be viewed as an abdication of a client’s responsibility for global payroll program delivery or an offloading of services that have no bearing on the engagement.

Instead the relationship should be built on a clear agreement on a clear allocation of roles and responsibilities between two experts:

  • The client
  • The service provider

This creates an operational “whole” that is better than the sum of the two parts. Neither can succeed if one or the other is not carrying their load.

Although Immedis as a partner in our engagements proudly holds itself to a high standard for service as any good partner would (codified in our SLAs), our discussion turned to certain specific actions that our team thought our clients, as partners, could take ownership of to help us deliver our services to them ever more effectively. These actions are not meant to relieve a service provider from their responsibilities, but rather to highlight some ways that minor changes to operational behaviors can help to encourage 2 way communication, feedback and ultimately allow service providers to maintain their highest level of standards.

Here’s what we suggest to get the best out of a client – service provider partnership:

  1. Using a CRM tool – At Immedis we use ZenDesk as our CRM tool to communicate and track issues that need to be addressed. It allows our clients to articulate any issue and assign their level of priority to the matter.
  • ZenDesk allows Immedis to log and immediately distribute the issue to the appropriate team member. It allows our management and our clients’ management to monitor the action and resolution, and to track the entirety of all open and closed matters routinely. Without going through ZenDesk, communications may get lost, priorities may not be understood, and tracking through resolution on both sides may not be as efficient as it could be.
  1. Use of E-mail – If e-mail is used to regularly deliver important information, we recommendconsolidating communications as much as possible rather than sending multiple communications. Each additional communication increases the chance of a misunderstanding of an instruction or that one of the communications may be overlooked in the ordinary course of business.
  2. Late changes  Changes sent in before deadlines are appreciated, but it is hard to accelerate the completion of a payroll accordingly unless an expectation has been set as calendars are tight and interconnected with those of ICPs too.
  3. Late changes – Expectations vs Reality – Similarly, if changes are sent in late, we will try (and often are able) to perform payroll miracles, but inclusion of late changes in the current cycle cannot be presumed. For changes that might be delivered late, we recommend asking your service provider to move them into the next period, or at least setting expectations internally that the changes may not be able to be included in the current cycle.
  4. Alternative Authorization – We strongly recommend making arrangements to have an alternate authorizer available to sign off on payrolls and/or approve payments if the regular contact is unavailable.
  5. Parent – Parent Relationship – As partners in the relationship we hope that our clients will hold themselves to the same expectations of responsiveness that they hold Immedis’ service team to. The client – service provider relationship is one of partnership and collaboration so the better each side works together, the more effective the partnership will be.

The message here is not meant to be all inclusive, and we recognize that clients will have similar tips for us too. The objective is to offer helpful information to strengthen the operational relationship with clients and positively impact the overall service performance dramatically.