More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Is this a bad marriage?

November 25, 2013

I'm a payroll Betty. I built my firm on payroll services. For those of you who don't know my history, I started using the cloud seven years ago when I was just launching my firm.

I cringe at the thought of a desktop world. You see, even back then there was this cool product called PayCycle that fundamentally changed the way I did payroll. As a result, it transformed how I manage my firm today. The program ran "online.” They didn't call it the cloud in those days.  

Everything happened in real time. It forced me to be more efficient and, more importantly, transparent with my customer. It showed me collaboration could help me create true partnerships with my customers. I love the power of collaboration. The company was really good about communication and transparency; I could trust them to be my partner.  

The cloud has had a tremendous effect on my business and my life.

This past week something happened that I have been dealing with for years, as a cloud-based firm in a social mobile world. Vendors might be able to learn from our experience working in a partnership model with our own customers. Take notes. 

Our current payroll provider was "down" for three days with limited access to payroll. Things happen. I get it. Computers go down. But it was a major inconvenience, as nobody wants their work or their job disrupted. That in itself can be forgiven. However, what they failed to do was communicate and be transparent with us in regards to what was happening, so we in turn struggled to be transparent with our customers. That’s not how you treat a partner. You see, there is chain here.

It just makes us look bad. To our customers, we are the first line of support. Vendors need to realize we are operating in a social mobile world. When you are selling cloud software the sooner you can share the problem with us—your accounting partners—the better, we can then figure out a reasonable solution together. An e-mail blast would be a good first start.

If you don't share problems and you only share the positive, all you are doing is marketing and that is not a partnership. Partnerships are a two-way street, like a marriage—the good and the bad.

We are not going to jump ship over an Internet mishap but we will leave when we don’t feel that you have our best interest at heart. Incidents like this make it seem as if you don’t care about our customers (end users) and ultimately our business.

We want real true partners—not just marketers. The sooner you become transparent with the good, bad, and the ugly, the sooner we will accept that you have our back and want to work together for the consumer through thick and thin.

Right now, though, I’m ready to file separation papers.

Comments (7)
Social media posts are not a substitute for direct communciations. Only a tiny fraction of Intuit's customers have liked their facebook page, for example. (82K today) Facebook and twitter posts move quickly off a page say in about 15 minutes or so. In addition, most businesses ban facebook and twitter access on company computers.

Relying on social media to be the only message delivery service is one step up from using a megaphone to communicate with people driving by. Some may have their windows down and hear that the bridge is out, others might not.

I wish there was a better solution. I liked the text alerts that I set up with QBO. I think something like that might be more effective.
Posted by Laura D | Wednesday, December 11 2013 at 4:03PM ET
Cloud applications experience outages; key computers in the office die just when you need them. Technology isn't perfect, so figuring out how to respond in the event of an outage is critical. Avoidance isn't the answer - transparency is. There's truth in "misery loves company", so if you can all grump about it together, at least that's something. And you can decide together to find a new provider, if necessary.

There are degrees of failure just as there are degrees of success. Even if an outage doesn't take out the entire customer base, a lack of availability is HUGE to those who experience it - whether it's 1 or thousands. Even if it's just 1 impacted customer, they deserve to be communicated with.
Posted by joaniecmann | Monday, December 09 2013 at 6:08PM ET

Great article~ I think the most difficult part about the outage and the lack of communication for me was the fact that when I do payroll for my small businesses is that I am preparing payroll on a set time frame for people who live paycheck to paycheck.

These individuals need their money. The direct deposit takes 2 business days to get to them and because we are making them use this solution they have to wait this much longer for their money.

The large corporation that has had the issue with their interrupted service going down that is only a "hiccup"..

What they are failing to realize for the people out on the streets that rely on our services sometimes is that this could be their dinners or their rents that they are needing.

Without proper communication we cannot relay that effectively or fairly to the people that need this the most.

My heart aches when I have to say that to someone who has missed their paycheck and it may take 3 days because their "system" went down.

Sad state of affairs. There is nothing to offer except a shrugged shoulder. No expedited pay, no visa card, nothing to say I'm sorry for the problem or the loss.

Move on and keep using my "system" and trust it because I say so..

But like that relationship where trust is violated one too many times.. Eventually you won't believe it anymore.

Thank you for your article again. I am pained to comment on it.

Jan Haugo
Posted by jhaugo | Thursday, November 28 2013 at 6:51PM ET

Thanks for your response. How about make a "Disaster Communication Plan" and share with your Accountants about where to go for updated information. Kinda like a "Snow Day" channel.

Vrod and unknown:
I would never go back to a desktop. Security and technology are not the same as in the cloud. This article was not about discouraging you from using the cloud it was about have reliable Industry Vendors embrace their partnerships with their CPA's.

We all need to embrace Transperency in a this new Social Mobile world.
Posted by jodypadar | Wednesday, November 27 2013 at 1:29PM ET
This is the exact reason I'll never use the cloud. If my computer at the office goes down, I can fix it quickly and know when it will be back up and ready. Every cloud based system I've looked at can't guarantee that I will have uninterrupted access and they will not compensate me for downtime or lost business.
Posted by | Wednesday, November 27 2013 at 12:26PM ET
Jody -

Fair comments. This was an intermittent outage that didn't impact the entire base, so an email blast is not the most effective channel to communicate through. There were multiple posts on all social channels and the IVR was updated as well. That said, as I looked at the communications, I also agree they could have been more frequent.

Dan Wernikoff
Posted by wernikoff | Tuesday, November 26 2013 at 1:27PM ET
That's one of the reasons I am resisting "the cloud". Right or wrong, you are depending on a third party to not only provide uninterrupted service, you are also depending on that third party to protect your client's sensitive information from identity theft and keep confidential YOUR one-and-only business asset; your client base.
Posted by v-rodcpa | Tuesday, November 26 2013 at 9:28AM ET
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