Who wins on customer support?

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Payroll is not an intuitive process. The OnPay and Intuit QuickBooks Online Payroll solutions offer similar, but not identical, customer support options.

At best, running payroll takes no more than a few clicks. At worst, it’s a nightmare that forces you to call accountants out of the directory to avoid paying your employees late.

Ideal payroll software customer support helps you easily set up payroll and answers your call when things go wrong at the eleventh hour. Let’s see how two popular payroll software providers, and , compare in terms of customer support.

Setup assistance

As a new business owner with no previous payroll experience, it can be nerve-wracking to set up your payroll software yourself. Seasoned business owners looking to switch payroll software may not know how to begin moving employee records to a new platform. OnPay and QuickBooks Online Payroll customer service professionals can step in to help you get everything set up correctly.

Payroll software setup is different for new and existing businesses. The new to-do list is considerably longer; you need to set up payroll tax accounts with the IRS and the states where your business operates, not to mention onboarding your employees. Existing companies have the unenviable task of transferring years of payroll data to a new system.

OnPay and QuickBooks Online Payroll both offer a “premium setup”, but at quite different prices. The service takes care of migrating employee data from your old payroll software and getting you up and running before the next payroll run. Customer support professionals take the initiative in the setup process, giving you more assurance that you’re not messing up your employees’ paychecks.

Side-by-side screenshots explain each service's high-end configuration services.

Both QuickBooks Online Payroll (left) and OnPay (right) offer 360-degree setup services, though it may cost you more with QuickBooks Online Payroll. Image source: author

Full-service payroll setup is included in OnPay’s monthly fee: $36 plus $4 per employee. QuickBooks Online Payroll has three tiers, with premium service available only with its top-tier plan, at a monthly rate of $125 plus $10 per employee. You can usually get a deal for the first three months, which brings the base fee down to $37.50 per month for the Elite package. Both payroll packages offer 30-day free trials.

The mid-level QuickBooks Online payroll option comes with an Expert Setup Review, where a payroll professional checks your work. Premium plan monthly fee is $75 plus $8 per employee. You’ll have to be more hands-on with the setup process, but it should help you sleep at night knowing that a payroll expert can ensure your payroll software is ready to go.

Winner: OnPay. You get the same personalized setup support for less than the basic Quickbooks Online Payroll plan.

Helpline

Phone support is crucial for complex payroll questions that would otherwise require an unheard-of email length to customer service. Your payroll software’s customer support hotline should be the first place you go to when you see discrepancies during a payroll reconciliation or technical issues when running payroll.

As an accountant, the payroll software hotline has helped me discover features I didn’t know existed before, saving me a search and rescue mission to get information that a report can easily compile in seconds.

OnPay and QuickBooks Online Payroll offer live phone support. OnPay Customer Service will answer your call weekdays from 9am to 8pm EST.

QuickBooks Online payroll phone support is available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST on Saturdays. You can unlock 24/7 product support when you sign up for the Tier One Elite plan. To avoid waiting on hold, you can request to be called back when the next customer service representative is available to help you.

Winner: QuickBooks Online Payroll, by a small margin. Both payroll software vendors offer adequate phone support during normal business hours. QuickBooks has the advantage of providing Saturday phone support for all plans.

Live chat and email support

You’re not alone if you dread calling; most of my friends feel the same way. No matter how much you dislike or lack a phone call, chatting with humans or even bots is sometimes the best way to get your questions answered quickly.

Use live chat support when you need to be pointed in the right direction, not to answer in-depth payroll questions. You may not remember how to onboard a new employee using your payroll software, or you may not find an automatically generated W-3 ​​form to send to your accountant. Live chat, whether it’s a human or a bot, can help get you where you need to go.

OnPay and QuickBooks Online Payroll offer live chat with humans during the same hours they provide phone support. What differentiates the two is what happens when you need help outside of business hours.

QuickBooks Online Payroll has a somewhat useless bot to help you out of office hours. He can answer quick payroll questions in the chat box, but more often than not he directs you to the QuickBooks Support Portal with over 500,000 articles. You better google the question and let it direct you to the QuickBooks support page.

A screenshot of the QuickBooks Online Payroll automated chat window sharing a link when printing a W-2 form.

QuickBooks Online Payroll uses a bot to help with common payroll issues. Image source: author

OnPay does not have a chat bot. Instead, when you try to start a chat outside of working hours, the site prompts you to submit a request to its support team. You can expect an email response when customer support is back online.

It should be noted that OnPay’s email hours begin at 7:00 am EST on weekdays and emergency email support is available on weekends.

Winner: OnPay. Both software offers similar live chat options with fast response times. OnPay’s early morning email support trumps QuickBooks Online Payroll by just a tiny bit.

Support Content

Most payroll software products have libraries filled with software-specific step-by-step guides for setting up and running payroll. Both OnPay and QuickBooks Online Payroll have support centers on their websites that feature a plethora of items that could reach March if stacked individually.

Both sites provide quality, payroll-specific support content. For performing basic payroll functions, both do a great job of breaking down the steps and showing you which buttons to press. However, it may take you a few minutes to find the right guide to answer your question if you use QuickBooks.

OnPay makes it easy to browse its payroll software support content, especially US state-specific payroll tax information. There is an interactive map of the United States at the bottom of the support page that directs you to OnPay-specific guides for finding and entering local tax information into your OnPay account.

A screenshot of OnPay's online support portal, organized into sections such as 'getting started' and 'tax resources'.

OnPay organizes its payroll software support content smartly. Image source: author

OnPay doesn’t have the volume of content that QuickBooks does, but quality is more important than quantity here. A limited support content library means there are fewer unnecessary files to sift through, so you get answers faster.

While the QuickBooks Support Portal doesn’t scream like OnPay’s, QuickBooks Online Payroll has a lot more software-specific support content. QuickBooks has a community forum where customers post questions that QuickBooks customer support and other customers answer. I wouldn’t rely on responses from other customers, but they may be helpful in rare cases.

Additionally, QuickBooks Online Payroll offers a host of video tutorials to walk you through basic payroll functions, which OnPay doesn’t offer either.

Both software companies hold live webinars that show users how to use their services. OnPay hosts weekly live webinars to show users how to set up and navigate the software. QuickBooks webinars most often focus on showcasing new features in its accounting software products, although there are plenty of payroll support webinars in the archives.

Winner: OnPay. Both software vendors offer extensive asynchronous content that can help you manage payroll with minimal prior experience. Although OnPay lacks video tutorials, the software is quite intuitive. OnPay wins this round for its clutter-free support content.

And the winner is…

OnPay. OnPay payroll software puts customer support at the center. Wherever you go on the website, you’re prompted to pick up the phone or send an email to get in touch with customer support.

The competition is tight. QuickBooks Online Payroll also offers great support options for its customers, but it takes a lot more money to get top-notch customer support.

Joseph P. Harris