Finance News & Insights

The common issue lurking in staffers’ expense reports: How much are you losing?

Now may be a good time to review your company’s expense-report management process.

Why? When you think of that 8%-12% of your company’s total budget that goes to T&E, you think about all those hotel stays, airline flights, etc. But there’s something else that’s sneakily jacking up those costs every day. And no one needs to step outside your company’s four walls for it to happen.

So what is this stealth cash drain? Expense report errors.

One in five reports contains at least one error. The price to catch and correct a single error isn’t cheap:

  • $52, along with
  • 18 minutes of A/P staffer time.

Those estimates come from the Global Business Travel Association.

And while it may not seem like a big deal for your people to correct an error here and there, it adds up fast.

Take heart: There are strategies you can lean on to send errors on a one-way trip out of your company.

Tap technology

Give the people what they want! Survey after survey of business travelers say they want more technology to smooth their process. That doesn’t have to mean a fully automated T&E system.

In fact, to cut down on errors and ease the traveler’s experience, you don’t have to look any further than their smartphone. A few ideas:

  • Create “receipt albums.” Taking photos of receipts is a great way to avoid the “I lost one” hassle. But you can go a step further by asking employees to collect them all in a single photo album – one per trip.
  • Tap that calculator. If you’re still doing reports manually, make sure folks add totals on a calculator, like the one right on their phones. Use Excel? That should be on their phones as well.

Have an expense management system? You can still do more with your smartphone to reduce the risk of

App-based rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have now enabled automatic receipt forwarding to most major software packages.

You know all too well in Finance: Every time you have to key in info you increase your chance of errors. So why not strip as much of it as possible out of your process?

Serve supervisors

There’s another way to keep your A/P people from getting slowed down by expense report mistakes: Let ’em get caught before they ever make it to your department!

Put the onus on approving supervisors to catch and correct errors.

Of course you don’t want to leave them hanging out to dry. A little insider info can go a long way in getting them to clean these up.

Whether you make supervisors a checklist of the most common errors to watch for or assemble a packet of screenshots of your expense management system to guide them, the key is to get them to zero in on what’s off so they can bounce it back to their travelers to correct.

And empower your own team to be tough here. Sure they could just handle the issue. But advise them to bounce back any report with an error for the approving supervisor to correct. You can bet they’ll be a lot cleaner (and less costly) from then on.

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