Travel & Expense

Inspect What You Expect

on August 12, 2013

Our most popular Insights in the T&E (Travel & Expense) Insights Family are those that analyze employee expense behaviors.  Overwhelmingly, our customers’ travelers are good stewards of company resources who comply with corporate policy.  In many cases, there are good reasons for some of the policy misuse and duplicate submission findings our customers review.  Sometimes, employees pull out the company credit card instead of their personal card when they are making a purchase.  While embarrassing, it’s understandable that sometimes an employee might mistakenly use the wrong credit card when buying food for Fido.  But there is also the case when a company card is used routinely to buy food for Fido with the purchaser knowing they are using the company card and unless Fido’s the resident company mascot, it probably isn’t a valid expense.

Over the years our customers have seen a lot of different scenarios when reviewing the results of Oversight data analysis. The ones I remember are the stranger ones like the employee who used a corporate credit card for over 20 purchases on the online psychic network. I’ve often wondered whether that employee was in new product development and was looking for inspiration. There was also the funeral that was paid on the company credit card for a total of $20,000. Was there a problem in the company cafeteria that made that legitimate? Finally, there was the company where steel-toed work shoes were an approved expense item. There were more employees than I would have guessed who were purchasing their steel-toed work shoes at Nordstrom. And paying over $200 apiece. Several times a month. It makes you wonder what other kinds of things these employees were doing. 

But people also make honest mistakes and misinterpret policy. Sometimes expenses are accidentally misclassified. Although the hot tub purchase classified as electronics was probably not one of them.  But even honest misclassifications can have a material impact when, for example, pharmaceutical and medical device companies have travelers who misclassify expense related to healthcare professionals. This can result in regulatory problems whether intentional or unintentional.

But everything isn’t all bad. We have a customer who allowed employees to expense hands-free devices for mobile phones up to $35 in cost. They discovered literally thousands of hands-free devices expensed at $65-$75 dollars. Clearly, these were Bluetooth instead of wired hands-free devices and out of policy. But our customer decided that employee safety was the objective and encouraging this behavior was worthy of changing the policy to raise the limit so that Bluetooth devices could be expensed within policy. The same goes for the company who discovered travelers who watch in-room movies spend less money per stay than those who do not. They changed their policy to allow in-room movies and saved money in the process.

The bottom line is that our customers experience measurable changes in employee behavior when they inspect what they expect. Compliance with policy increases, waste and abuse decreases, and companies can see where policies need to be changed or eliminated. There are measurable savings to be sure. But there are also measurable changes in behavior.  Ultimately, companies want to help employees comply with expectations and policy. We can help you do that. 

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