Outside the Checkbox Vol. 1: Expense Reports with SurveyGizmo

 

Welcome to the first installment of our Outside the Checkbox series! In the weeks to come, we will highlight and discuss creative, real-world examples of how people use SurveyGizmo to simplify their lives. For over a decade now, SurveyGizmo users have been developing innovative ways to leverage the tool’s capabilities. We’ve decided to share some of these use cases with the world in hopes of inspiring others to adopt these practices, or to try something new of their own. So without further ado, let’s take a look Outside the Checkbox.

Expense Reports with SurveyGizmo

Here at SurveyGizmo, we are constantly trying to improve processes across the business so that inefficiencies are mitigated, and we can focus on what we love most — building the best data insights platform possible, and providing our customers with unparalleled support.

Over the past year, we’ve grown from 60 employees to over 120, and that growth has naturally put some strain on operations and logistics. In the past, SurveyGizmo’s expense reports process has been fairly informal and undefined. In fact, the “process” for expense reimbursement, invoice payment, and receipt collections pretty much boiled down to, “Just put it on Kim’s desk!” (Kim is our rockstar Finance Manager, and was understandably drowning in paperwork.)

When it comes to Expense Reports, SurveyGizmo employees have:

  • Business expenses they need to be reimbursed for, such as travel expenses.
  • Invoices that need to be submitted for payment, such as an association membership or facilities expenses.
  • Receipts that need to be submitted to Finance for spending on a company credit card, such as weekly groceries for our office kitchen.  

Having all of our expense paperwork piling up in the Finance Office was causing a few concerns:

  • It was inefficient and time consuming for Kim to have to dig through piles of paperwork with illegible notes to try to figure out what everyone wanted.
  • What would happen if a paper receipt didn’t surface? How would Kim know that something was missing?
  • If Kim had questions, she had to physically hunt down the person whose notes she couldn’t read.
  • Managers did not have visibility into what their employees were submitting.
  • There was no way for the Finance department to quickly total the outstanding pieces of paper in the stack.
  • There was no way for Finance to prioritize the stack… For instance, if our Training Specialist, Bonnie, was waiting for a $3,000 reimbursement for a trip to a client’s office in another state, and is overdue on her credit card payment, Kim could potentially be working through 20 invoices that aren’t due for another month before she even saw Bonnie’s request.

We Needed a New Process, So We Turned To Our Own Product

After determining that a solution was needed, we began investigating widely available expense management vendors. While these vendors provide a much needed service, implementing one of their tools would have required months of application design time, user training, and ultimately, cost to our business. After reviewing several vendors, it became obvious that SurveyGizmo could do everything that the other tools in this market could do. Plus, with SurveyGizmo, the design was simple, our users didn’t need any training, and it didn’t cost us anything extra.

To streamline our expense reports process and enhance the overall quality of Kim’s life, we rolled out a SurveyGizmo solution to a group of beta users. The beta group consisted of the employees with the greatest expense reporting needs, and it was extremely well received. After receiving feedback from the beta group, we made a few last-minute tweaks, and have recently rolled out the new process to the entire company.

Since the rollout of the updated expense reports process is fairly recent, we don’t have a whole lot of concrete data to share in terms of time saved or errors avoided, but Kim has expressed that she feels like a heavy weight has been lifted off her shoulders.

The new process is much faster, easier, and less prone to errors from all parties involved.

How was the expense reports process improved thanks to SurveyGizmo?

For the employee submitting their expenses, digital copies of receipts and invoices (even emailed portfolios) can be uploaded, rather than printing them. Since most receipts are digital now, this is faster and more accurate than the paper receipts method that was used previously.

Paper receipts can now be captured using a camera phone, and can even be submitted via a mobile survey while the employee is traveling or out of the office. The Expense Reports survey provides the employee with a total of their reported expenses, so they know how much to expect in their reimbursement. Employees even have the option of having the reimbursement included in their next paycheck, or paid to them immediately.

Both the submitter and every person in the approval process receives a digital version of the report for their records. This helps the submitter remember what expenses were included, and it also helps managers track spending from month-to-month or event-to-event. It also prevents the Finance office from needing to keep up with ever growing files of paper receipts.

The employee’s manager, and in cases of high spend the COO, must approve the report before it can be sent to Finance. This keeps the manager aware of their employees’ spending, and prevents Kim from having to worry about whether or not expense submissions are valid or approved.

The manager, COO, or Finance team can even “send the report back” to the employee for more information. And, the submitter receives an email during each step of the process, which means there’s no more wondering if their expenses have been processed or paid yet.

Most importantly, the Finance team receives an email when a report is approved, so they can gauge priorities of each report appropriately since some cases require immediate action. They can also log into the software and see a full report of all expense reports paid (with the method, check number, and confirmed amount), and all the reports that are still waiting to be paid out.

Below is an example of the email that a user receives when they submit an expense report. They receive a similar email once their expenses have been approved, denied, or sent back for more information, and a final email when the expenses have been marked “Paid” by Finance.

Expense Reports Before and After Using SurveyGizmo

  • Before:
    • The employee put a piece of paper on Kim’s desk, and wrote their name at the top.  
    • Kim decided what needed to be done, and did it.
    • Finance kept all paper copies of receipts in a filing cabinet.
  • After:  
    • The employee fills out an expense report and uploads pictures of their receipts.
    • The employee’s manager receives an email with the expense report attached.  This email has a link to view the report, and from that link they can approve, deny, or request more information.
    • Large expenses that surpass a predetermined threshold have a mandatory second level of approval from the COO.
    • Once expenses are approved, the submitter receives an email that their report was approved, and the Finance team receives an email with a link from which they can process the report.
    • The report is processed by Finance.
    • All expense reports and receipts are stored in the cloud.

Do you feel like your company’s expense report process could be improved? Consider using SurveyGizmo! Our process has never been more efficient, and we didn’t even have to contract an expense management vendor.

Stay tuned for future installments of our Outside the Checkbox series in the weeks to come!

Join the Conversation
  • mediamum

    Love that you are running a series like this. Would be glad to share how I used SurveyGizmo to create an disaster evacuation site’s monitoring tool for keeping track of displaced animals.

    • Thanks for the feedback, and we’re glad you’re enjoying our Outside the Checkbox series! Please feel free to reach out to ben.foley@surveygizmo.com to get the ball rolling on developing an episode in regards to your use case. Thanks so much!

  • Chris

    This is superb. Is there any further detail on how to setup the approval elements for managers please so we can try this? Thanks

    • Thanks for the feedback, Chris! Our Support team would be more than happy to assist you with setting up approval elements for expense reports. You can reach them at support@surveygizmo.com. Thanks!