Expensify has announced a new feature it calls “Price to Beat”. The feature allows companies to share the cost savings achieved by its employees against the average cost of a trip. The announcement came during GBTA, the Global Business Travel Association’s annual convention held in Denver this week.
It is another example of Expensify innovating in the expenses marketplace. Both KDS and Concur have also made announcements this week. However these are iterative improvements through partnerships or functionality. Expensify has now done something completely new.
David Barrett, founder and CEO of Expensify commented: “Price to Beat and Expensify Rewards gamify corporate travel by giving employees a share of their company’s cost savings. We’re not here to enforce anyone’s behavior, but we do want to bring transparency to the corporate travel industry and create a solution that’s win/win for both employees and employers.”
The potential problem of Employee benefit?
Many corporates will throw their hands up in horror at the idea of what is effectively a savings share. The software compares the price achieved by an employee for a flight, hotel, and car reservations against the average price for the same booking on that day. The employer is able to share half of the difference back to the employee.
There are some potential problems with this. Firstly, as it will be the company reimbursing the employee HMRC and other tax authorities may see this as a benefit in kind. Secondly some companies will feel that it is the employee’s duty to obtain the cheapest flight obtainable for each trip.
What it will do is benefit those businesses and staff who plan ahead. Advance prices are often considerably cheaper than those obtained at the last minute. Expensify do not make clear what data they are collecting the average price from, although they may feel that the data they are collecting is sufficient in itself.
Gamification to new levels.
What Expensify do make clear is that the policies are simple to set up and the reimbursement Is optional. It may be wise for companies to show where employees are not selecting average or below average pricing for their trips and investigate. If employees take expensive trips they are currently not penalised automatically by Expensify.
Bringing this level of gamification to expenses is both risky and interesting. It seems unlikely that many companies will want to reward employees for taking cheaper trips. The fact that they can identify the savings and which employees are achieving them is interesting. The ability to create a league table for example on who is the most efficient traveller may in itself drive better savings. Perhaps poor performers on that table will be chastened in a way they have never been before. Alternatively some degree of reward, other than an equal split of the savings, may act as an incentive.
Before launching this service companies will need to consider the implications of the cost savings share scheme. It is however an interesting development in corporate travel and one that shows the innovative thinking that Expensify delivers. Barrett said: “Expense report management isn’t just about creating and filing expense reports. It’s about streamlining business travel so that organizations can spend time focusing on building their teams and products instead of getting bogged down by the hassles of travel logistics.”
What Expensify are doing is turning the tables and giving employees the power. The question is what Expensify can come up with next. The software is currently in beta but companies can sign up to it should they wish to.