June 9, 2022
Product update

Receipt adherence is a hassle for businesses—here’s how we're relieving that burden

From the very beginning, Ramp has been committed to saving businesses time and money. It’s been a mantra we’ve been intentional about honoring and we’ll continue to iterate on our product until we deliver a fully automated finance workflow. But part of this process is having the humility to look at a freshly shipped product feature and say, ‘how can we make this better?’ 

Recently, one feature we realized was in need of an overhaul was our receipt submission process. While still better than filing the dreaded expense report at the end of the month, parts of our receipt submission process went against the grain of our core mission: to save businesses time. 

It was a manual process that still required some overhead from managers and follow-through from employees. We even created an auto-locking card feature in response to customers telling us that employees weren’t adhering to receipt requirements set forth in their expense policy 

So what was our solution? Being the first to create a touchless, automated receipt collection workflow. Let me tell you about the nexus of that idea, what pain points we’re aiming to solve with it, and what’s next on our journey to end-to-end finance automation. 

Problem: Businesses still have trouble with receipt enforcement

Like I said before, while it is a preferable alternative to filing expense reports, receipt submission to Ramp can still take time. For scaling businesses with visions of growing quickly, this is an unnecessary and wholly avoidable pain point. And for employees that have to remember to scan their inboxes for receipts, or make sure to take a photo of their receipts when making purchases, it’s another task to add to their checklists. 

That said, the solution works as intended and we still receive praise for employees and managers who say that it’s a huge time saver compared to expense reports. But it was time for a different approach. Here’s why: 

Receipt submission adherence is bad, really bad 

When we looked into the data, even with our automated matching technology, people still don’t submit receipts. If you look at the raw numbers, many businesses struggle with receipt adherence. What does that mean? Well, not only are these businesses not IRS compliant, they're late to close their books, they're chasing after their employees, and ultimately it's slowing down the business operations and wasting time. 

Receipt verification is an extremely manual task, very low-value, and often unnecessary

Even as we continue to iterate on our technology, we realize that there are still some gaps or pain points in our product features. One of these pain points is receipt verification. Our technology uses OCR to scan submitted receipts to then match to transactions. 

While it’s proven reliable, when we dug a bit deeper, we realized that a good portion of our customers were still clicking into submitted receipts to verify them. Why? A myriad of reasons but mostly to catch mistakes by employees or bad actors. For finance teams, this is a big issue that requires lots of time to manage. 

Solution: Integrations with Gmail, Outlook, Lyft, and Amazon Business to allow for automatic receipt collection 

All of that said, we knew it was time to go back to the drawing board to reimagine our receipt collection process. And thanks to recent advances in OCR technology and integrations with some of the biggest names in the industry, we were able to create a fresh solution. 

Through our solution, teams can save dozens of hours on receipt collection and submission to instead work on more valuable tasks throughout the day. Through this process, we’ve been able to automate several processes associated with the receipt submission process. 

Receipt collection to ensure automated workflows

We’ve completely overhauled the collection of receipts. Instead of having employees manually submit receipts, we’ll automatically collect through secure integrations. For companies running on Google Suite and Microsoft Outlook, finance teams can seamlessly connect their company’s inbox with Ramp. The integration will automatically scan employees’ inboxes for receipts and send them to Ramp. This is truly a first principles approach to the problem. 

We’ve also built deeper integrations with common merchants on Ramp like Amazon Business and Lyft. Once a business is integrated with Amazon, Ramp will automatically generate enriched receipts with the raw data from Amazon Business orders. This allows businesses to easily reconcile Amazon Business PO numbers with Ramp card transactions. We also launched our Lyft integration so when employees are on business trips, receipts will be automatically sent to Ramp. No more “lyfting” your finger.

Receipt matching to take the burden off your team

Combined with our automatic receipt collection, we’ve improved our receipt matching algorithms. We’re able to match receipts to transactions with 90%+ accuracy. Our AI technology analyzes the receipts submitted via SMS or integrations like Gmail and Outlook and parses information like merchant, amount, and date. We leverage this information with our proprietary data from card networks to accurately match receipts to transactions. 

No more hassle of having to search through transactions and manually adding receipts per transaction.

Automatic coding to ensure your books are accurate

Once finance teams have verified receipts, the last step to closing their books is coding the transaction. Ramp is supercharged with automation. 

Automatic collection / generation of receipts → automatic matching → automatic coding

Admins and bookkeepers can set granular rules on virtual and physical cards, merchants, departments, and locations to automatically code transactions. Finance teams just need to verify that the coding is correct, and sync the transactions to their accounting provider.

Robust security for peace of mind

To enable this integration, you grant Ramp access to your business’s emails. We take this trust extremely seriously and designed the integration to minimize the data processed at every point.

We run multiple layers of filters before pulling the contents of any email, and we never access the contents for a message that is unlikely to contain a receipt. Instead we review message metadata to assess the probability that a message contains a receipt, and immediately remove all metadata for messages which do not pass that threshold. 

The remaining (roughly 2%) of messages which are likely to contain a receipt are accessed by our receipt matching software, and any un-matched messages are purged from our system within 30 days. 

What’s next? Smarter matching, data integrations and more

This is only the beginning of our journey to fully automate your day-to-day processes. Here are some other projects we have in the works. 

Smarter Gmail and Outlook integrations

As hundreds of businesses connect Ramp with Gmail and Outlook, we’ll be improving our algorithm to pick up more receipts accurately from inboxes and match them to Ramp transactions. 

Additional receipt sources/data integrations

We’re also exploring more merchant integrations to allow for faster and automatic receipt matching, saving you hundreds of hours a month on receipt submissions. 

Ramp: Bringing businesses closer to end-to-end finance automation

Receipt automation is just a long line of features we’ve worked on to get businesses closer to fully automated workflows. Last year, we released Bill Pay as a way to make a business critical task, paying vendors, quick and easy thanks in part to technology such as OCR that scans bills to pull line items. The result is a hands-free experience that would normally take several hours to complete. 

But there’s still so much more. 

We also have accounting and GL categorization, contract negotiations, savings insights, travel solutions—the list truly does go on—all driven by automation. 

That said, there’s still so much more for us to learn, create, and iterate on during this journey. But our end goal will always remain the same: to save businesses time and money. 

Learn how Ramp strengthens your finances

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Former Product Manager, Ramp

In addition to being a key member of the Ramp product team, TK is also the chief meme officer at Ramp. TK leads the Spend Management product team at Ramp. Learn more about his work and interests at tkkong.com.

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