Liquid Assets: How Bevi Quenches Workers’ Thirst For Reimbursements

More than one-third of U.S. workers wait two weeks or more to be reimbursed for business expenses, straining both employee bank accounts and employee retention. The latest Workforce Spend Management Tracker highlights the latest tech to turn these corporate IOUs into managed spend, and Frank Lee, co-founder of smart water dispenser startup Bevi shares how they are tackling spend management as they expand to international markets.

A lengthy heat wave has made has made for a brutal summer in much of the United States, but that recent spat of hot weather has been highly refreshing for those in the water supply business.

The entire market for water treatment appears to be flourishing, in fact. Recent estimates put its value at $23.8 billion USD as of 2016, and project it will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1 percent through 2025.

Smart water solutions provider Bevi is one emerging player, offering Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled water coolers, equipped with a touchscreen that allows users to select still, sparkling, filtered, flavored or unflavored options. In a recent interview with PYMNTS, Co-founder Frank Lee said Bevi was inspired by the Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic and man-made waste that has amassed in the Pacific Ocean. The company’s co-founders created Bevi to help the environment without attempting to significantly alter human behavior.

The company claims its machines have taken over 40 million bottles out of circulation to date. It currently holds offices in Boston, San Francisco and New York City, with smaller teams in other U.S. metro cities, but must work to ensure its field-based technicians are quickly compensated for on-the-job expenses as the company expands.

Putting Reimbursement Tools To Work

Bevi employs approximately 80 people nationwide, a workforce that includes roughly 20 full-time technicians who are actively installing its water systems in the field. Technicians dispatched to install, maintain or repair machines tend to drive personal vehicles to the job, meaning Bevi must pay for costs like gas and parking, Lee said. The company also reimburses those in more crowded metro areas, like New York City, for work-related Lyft rides.

With field-based technicians quickly racking up expenses, it’s important to reimburse them just as quickly to ensure they remain satisfied with their jobs, he explained. As such, Bevi uses an expense management solution to reimburse them. The service offers a mobile app that enables techs to snap photos of receipts, enter notes and electronically file reimbursement claims  and receipts can also be submitted online. Funds are delivered via ACH deposit into employees’ bank accounts once they are approved by a manager.

“It goes back to trying to make that experience better for our technicians,” Lee said.

Tracking Regional Trends

Using an expense management solution does more than just help Bevi reimburse its technicians for their work-related expenses. It gives the company an assessment of which markets are the most expensive as it continues to expand its footprint, tracking expenditures and categorizing them by line item and region. The latter helps it realize the cost of doing business in each area.

“We can better understand the customer experience and cost structure at the regional level,” Lee explained. “For example, if service costs or trips increase in a certain region, [it] would flag [that change and tell us] something is going on in that particular region.”

Keeping tabs on new regions’ costs will be important as Bevi moves ahead with its plans to expand into new markets — including Canada, a service area added earlier this year.

“It’s a way to make sure we are controlling costs correctly, as well as trying not to make it too overly taxing for us,” Lee said.

Building A Strong Fleet — Of Brand Ambassadors

Bevi’s field-based workforce takes on more than simply tending to its machines, though. The company also relies on these technicians to build strong connections with its customers.

“Every customer has a favorite technician,” Lee said, noting some even request certain Bevi technicians for services. “They are our brand ambassadors. They are very important to our business, and we place tremendous importance on them.”

Making it easier for such workers to be compensated for expenses could go a long way in terms of employee satisfaction and, by extension, help build stronger client relationships. After all, for the in-the-field technicians working to ensure customers have access to their beverages on hot summer days, quick reimbursement for work-related expenses likely feels like a blast of cool air.