Case Study: Optimising Invoice Flows and Reducing DSO

Thomson Reuters has 400 offices worldwide, in more than 100 countries throughout Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas (EMEA). Over 70,000 customers use the company’s services on a daily basis. Until a decade ago, Thomson Reuters had local printers in each country and employees to print, envelope and send the company’s invoices. This was a large administrative burden, given the fact that some customers receive invoices which consist of over 10 boxes of paper.

“The consequences to our payment terms were huge, forcing us to find an alternative,” said Johan Titsing, credit control manager for EMEA at Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters found the solution to its complex situation in a communication platform from UnifiedPost. Now, the company’s various offices send invoice files through the platform. Ready-to-print (RTP) files are created and sent to UnifiedPost print partners in cities such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Sydney and Brussels.

“We had to decide what was the quickest way to send an invoice to our customers, for each country,” explained Titsing. “The sooner the invoice arrives at the customer’s site, the sooner the approval process can start, and thus our invoice gets paid more quickly. After all, an invoice that gets paid just one day late can have a very bad influence on our credit rating.”

E-invoicing Platform

Thomson Reuters reduced its days sales outstanding (DSO) in various countries. When printing invoices internally, it took, in Italy for instance, an average of 79 days before an invoice got paid. Using a decentralised print model, Thomson Reuters has reduced this gap to an average of 34 days, since invoicing happens more quickly and transparently. Outsourcing the process has actually given the company more control, enabling it to deliver on highly demanding service level agreements (SLAs).

Several years ago, customers from various countries started asking for electronic invoices (e-invoicing). Thomson Reuters had been thinking about a solution to support the payment process. This is when its invoice partner proposed to develop a bill presentment platform using Thomson Reuters’ layout.

Since then, a special data file has allowed the customer to analyse the invoice and assign a cost centre more quickly and easily. The drill-down feature is another tool used to detect possible mistakes in an invoice more quickly. The customer can then carry out an electronic discussion on the communication portal, allowing Thomson Reuters employees to correct the invoice immediately, if needed. It is therefore far more likely that an e-invoice will be paid more quickly than a paper copy.

“One of our major banking clients, for instance, has two full-time employees working to match invoices with purchase orders. The portal’s tools help the customer with this process. Every day we can save has a huge impact on our revenue stream. If the customer has more time to follow up on invoices using an accessible, friendly process, not only will satisfaction increase, but we also achieve a very nice drop in our DSO indicator,” explained Titsing.

The use of e-invoicing is highly dependent on a country’s culture and customs. Titsing continues: “On the African continent, we are active in 28 countries. A lot of these have no regular postal services, so all invoices must be delivered by courier. There, at the moment, we don’t even take e-invoicing into consideration. In Finland, on the other hand, we were forced to send e-invoices.”

More than 1000 Thomson Reuters employees use the UnifiedPost platform on a daily basis to approve, cancel or put invoices on hold. Invoices and credit notes larger than a certain pre-set amount must be approved on the platform before delivery. This must happen quickly because an invoice which arrives a day late can cost Thomson Reuters thousands of dollars. Credit notes are just as important: a customer waiting for a credit note often blocks an entire invoice until the note has been received.

“The follow-up system plays an important role in the support of our cash planning, to follow up the status in each country, it is very important to see whether invoices and reminders have been sent, and whether a credit note isn’t stopping a payment. This is easily done on the external platform, where everything is centralised for us. All the while, our employees can still follow-up locally and intervene when necessary.”

Online Payments

Following the introduction of new services, customers can also pay their invoices online via the portal. Credit card or electronic cheque in the US payments, give customers who had to pay manually before a new and easy way to carry out the transaction. To give customers even more control, the portal also shows each customer’s amount due and possible interest charges.

Titsing concludes: “By outsourcing our invoice flow, we’ve also created a much more transparent process: we can control the run through time and the cost per country. Previously, that was much more difficult to know. Furthermore, we designed a strategy for each country to get the invoice out to the customer in the quickest way possible and therefore to dramatically reduce our DSO. This made a very strong business case for using the external service solution.”

99 views

Related reading