Microsoft faced a challenge collecting for advertising it had sold, particularly in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Going into 2009, the collections record for that region was the worst on record, and it continued to deteriorate. Receivables more than 60 days past due rose to 29% by June, almost three times what Microsoft considers an acceptable level. Unresolved disputes had pushed many invoices past due by more than 365 days. Many of the delinquencies were in high-volume, low-value accounts, so the solution could not be labor-intensive. Withholding credit was hurting sales to new customers and those that had stayed current. A solution had to be automated, scalable and able to support multiple languages.
The solution had two parts--credit risk management and analytics and reporting. To clarify the credit risk, a detailed customer/parent master list was prepared that allowed Microsoft to roll up exposure by customer. With accurate exposure information, the company began to apply credit holds and to pause campaigns for the most delinquent advertisers.
"For automation, Microsoft used Microsoft Access to create a customer tier management application to deliver hundreds of standardized communications quickly via e-mail to clients, denote queried invoices, and deliver current month's invoice copies with the statement in one click," says Stephanie Alston, a senior credit manager. A dashboard was developed to show sales and finance partners the current status of collections, including receivables data at invoice level and by country summary, dispute detail, accounts on credit hold and sales allowances.
The results: Ad receivables past due more than 60 days have dropped to 5%, an 82% decline from the 18-month high, and just $5.5 million is now past due more than 60 days, down from the high of $40.3 million. Invoices mired in disputes have fallen 90%, from $21 million to $2.1 million, and Microsoft is $66 million ahead in collected cash compared with what the old system would have produced, Alston reports. At the company's 10% cost of capital, the expedited collection means $9.3 million in additional profit over the 16 months the new solution has been operational.