About the client
Tsogo Sun is a premier gaming, hotel and entertainment group in Southern Africa and is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Dating back to the founding of Southern Sun Hotels in 1969, various mergers and acquisitions have seen Tsogo Sun grow and expand significantly.
Tsogo Sun’s collection now comprises more than 14 500 hotel rooms across all sectors of the market in South Africa, Africa, the Seychelles, and the Middle East; 14 premier gaming and entertainment destinations; theatres, cinemas, restaurants and bars; and over 250 conference and banqueting facilities, including the landmark Sandton Convention Centre.
One of Tsogo Sun’s business models is to make use of travel agents who make bookings on behalf of clients. Clients pay the travel agent directly. Tsogo produces high volumes of invoices for Travel Agents at each individual hotel across the country. All these invoices have to be manually processed and sent by courier or post and delivered to the correct client. This is done by sending all invoices to regional hubs in major city centres for sorting and processing.
These hubs would categorise the invoices and send them to each travel agent individually, by post or courier. Not only is this a time consuming and labour intensive task, but also cumbersome when it comes to the handling of queries, where the process runs in reverse from client to regional hub, back to the hotel. This resulted in unacceptably long turnaround times for query resolution.
One of the challenges for any business in the industry is the handling of bar slips and other non-standard paper sizes.
“The mountains of paperwork and possible human error that came in with the handling of all the paper invoices and slips manually, were causes for concern. For example, a customer could have slips for dinner, breakfast, cold drinks, and room expenses, all of which can be different sizes. All these have to be stapled together and accompany the master invoice as backup documentation. It was imperative to have a solution that would reduce the risk of losing any of these documents,” says Dawie Beyers, project manager at Tsogo Sun.
With Decision Inc. currently supporting and maintaining the public-facing Web sites of the hotel and gaming businesses of Tsogo Sun, there was a very strong existing relationship. Tsogo contracted the information management company to develop a solution that would convert the manual process into a digital one.
“We proposed developing the new Customer Hub on Microsoft SharePoint technology with additional customisation and workflow integration into the different systems of Tsogo Sun,” says Henri Fourie, general manager for Content and Collaboration at Decision Inc.
“The system was built to capture the invoices generated by the property management system on a nightly basis and import them into an online portal. Each travel agent has its own micro-site to log in and view invoices in close to real-time. We also built in a notification functionality to email the travel agent as soon as an invoice has been loaded on to the site.”
“Tsogo Sun still sends the originals manually but the new system gives the respective stakeholders the ability to view invoices online and mark queries in order to achieve a faster resolution time,” concludes Fourie.
Using the SharePoint-based system has, amongst other initiatives, had a significant impact on the reduction of debtor days.
“Given that we have split the travel agents into different micro-sites, the system is not only user-friendly but extremely secure as well. All the invoices and supporting slips and other documentation are combined into a single PDF document and made searchable. We have also integrated a background process check with SAP to show whether the payment has been received,” says Fourie.
While Beyers admits it was initially difficult to change user and client behaviour to use an online system, once people started using the system, the benefits became apparent and more and more travel agents are embracing the technology.
Additional development is currently underway to refine the system. Invoices will now be encrypted to further enhance security, and archiving ability has been added to manage the significant volumes of invoices generated.
“The relationship with Decision Inc. is going strong and will continue well into the future. The company provides us with personal attention and are always looking for solutions to our business pains. The ‘can do’ attitude of the team who worked with us has been refreshing,” adds Beyers.