Why Next-Generation eSignature Solutions Are Critical to Managing Businesses in the Coronavirus Era
By Leor Melamedov
Not all eSignature Solutions are Created Equal
As the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, entire communities are driven into their homes. “Social distancing” is now mandated by governments to help “flatten the curve.”
This isn’t just the jargon of a pandemic; it’s the terminology of an economy under siege from an invisible enemy. Activities such as riding the train, meeting with friends, and going to the barber are now off-limits.
And so is another familiar activity we’ve long taken for granted: signing on the dotted line.
Fortunately, technology makes it possible for customers to sign entirely remotely, and bypass in-person interaction required for wet signatures. eSignature solutions aren’t new, and have been legally binding for the past 20 years. Unfortunately, they are no longer best equipped to serve the needs of today’s smartphone-dependent customers. But next-generation eSignature solutions provide an intuitive and easy-to-use interface –– and don’t require customers to access anything but their smartphones.
First-generation eSignature solutions simply can’t deliver this. And that reflects in low completion rates. Today, with less than 50% of consumer contracts completed, it is a business imperative to understand and address the issues that are hurting completion rates.
Only a next-generation eSignature can provide the customer-centric solution needed to manage the entire end-to-end transaction when customers are stuck in their homes. By simplifying, mobilizing, and guiding eSignature completion, businesses can optimally service their customers during these uncertain times.
First Generation eSignature Solutions and Adoption
Technological advances over the last few years have led to the development of much more efficient ways of doing business. eSignatures emerged as part of the general digitization trend with the digitization of forms and their associated consent. Back in the late 1990s, one way that companies sought to address customers’ changing expectations was by incorporating eSignatures into their business transactions.
In 2000, when a U.S. Federal law known as the Electronic Signatures in Global and International Commerce Act was passed, electronic signatures were given the same legal standing as wet ink signatures in many domains. This further fed the rapid adoption of eSignatures in businesses.
Today, many organizations use eSignature software to record legal signatures and lock in documents like sales and servicing contracts or employment paperwork that an employee, partner, or client needs to provide. The number of worldwide eSignature transactions jumped from 89 million in 2012 to 754 million in 2017.
No Longer Enough: First-Generation eSign Solutions Have Low Completion Rates
Businesses were quick to adopt digital signatures because of the immediate digitization wins. Digital signatures enabled businesses to contract remotely and without paper overhead. And, with further legal backing, the business adoption continued to grow.
But, despite explosive growth in eSignature solution providers, first generation eSignature solutions are no longer effective in driving signatures: consumer eSign completion rates have now dropped to 50% as companies struggle to get customers to sign, even digitally. For businesses that rely on consumer consent and signatures, this low completion rate reflects lost sales, heavy costs and compliance risks.
Why First-Generation eSigns are Failing
After diagnosing hundreds of thousands of eSign transactions, the core issues of first generation eSign technology are:
They Are Not Instant
Decades ago, when email was just taking root, people would rush to their inboxes to check if they heard from their loved ones. Email communication was important and personal.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous marketers saw the opportunity to capture consumer attention at scale and at a low cost, and started inundating customers with marketing emails. Soon, inboxes became the target of endless promotional emails and the ‘signal to noise’ ratio of our inboxes plummeted.
Even after the introduction of CAN-SPAM laws, our inboxes are still cluttered with unwanted messages. Unfortunately, because of the explosion of email marketing, email has become inundated and spammy – reducing the chance that email will be understood as legitimate, and actually opened and read.
While email still has a strong presence in business to business communications, texting has taken over as the definitive way to communicate with end customers. In fact, text messages have four times the response rates as emails, making it a surer bet when trying to complete a transaction or agreement with a customer.
They Are Not Natively Mobile
With smartphones more powerful than most home computers, customers feel empowered to dump their old office environments and devices (printers, scanners, faxes) and manage their personal and business affairs from their phones –– where selfies and swipes have replaced cartridges and cables.
This seismic shift towards mobile phones and away from desktop computers is causing conversion rates of traditional eSignatures to plummet. Most first-generation eSignature solutions require mobile users to access their email, and then present their documents in full letter size or A4 presentation on small screens. This sub-par mobile experience tends to foment frustration.
Furthermore, Pew research found that 17% of American households are “smartphone-only” –– meaning they can only reach the internet through their smartphone. These consumers, who are largely lower-income, have no access to computers or laptops. In order for them to sign a contract or form from their homes, they will need to be serviced with a mobile-optimized, easy-to-use eSignature solution.
During regular times, mobile eSignatures are proven to generate 50% higher completion rates than wet signatures. During the coronavirus outbreak, they are a lifeline for both companies and customers.
They Provide No Human Guidance
The coronavirus world is a scary place to be in. And contracts are by nature scary due to the level of commitment they imply. Add the two together, and you have a recipe for soaring levels of customer stress.
The pre-digital signature era offered face-to-face interaction with sales agents to manage customer doubts and field questions surrounding a contract and its legalese. First-generation eSignature solutions lost that invaluable service.
Finally, mobile eSignatures bring it back, offering the best of both worlds: an easy way of providing signatures remotely, and reassuring on-phone guidance from an agent. At a time when customers are more worried than ever about their finances and health, people need human communication more than ever –– as long as it’s kept at a safe physical distance.
The Bottom Line: Ensure Business Continuity with Next- Generation eSign Solutions
In light of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus, it’s more critical than ever for companies to provide remote ways of getting business done. As companies switch to entirely digital means of closing contracts with customers, they must carefully consider which eSignature solution will deliver the best results.
Legacy eSignature solutions that rely primarily on email and PDFs simply aren’t ideal for today’s smartphone-reliant customers.
On the other hand, next-generation eSignatures that are part of a wider, customer-centric system are making it possible for agents to instantly collect documents, eSignatures, and payments while customers are on the phone.
This use of next-generation eSignatures streamlines workflows, boosts customer satisfaction, and increases completion rates.
By adopting the most current and effective eSignature solutions today, companies can earn their customers’ loyalty. And the rewards of this digital transformation will be felt long after the coronavirus has passed.
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