The terms eSignature and digital signature are frequently used interchangeably, despite the fact that they refer to two similar but somewhat different things: eSignatures are an umbrella term for any signature in electronic form, while digital signatures refer specifically to those that have added layers of security.
Even within these subsets that vary based on levels of security, there are different formats for receiving eSignatures. The steps to completing an eSignature vary depending on the format of the document.
Read on to learn about the most popular eSignature formats, and how to sign based on their unique characteristics.
How to Complete an eSignature via Microsoft Word
Having customers sign documents or forms via Microsoft Word may not be the most cutting-edge or seamless experience, but it gets the job done. And by following the proper compliance protocols for eSignatures, a signature in Microsoft Word is completely legally-binding and secure –– in other words, it can qualify as a digital signature.
Companies who wish to go this route will need to obtain a signing certificate, which is a digital certificate that authenticates the signer’s identity and prevents forgery. A digital certificate can be provided by an authorized organization, which is the best practice, but it can also be created on one’s own (see Microsoft’s customer support for instructions on the latter).
Here is how to complete an eSignature process in Microsoft Word:
- Open the document that requires a signature
- Move the cursor to an empty space where the line belongs
- Click the “Insert” tab
- Click “Signature Line” and then “Microsoft Office Signature Line”
- Fill out the intended signers’ name, title, and email address in the “Signature Setup” window
- Enable date of signing and ability for signers to add comments (optional)
- Send the document to customers for signing
- Have customers right-click the signature line, select “sign,”
Customers who complete the signing process on Microsoft Word can choose to use an image of their signature or actually sign, in the case of a touch screen.
How to Complete an eSignature via Adobe PDF
Perhaps one of the most popular and enduring ways of completing an eSignature, Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF) is a mainstay. Since it debuted on the market in 1993, companies have relied on PDF readers to compile documents and collect customer signatures.
Despite its ubiquity, Adobe PDF has the weakness of not being optimized for mobile. Signers generally wait until they are in front of a laptop or desktop computer to sign on the line, which can result in delayed completion times compared to mobile-optimized solutions.
On the other hand, its familiarity to customers may be a benefit, as is its high level of security. Therefore, for certain types of enterprises, eSignature via PDF may be a good fit.
Here are the steps involved in adding an eSignature to a PDF:
- Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Click “Fill & Sign” on the Tools panel on the right hand side
- Click “Sign” and then “Add Signature”
- When a popup window appears, select either “Type,” “Draw,” or “Image” depending on how the eSignature is to be added
- Click “Apply”
- Drag and correctly position the signature within the PDF.
The process for sending and receiving eSignatures on PDF is straightforward, but not ideal for on-the-go customers who lack immediate computer access.
How to Complete an eSignature via a mobile device (iPhone or Andriod)
eSignature solutions that are tailored for a smartphone experience (iPhone, or Andriod ) are the newest type of eSignature, and in many ways the most effective. They are based on the premise that customers should be able to fill out forms, upload documents, and sign paperwork wherever they are.
These mobile optimized eSignature solutions workflows function by sending a text message link (or email), which opens up to a device native secure web browser, with an intuitive mobile environment. There, customers are able to easily upload documents, fill out forms, send ID for verification, and complete their signature.
Customers can also simultaneously be guided by call center agents who help answer their questions and ensure the process is completed free of error the first time.
These are the steps required to complete a mobile eSignature process:
- Send signers a text message link
- Allow customers review documents while satisfying compliance requirements (HIPAA, TILA, etc.)
- Answer any questions the customers may have about the document terms or signing process
- Capture any data from signers if required, such as additional documents or forms
- Re-verify the signer’s identity (optional)
- Establish customer intent and receive consent by having customers sign with a typed signature of finger swipe
- Allow customers to upload any additional documents ( such as ID) if they choose
- Send the completed signed documents to all parties
- Now, all signed documents are stored safely in the CRM with a time-stamped, tamper-proof audit trail.
The process of collecting customer consent via mobile phone is effortless on both the agent and customer end. Companies don’t need to wait for customers to be in front of a computer or laptop, although customers also have the option of completing the process via computer if they prefer.
The bottom line: How customers complete an eSignature depends on the format
Whether a business prefers to collect eSignatures through Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF, a mobile-optimized solution, or something else entirely, the process is similar. But there are some differences in the steps that depend on the particular format. Businesses must carefully weigh which type of solution would provide the most effortless signing experience for their customers and agents.