How to Work eSignatures Into Your Automated Workflows

Leor Melamedov

eSignatures are an integral part of any workflow automation solution and business process management (BPM). While many other elements are part of a customer-facing automated workflow, from eForms to ID verification, eSignatures are essential in that they signify customer consent. In other words, they mark the conclusion of any interaction, whether servicing or sales.

Here, we’ll show what makes eSignatures an inseparable part of workflow automation, and how companies can easily and quickly integrate them in to maximize closure rates.

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How eSignatures Work

Before we jump into how eSignatures work as part of a greater automated workflow, let’s talk a little about how they function.

A strong eSignature solution seamlessly integrates into existing systems. It’s a no-brainer to use, on both the customer and agent side. But under the hood, there is a complex technology that ensures eSignatures are compliant, secure, and seamless.

Building an eSignature solution that carries legal standing requires developers to rely on public key infrastructure (PKI).

PKI enables users and devices to be authenticated digitally. Customers can securely and digitally sign documents that come with a cryptographic key connected to the user in a digital environment.

Users, devices, manufacturers, and many other things that can be associated with keys are called entities. A PKI establishes the connection between a key and an entity in a secure fashion.

PKI is composed of the following elements:

  • A Public Key Certificate, also called a digital certificate: Proves ownership of a public key.
  • Private key tokens: Allow private keys to be securely generated
  • Certificate authority: An organization that validates the identities of various entities
  • Registration authority: An authority that validates user requests for a digital certificate.
  • Certificate Management System: A system that manages the lifecycle for certificate issuing, inspection, renewal, and more.

The PKI allows eSignatures to be secured by creating two mathematically linked keys: a public key and a private key.

The public key is available to those who are authorized to validate the eSignature. The private key remains hidden from everyone besides the signer of the document. Encrypting and decrypting eSignature data relies on both the sender’s and receiver’s public and private keys.

By using PKI, developers ensure eSignature technology meets the requirements of the certificate authority (CA), which is upheld by organizations that are responsible for guaranteeing key security integrity. The CA uses a cryptographic key for signing these documents, which are known as certificates.

Once the signer of the document provides his or her electronic signature, a cryptographic hash is created as a kind of digital fingerprint.

When an electronic signature is provided, a cryptographic hash is created for the document, which serves as a unique digital fingerprint.

The sender’s private key then takes the cryptographic hash, encrypts it, and stores it in a secure HSM box. It is added to the document and sent to the recipient along with the sender’s public key.

Using the sender’s public key certificate, the recipient is able to decrypt the hash. On the recipient’s end, a new cryptographic hash is generated. The two hashes are compared to validate the eSignature’s authenticity and prove that no tampering has occurred.

There are three main types of digital signatures, each with its own level of security.

  • Class I signatures: Provide a basic level of security for low-risk environments, and are not legally binding for business documents.
  • Class II signatures: Authenticate a signer’s identity against a pre-verified database. Used for a moderate risk environment, such as income tax returns.
  • Class III signatures: Require a person to present in front of a certifying authority to prove identity before providing a signature. This is used for court filings, e-tendering, e-ticketing where a data breach can have major consequences.

What Kind of eSignature Does Your Automated Workflow Need?

It is natural for compliance-minded businesses to wonder which eSignature solution is the most secure, or will best protect them from liability. The good news is that many digital signatures on the market today provide the highest level of security most industries need. These eSignature solutions can be safely relied upon by the most stringent industries, including banking, auto lending, telecommunications, and insurance.

Once a business has established that the eSignature solution is sufficiently secure, it can still be overwhelming to make a decision. That’s because the eSignature market today is heavily saturated with plenty of options, and their differences are not always immediately clear.

However, for businesses that already have an automated workflow (or are planning on launching one), it’s crucial that the eSignature solution is not just a standalone solution. These businesses will want to make sure that the eSignature comes as just one part of a larger digital workflow. For those that have an automated system in place, it’s imperative that the eSignature solution integrate seamlessly with existing processes.

Ultimately, businesses don’t care about signatures. They care about getting deals completed. Electronic signatures are just one piece, albeit an important one, of the entire process.

When looking for an eSignature solution that fits into the greater customer-facing workflow, consider one that is:

  • Instant: Customers should be able to provide their consent in the moment, while talking with an agent.
  • Integrated: It should be easy and painless to connect the eSignature solution to the workflow, agent CRM, and other vendor applications via API.
  • Based on conditional logic: Automated workflows based on dynamic business rules should generate the correct documents and forms for signing.
  • Mobile-first: The most efficient workflows allow customers to easily complete the transaction from any location or channel, including their smartphone. Customers should therefore also be able to provide consent from the digital channel of their choice.

How to Integrate eSignatures Into an Automated Workflow

eSignatures are generally the last, or one of the last, elements of an automated workflow. But they are so important to get right. Once the end-customer has got their ID verified, shows intent to purchase a product, and has digitally sent their forms and documents, they need to provide that final, all-important consent. Make it too cumbersome for them to sign, and a company risks losing a customer that was so close to the finish line.

Adding an eSignature solution to an automated digital workflow should be relatively easy, provided the workflow is dynamic and configurable.

But depending on the eSignature provider, industry, company size, how many agents will be using the platform, and existing workflow, the implementation may take more or less time.

To ensure implementation goes smoothly, it’s critical that the company works very closely with the vendor, who should provide hands-on or remote training to optimize usage.

Stakeholders should make sure the users (advisors or agents) of the eSignature, as well as relevant executive management, see the value in the solution. Be sure to speak to employees about the goals the company hopes to meet through adopting the eSignature, and emphasize ease of use and productivity benefits. Employees who understand the “why” will be more receptive to training, and more eager to use the solution in their job.

How eSignatures Function in an Automated Workflow

Once agents and executives are aligned on the new eSignature solution, and once agents have been trained to use them, the next part is to set them up in the greater digital workflow.

It’s easier than it sounds. An admin simply enters into a console with a drag-and-drop interface, configuring business rules to trigger requests for eSignatures. For example, customers may be required to add their eSignature to some digital documents, but not others. Admins can set up relevant rules based on conditional logic (“if”/”then”).

Here is what the eSignature flow looks like once configured:

Not only is it very easy for customers to sign from any digital channel, from any location, it’s easy for agents to receive them in the moment, when they are instantly stored for future reference. There is zero lag time between any of these steps, allowing eSignatures to be a seamless part of the customer-facing workflow.

The Bottom line: Electronic Signatures Are Easy to Add to Automated Workflows

Companies considering whether and when to add eSignatures to their business process management system needn’t think twice. Whether they are looking to adopt a new automated workflow system, or simply add an eSignature capability into an existing one, they are sure to see a quick ROI. This includes accelerated time to completion, a better customer experience, and improved agent efficiency. To learn more about Lightico’s end-to-end workflow solution, including its eSignature capability, visit Lightico.com.

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