When faced with new technologies, our first instinct is often, “what’s wrong with the way we’ve always done it?” But trading in those old-school pen and paper signatures for an electronic signature, or e-signature, can prove to be even easier, more efficient, more convenient, and less costly, especially in this era of remote and hybrid workplaces. A digital signature solution allows companies to legally exchange, sign and manage important documents online quickly and easily.
Think you know what a digital signature is? It’s more than just signing your name on a pad. An e-signature is a mathematical algorithm used to validate the authenticity and integrity of a message (e-mail, credit card transaction, or digital document). These signatures create a unique virtual fingerprint to identify users and protect information in digital messages or documents. In e-mails, the email content is part of the digital signature.
Fortunately for you and your customers, all the complexity of the e-signature takes place behind the scenes. The basic process is quite simple, though it may vary by specific software. First, upload any Word, PDF, or other document from either your computer or a file-sharing site like Box, Dropbox, or OneDrive. Then, add the names and e-mail addresses of anyone who needs to sign. You can input specific messages to your recipients as needed, click send, and you’re done. The document will be sent to all of the signees, and you’ve just saved time and money. In addition, electronic signatures are an eco-friendly solution.
And what’s the alternative? Traditional ink signing of a paper contract must be done by postal mail, fax, or personal delivery. This can take days, or even weeks, of back-and-forth transactions that can take place before a document or contract is finalized.
Let’s take these benefits one at a time. As convenience is king, let’s start with the time it takes to get a document signed. With an e-signature, documents can be signed quickly from anywhere, on any device. No need to track down respondents, and all that is needed is an internet connection. Additionally, signatures and approvals can be collected on multiple documents at one time.
For customers looking to save a few bucks, e-signatures are a value proposition. Not only does the improved workflow save money (fewer work hours spent packaging, labeling, mailing, filing), there is less need to print documents, saving money on paper and ink, as well as copier wear and tear. Other cost savings include shipping costs and packaging materials. And while caring for the planet does not necessarily affect a company’s bottom line, less paper also means fewer trees destroyed, making it a win for the environment.
And while less paper and printing isn’t necessarily a selling point for office technology dealers, added revenue streams are. Packaging an e-signature solution as part of a technology package can mean an additional bit of recurring revenue.
But are e-signatures legal? In a word, yes. The United States Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (Esign), signed in 2000, gave digital signatures the same legal status as handwritten signatures. These digital signatures can establish the way businesses track, manage, and approve signatures and are significantly more secure than other forms of electronic signatures. They are legal and enforceable around the world. While Esign is specific to the U.S., other nations have similar laws protecting digital signatures, though specific rules may differ in the areas of wills and trusts, power of attorney, and divorce proceedings. And the same rules of pen and paper signatures still apply. Like traditional pen and paper signatures, an e-signature is only valid if each person intended to sign, and all parties involved in the transaction consented to conduct business this way.
Is sending all this information into cyberspace secure? The answer to this one is yes as well. In fact, e-documents can be more secure than paper files stored in a traditional filing cabinet that are easy for almost anyone to access. Secure software tracks which users open, download, or update files. Admins can even restrict a user’s access to view only the files that affect that person directly.
Another advantage is that e-signatures may make it easier to verify that the person signing a document is the same person who is expected to sign the document. Sure, meeting in person is somewhat fail safe, but arranging these meetings can range from inconvenient to impossible. Relying on faxed or mailed documents, on the other hand, can be more precarious. A contract management software system that uses robust user verification helps ensure that the designated signee is in fact the one who handled and signed the documents.
Want some more selling points? Studies have shown that sales teams that implement a digital signature solution can increase sales by up to 45%. Implementing a seamless digital solution eliminates barriers that can cost both time and sales. In addition, you gain the ability to monitor activity with audit trails and signature dashboards for an end-to-end contract management solution.
For financial institutions, a digital signature solution can also eliminate the headache that comes with submitting signature sensitive documents like damage reports, tax forms, account opening documents, or powers of attorney. These documents can be sent securely and directly to a company, bank, or customer for a quick and easy countersignature.
Have legal documents? Collecting client signatures is inevitable in law firms. It can be time consuming to print a document, sign it, and send it back. An e-signature signature process will give law firms more time to focus on their clients and not their paperwork.
When weighing the benefits of e-signatures, whether to use them for your business or as a reseller, there’s a lot to consider. But for simplicity, security, and a beyond-print value proposition, we think they can’t be beat.
Michael B. Hannon
Michael B. Hannon is an executive leader with extensive experience within the mailing equipment and financial services industries. Taking on the role of managing director in early 2020, he is responsible for all aspects of FP’s North American regional operations. Having moved up through the company, beginning in sales in 2007, he has a very hands-on, customer-centric and sales-focused approach. Gaining knowledge of the industry throughout his career, he has been able to develop and implement numerous processes and programs, like FP Finance and sales process automation, that have improved both sales and operations, leading to FP’s continuous growth in the region.