The New Year always brings fresh beginnings, new perspectives and plenty of resolutions. For companies, it’s a time to think about updating processes, platforms and methods so your people and clients can work smarter and more efficiently—and so your company saves money. We have a clean slate, after all, so it makes sense to make changes now before we get too bogged down in our same old ways.That’s what makes this a great time to look at e-signatures for your business. Electronic signatures allow both your employees and your customers to keep processes online and save time. In fact, your customers are expecting you to use them these days. And if you’re going to implement a new digital process like e-signatures, it makes sense to take the time to research and do it right the first time.
Aren’t All E-signatures the Same?
It’s a common question, and the answer is a big, resounding “No!” Not even close. And that’s what can make this all tricky. It’s easy to look at a well-known brand or large company that makes electronic signatures and think that their platform will cover all of your business’ needs and industry requirements. I mean, it’s a common name, so it must be good, right? But that may not actually be the case. When you’re thinking about utilizing a technology that will affect every signed document that comes and goes from your business—that needs to be 100% secure and stand up in court—your company leaders will thank you for going the extra mile to dig deeper into how the e-signature works. Here’s what to look for:
Security and Data Privacy
Obviously, this is the number one priority. Whenever you’re dealing with sensitive documents that may be seen and signed by multiple people, you want to make sure that everything is kept private and that you know every little thing that is happening with your transaction. Here are questions to ask your potential e-signature partner:
- Is the e-signature a digital signature? I know that seems like a silly question— aren’t electronic and digital the same thing? No, they are fundamentally different, and digital signatures use an underlying technology that is broadly accepted worldwide as superior in security and legal evidence. Digital signatures are “independent,” meaning there is no need to rely on the vendor for verification. The legal evidence is permanently embedded right into the document with sophisticated cryptographic technology. The other option—an electronic signature only—might be easy to use, but it isn’t ruled by global standards, so each vendor basically comes up with its own “standards.” You then have to rely on the vendor to prove that the document is legitimate. Sounds like a hassle, right? You bet it is.
- What are your identity authentication methods? You need to know that the person who is signing the document is the right person, and that should be thoroughly verified. Most e-signature companies offer identity authentication, but ideally, you have multiple options so you can choose the right level of authentication depending on the document. For example, a basic permission slip may just need email-only authentication, but a more confidential document may need multi-factor authentication, knowledge-based authentication or another method.
- If the document is tampered with, will I have the evidence of that? Digital signature providers offer tamper-evident technology, which means the technology will immediately detect any changes that are made to a document. It sounds like something that should be a given, but it is not. Tamper-evident technology not only reduces the possibility of fraud, it gives you peace of mind.
- Is there a comprehensive audit trail? This is a relatively common term in the e-signature world, but, like the signatures themselves, not every audit trail is created equal. A truly comprehensive audit trail will capture and record every event—including each time it’s signed and if the document is changed at any time—in the signature process. And the history should include an entry after each person signs the document (versus one image capture or note at the end of the entire process, which won’t tell the whole story). A detailed audit trail ensures the document can be defended in court.
- Are the signatures compliant for your industry? Regulations vary by industry, and some are much more stringent than others. One e-signature may work well for the advertising industry, for example, but may not meet compliance for healthcare or finance. Ask for specifics about how the technology works and complies with your industry’s requirements so you don’t find yourself in a heap of trouble later.
Ease of Use
Even if you have the most secure e-signature in the world, no one will use the platform if it’s clunky. And that desire for user-friendliness should extend to your potential e-signature vendor’s customer service too. Here are some questions to ask:
- Is it mobile-friendly? Your customers are on the go—just like you are—and want to be able to sign documents from anywhere. Look for cloud-based digital signatures so they can work on any device with an internet connection.
- Can I brand the platform with my company’s logo and look? If your clients suddenly have to jump to an outside website or app to sign a document and/or if it has a completely different “feel” than what they’re used to, they won’t trust the platform. That means they could just exit and never sign your documents. Not only could that affect the project you’re working on, it could hurt your entire client relationship. It’s not worth it.
- Can it be integrated into my company’s existing system and workflow? Going one step beyond simply branding, some e-signature options can be fully white-labeled and incorporated into your existing technology through an API. This adds familiarity and consistency to your customers, plus it keeps them on your site, in your platform, with no bouncing around.
- Will customer service help me out weeks or months after I’ve implemented the platform? Really? So many vendors will promise you excellent customer service, but then once they have made the sale, you’re left high and dry. Take the time to choose a company that will be a true partner more than a vendor. This decision can impact hundreds to thousands of documents for years to come, so you want to work with someone you can count on.
E-signatures have become commonplace in today’s workforce, and it’s time to implement the solution that’s best for you. Make this one resolution that you won’t break and watch your company run more efficiently.
To learn more about Independent E-Signatures™, download this free white paper.