Rolf Bishop, the chief information officer for San Diego County, had never been satisfied with the process of manually filling out forms in person whenever citizens needed a county service.
If someone needed to change their address or apply for a homeowner’s exemption, he or she would have to drive to the county offices, find parking, fill out forms and sign them.
“It was inefficient, and it didn’t give our constituents good customer service. It just wasn’t a good way to handle business,” Bishop said. “We were looking to extend our products and services to the public so they could access them anywhere, anytime.”
As a first step, Bishop offered the forms on the county’s website for customers to fill out and sign. But that process still required that they come to the office to deliver the signed documents, which is what Bishop wanted to eliminate.
“That’s when we knew that we just had to make e-signatures available to our customers,” Bishop said. “We knew that would make a huge difference to everyone trying to use our services.”
Bishop evaluated the e-signature vendors on the market and decided to pick SIGNiX because of the high level of security the solution offered. On top of that, he was impressed that the technology was approved by the government.
“SIGNiX was state-approved, so we knew we had a solution that wasn’t just one-off,” Bishop said. “It wasn’t just us here at the county, but the back-end technology was approved and used standards accepted by the state of California.”
Bishop also liked the variety of methods SIGNiX offers to prove a signer’s identity. With SIGNiX, he can choose from the simplest type of verification to the most secure. Bishop needed a solution that was practical for all of the county’s forms.
But the biggest reason Bishop chose SIGNiX?
“Ease of use,” Bishop said. “Fingertip availability of services is huge. There’s no need to put people through the hassle of doing something in person when it can be done electronically. With SIGNiX, they can sign documents on their smartphone, tablet or computer.”
Piloting Small, Thinking Big
Bishop decided to pilot SIGNiX digital signatures on one of the county’s lower volume forms—the change of address form. The county handles about 5,000 of these forms a year, and it seemed like a smart first step to see if residents would react positively to the technology. In no time, Bishop was getting emails from constituents who loved the change.
“We’ve received lots of emails saying, ‘This was a fantastic decision to make it easier to get things like this done online,’” Bishop said.
Even though the county didn’t do anything to advertise the e-signature service to residents, adoption quickly ramped up.
“To me, the quick adoption means there was a pent up need for things to be more efficient,” Bishop said.
Seeing Value of Digital Signatures
Because of the success of the pilot program, Bishop plans to roll out more of the county’s forms for e-signatures over the coming months.
“It saves time at the front counter, and it saves time for the keypunch operators,” Bishop said. “Now those folks are available to do other things. Just for the change of address, it’s a fair amount of savings.”
Bishop is excited to see how much time and money they will save once they start using e-signatures for their higher-volume forms. In June 2014, Bishop plans to go live with e-signatures on the county’s homeowner’s exemption form—a form the county processes for up to 100,000 residents each year. They expect to save $225,000 per year on postage, printing and filing paper documents with SIGNiX, not including the time savings for both county employees and residents.
“The homeowner’s exemption is a 16-step process,” Bishop said. “The forms are mailed out, so we have a mail center with several people who have to sit there and batch the forms to different people to key in the information.”
With SIGNiX, Bishop’s staff will turn that 16-step process into a 2-step process. The residents simply request the form online, and the county’s automated system sends the form to them via email. They can fill out their information and sign the document on any device, all without any work for county employees. SIGNiX even automatically sends reminders if a resident forgets to complete the form.
Innovating in Government
In addition to the positive feedback from residents and county employees, other counties and state governments are impressed by the project.
“We’ve already gotten calls from other counties in California, and I even have other states calling me about it,” Bishop said. “When they heard about it, their ears perked up right away.”
Bishop would happily recommend e-signatures from SIGNiX to other counties and government agencies looking to offer better customer service.
“I’m very pleased with the technology and the success we’ve had so far and I look forward to a lot more in the upcoming months,” Bishop said. “The vision of the county over the next few years is to deliver all of our services anywhere, anytime.”