The COVID-19 restrictions have forced businesses of all sectors to accelerate their digital transformations processes as they shifted to remote working. Well it almost a year onset of the pandemic, businesses have encountered benefits from digital-first approach.
eSignatures are one of the best example of this phenomenon in action. During the beginning of pandemic, they acted as key feature by allowing organisations to ensure business continuity and productivity. Depending on physical or wet ink signatures for making contracts, NDAs, vendor & supplier agreements is now no longer preferred in remote working environment. Now businesses have understood the real benefits of eSignature applications in terms of time, sustainability, and cost.
eSignatures are paving their ways in almost every sector for quite some time. The Electronic Signatures Regulations was approved by the Parliament in 2002, in the UK. Since then, eSignatures are gaining popularity in public as well as private sector organisations. In 2014, existing e-signature regulations were superseded by EU eIDAS Regulation, which remained part of UK domestic law after Brexit.
Integration of eSignatures legality in most of the companies, especially the financial, government, healthcare, and manufacturing offers a greater security and convenience as compared to traditional or wet signatures. Although most of the organisations are still planning to use digital signatures for various use cases, beyond the basic ones to survive during this pandemic. Some if the business are already paying for using eSignature applications to cover business agreements, so using eSignatures with new use cases will help them in improving business productivity with a greater return on investment and some additional benefits. Some of which are:
Better Customer Experiences
Thanks to trailblazers like Revolut, Amazon and Spotify, today’s consumers have grown accustomed to fast, intuitive and highly personalized digital experiences. In particular, younger consumers have little appetite for navigating the legacy systems of many organizations, and will happily opt for a competitor if they offer a more convenient, streamlined digital service. It’s no surprise then, that “customer expectation for digital interaction” is cited as the leading reason for the adoption of e-signature technology by financial institutions.
Take the example of onboarding new customers, or account opening. In these scenarios, using electronic signature technology gives organizations a key competitive advantage. By removing the need for in-person interactions, or tedious printing and scanning processes, e-signatures reduce abandonment rates. What’s more, some organizations are taking the use of e-signatures one step further by combining them with video conferencing to help walk customers through complex agreements linked to high-value transactions.
Reduce operational costs and improve efficiency
It’s no secret that many employees are now working significantly longer hours than they were pre-pandemic. Businesses that reduced headcount to save costs when Covid-19 first struck are now struggling to hire qualified employees in a buoyant job market. As such, many are now leveraging technology to maximize employee productivity.
Adopting an e-signature solution can save valuable employee time that would otherwise be spent on menial, repetitive tasks. With wet signatures, this can include chasing signatures by phone and email to check a document's progress or resending an agreement that has been signed incorrectly. Plus, signing documents in the traditional manner often leads to unnecessary delays, thanks to the administrative hassle involved. By contrast, an e-signature solution can free up time for employees to build customer relationships and focus on revenue-generating tasks.
Navigate complex regulatory and compliance demands
When regulated companies go through a compliance audit, they are often asked to demonstrate the exact business processes they have followed – both in customer-facing and internal transactions. A comprehensive e-signature solution can significantly reduce the administrative headache associated with this process. Rather than having to produce thousands of paper documents and email chains, advanced e-signature technology can provide a comprehensive audit trail of the signing process. This typically includes data on who signed, in what order, and on which date and location, along with timestamps linked to an IP address. Documents can even be protected with digital encryption technology, so that the authenticity of signatures is guaranteed.
It’s also worth noting that regulatory and compliance demands covering agreements can change quickly. This leaves affected organizations having to adapt their business practices and re-educate employees on new processes, a resource-intensive process that creates many opportunities for human error. By opting for a comprehensive e-signature solution, companies effectively outsource much of this burden to the experts – the solution provider – who will ensure the product is compliant in a particular geography.
Expect the legal uses of e-signatures to continue expanding
In many countries, electronic signatures and records now carry the same weight as any paper-based agreement. Thanks to the Electronic Signatures Regulations and the subsequent EU eIDAS Regulation, the UK was already well-positioned for the disruption caused by Covid-19. However, thanks to the pandemic, e-signature regulations have continued to adapt and modernize at a faster rate than ever before. For example, from 27 July 2020, the United Kingdom’s HM Land Registry began to accept “witnessed electronic signatures”, enabling signatories to sign and witness documents electronically.
Thanks to ongoing pressure from consumers, it’s likely that e-signature regulation will continue to adapt to cover more use cases over the coming years. For instance, organizations such as Companies House and HMRC still do not accept e-signatures. Plus, certain documents like wills must still be signed and witnessed in person.
The Key Takeaway
Looking forward, as businesses across all industries continue to expand the scope of their digitization plans, e-signature technology will no doubt grow in importance, and be adopted more frequently. Looking beyond the pandemic, we’re going to see a much greater focus on organizational transparency, security and efficiency. The business world has certainly gone digital, and there’s no denying that electronic signatures will continue to offer key competitive advantages in the years ahead.