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Weighing the ROI value of e-signature adoption

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This article presents a proven approach to gaining widespread e-signature adoption by the field forces and consumer clients. And it demonstrates why consumer adoption of electronic signature is the last hurdle to seeing real cost savings in an automated, “no-touch” straight-through processing (STP) world.

How do we impact change on the business process?

The change the industry is seeking is to transition from a primarily paper-based, ink-on-paper signature process to one that is fully electronic. The goal is for the end user to adopt and adapt to feeling at ease with an election of the electronic signature process.

Electronic signature within the insurance industry has seen some pockets of implementation and usage that have shown there is real ROI value, but these success stories have been limited to large wire house, process controlled implementations. And even with this process control, all have shown to be lacking in their successful end user adoption. And although the reasons vary, the most common are lack of placing the agent and end consumer at ease with the process and lack of usability.

Keep it simple.

If you want end clients to opt-in for electronic signature, you must make the e-signature consumer experience as easy and familiar as the paper process they are used to today. This is now easier to accomplish with the recent introduction and overwhelming agent adoption of tablet-based devices that enable the capture of signature electronically. Prior to tablet devices, the only real face-to-face option was to implement hardware based solutions, which for most distribution demographics, was impossible.

To obtain broad end user adoption of e-signature, it is best to not present an overly engineered, compliance and risk focused, multiple-step process leveraging email and consumer challenge questions. These processes are unfamiliar to both the client and agent and open up additional points for the client to express concern and/or to change their mind about the sale. That being said, agents do not always get face-to-face time with their clients, and business at times requires email based identification and click-to-sign process.

Implementing a defensible electronic signature process is less about the actual technical implementation of capturing the signature itself and more about the presentation and workflow leading up to, during, and after the actual signing ceremony. There are complex issues of signer identification, consent capture and compliance validation requirements at play, but it’s my opinion that most of these concerns turn out to be boogey men when you implement a logical and defensible client document presentation and signing preparation process.

What does the industry need?

When Insurance Technologies first looked at the need for electronic signature within the insurance industry, there were no real, non-hardware based, in-person e-signature methods available. With the rapidly expanding multi-device mobile environment, there was a need for supporting multiple methods of capturing electronic signatures and a concern that in-person tablet based signatures would not be enough.  New technology to support email based remote signature capability is the perfect complement to the tablet-based, in-person signature capture functionality.

Additionally, agents are more likely to see value in and adopt new technology solutions if the solution supports current business processes and does not attempt to force behavioral change. This production process, coupled with continued price drops, growing end user adoption of tablet devices, and the advisors’ desire to leverage these within the field force, is enabling advisors to prepare prior to the client meeting, take their tablets with them to make last minute application changes and capture the client signature all in a single meeting, without the requirement for email and complex identity validation challenge questions.

This built-in, default workflow e-signature process is as familiar for clients as what they do when using the signature pad at their local supermarket. By implementing as an opt-out e-signature process, it makes it easy for clients to adapt and understand what they are signing. And clients can even receive a signed PDF copy of their complete documents once signing and submission are complete.

It’s most valuable because it is the actual face-to-face meeting and client relationship that is leveraged for the identity documentation capture and validation. There are also future possibilities of having these devices use facial recognition and capture a picture at the time of signing or use the GPS capabilities to define location as additional, optional, compliance related feature sets.

Tablet devices, with touch screen e-signature capabilities, are seen as the bridge to which carriers can begin to see real technology adoption and return on their STP investments, while jointly presenting a competitive advantage to their field force by providing a user friendly way of completing orders for any line of business.