Electronic Signing Solution Eliminates the Hidden Cost and Process Roadblock in Going From Paper to Digitized Documents | Article

lots of paper problemsIf your company is like many others, you’ve invested millions or even billions of dollars to convert your documents to digital format to help you better manage business processes. You’ve probably also spent a lot of money building an e-commerce Web Site and driving customers to it. Then comes the bottleneck: your process bogs down and you can’t close sales quickly because you suddenly have to convert back to a paper process to get an agreement or contract signed. Managing that contract execution process and getting signatures on that paper document is a transaction that could take days or weeks because of having to route it to different parts of a company or to different regions or countries.

Twiddy & Company Realtors, which manages almost 800 vacation rental beach homes along North Carolina’s Outer Banks resort area, processes thousands of vacation rental agreements and homeowner contracts.

Laura Carver, chief technology officer at Twiddy, says three years ago they wanted to reduce the steps involved in the process so they could “work smarter, not harder,” get revenue quicker, and reduce the company’s spend on paper.

The process at that time was to accept guest reservations through Twiddy’s Web site, then print two copies of each rental agreement and mail them to guests via traditional mail services. Every morning, the administrative staff would manually print, stuff, and mail paper vacation rental agreements. Often, they processed 100 vacation rental agreements per day. Then there was a lot of manual labor involved in processing the signed returned agreements and in scanning signed contracts into Twiddy’s electronic filing system.

Twiddy’s business process and costs also bogged down in getting signatures on homeowner renewal contracts. Each contract is 13 pages long; they had to print and mail two sets of the documents to hundreds of homeowners each year to get signatures. This process alone required printing and managing more than 19,000 sheets of paper.

Besides the cost of paper, there were postage fees, envelopes, and the cost of getting the vacation rental agreements and homeowner renewal contracts to and from the post office.

Today, the process of getting signatures on Twiddy’s documents is easy and takes minutes instead of days or weeks. Carver says customers (guests and homeowners) love the easy signature process. They, too, avoid stuffing an envelope, incurring postage costs, and going to the post office or FedEx.

The solution that Twiddy and many other companies are enjoying is DocuSign, a provider of e-signature and electronic contract execution services. The service integrates the infrastructure and compliance necessary for a legally binding signature. DocuSign’s end-to-end electronic document signing service completely replaces the pen-and-paper process, saving companies time and money and helping them to close deals faster.

Revenue, productivity, and customer satisfaction increases

Doug Wheeler, vice president of marketing at DocuSign, says electronic signatures are “a compelling way to transact business faster, more securely, more reliably, and far more cost-effectively than using paper.”

By getting an immediate DocuSign e-signature over the Web, companies can quickly lock out their competitors, increasing their close rates and realizing revenues sooner. Carver says, “We get payment quicker because the rental customers sign and commit to the properties quicker.”

At the same time, the electronic signature significantly decreases cycle time of a contractual transaction, so it quickly reduces costs and increases profitability. “It’s not unusual for our larger customers to find that they’re extracting over seven figures in costs that they were previously incurring to get paper documents signed physically. Sometimes the process involved sending the documents all over the world via fax, FedEx, or mail,” says Wheeler.

Savings also come from productivity increases. Perhaps a salesperson, for example, no longer has to spend time chasing down people to sign documents and can, instead, sell products or services to new or existing customers. At Twiddy, an important benefit is the ability to integrate DocuSign’s electronic signatures into Twiddy’s existing reservation software. And in recent months, Twiddy has been using DocuSign for guest signatures at the time of booking.

Another benefit of using DocuSign is the assurance that the person who signed the document isn’t a spouse or friend who signed on someone’s behalf who wasn’t available at the time. “It’s really easy to forge signatures like that,” says Wheeler. “But you can’t do that with DocuSign. So our electronic signatures give our customers much stronger assurance that the document was signed by the right person than the assurance they have when mailing a paper document for signature.”

Two other benefits: SaaS model and an intuitive process

Customers like Twiddy love the ease of using the DocuSign solution because their customers find it simple and intuitive; so it accelerates the process of finalizing a contract. It uses an electronic version of little yellow sticky tabs to point to where people are supposed to sign or initial a document (just like they’re accustomed to seeing in paper documents) and moves them quickly through a document.

Twiddy revisits its business processes every few months, says Carver. “We look for areas where we can still improve and make life easier, then we incorporate the improvements into our process.” She has given DocuSign feedback, and the company has made changes to improve the process.

Small and midsize businesses and large enterprises outsource to access the DocuSign solution in a hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) service. That makes the solution cost-effective and free of implementation challenges.

DocuSign is a verb and it’s green

Carver is busy and well traveled. She says, “When I travel, a vendor e-mails me a PDF document for my signature. I have to print it, sign it, and fax it back or mail it back. I never need that printed document again after I sign it. Why not DocuSign it faster and at the same time save the cost of printing and mailing paper?”

A home mortgage company in the United States used to have the cost of driving from one neighboring state to another–three to five hours on the road each way–to get physical signatures on mortgage documents. Alternatively, they had to FedEx the documents. Now their customers DocuSign. “Geography is irrelevant to them now,” explains Wheeler. “They can transact business with customers anywhere in the country now. Suddenly their sales territory and their ability to service customers expanded and they can also complete the transactions much faster–so everybody’s happier.”

For companies focused on “going green,” the DocuSign solution makes a positive impact on the environment from not printing, faxing, mailing, and using courier services. As Wheeler points out, an electronic signature’s ripple effect starts with saving trees that produce oxygen and absorb CO2 greenhouse gas, then prevents pollution from transporting trees and then the manufactured paper, and extends to preventing pollution from transporting/delivering paper documents.

Last year, DocuSign issued the “Go Green with DocuSign Challenge” to customers to help the environment with six million DocuSign signatures in one year. They ended up with more than 10 million. A lot of those were in connection with Twiddy. “We’re a forward-looking company,” says Carver. “We always try to be number one in the search engine rankings. Now we’re more competitive because our guests really like DocuSign. We like being on the cutting edge and having something better than what’s available in the current market.”

Lessons from Outsourcing Journal:

  • Companies’ investments in digitizing documents and driving customers to e-commerce sites often end up with a lengthy process bottleneck and added costs involved in getting customers to sign a paper contract or agreement.
  • Companies can build their own electronic document signing solution or can outsource to cost-effectively and efficiently access a solution in a hosted model.
  • An end-to-end electronic signing process that conforms to legal requirements enables companies to transact business faster, more reliably, and more cost-effectively than using paper. A Web-based e-signature solution can also facilitate locking out competitors and realizing revenue sooner.
  • A Web-based electronic signature service eliminates geographic constraints and enables companies to expand their sales and service territories.
  • Savings from outsourcing an e-signature process come not only from eliminating the cost of paper, postage, printing, and courier services, but also from increased productivity because of not having to spend time chasing down the status of the signature process.


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