Canadian Underwriter

Effective software vendor selection key to eSignatures benefits, broker forum hears

March 2, 2016   by Jason Contant, Online Editor

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Careful selection of an eSignatures software vendor can help improve adoption rates and provide immediately noticeable benefits, a speaker suggested on Tuesday during a presentation at the Insurance Canada Broker Forum.

eSignatures are paperless, secure and convenient electronic signatures that enable customers to sign documents electronically on computer and mobile devices in a single step

Amanda Ketelaars, operations manager at Mitchell & Whale Insurance Brokers Ltd. in Whitby, Ont., spoke during a session titled eSignature Success: A Broker’s Perspective at the forum, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Ketelaars said that although the brokerage had been using eSignatures for a while, there was low adoption from staff and clients.

“It turned out it was the software,” Ketelaars told conference attendees. “It was really difficult for the customer to use, which meant that the documents ended up coming back signed the old fashioned way, so we really weren’t saving any time using it.”

By selecting a different vendor, it helped ensure that the software was a fit for the company from a price, functionality and features standpoint, she said. “We only have one chance to make a first impression and that software is making an impression on your users, so if it is clumsy and difficult… they are not going to enjoy using it very much.”

eSignatures are paperless, secure and convenient electronic signatures that enable customers to sign documents electronically on computer and mobile devices in a single step, according to information from the website of the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations in Toronto. “The resulting transactions are fast, secure, verifiable and paperless, improving customer service while reducing costs for brokers,” the website noted.

Ketelaars told the audience that once Mitchell & Whale changed vendors, the software “slid right into the current workflows that we already have in place.” The firm then worked with the vendor to customize logos and emails and took advantage of the templates and overlays already in place inside the software, and then provided about an hour’s worth of staff training. Since May of 2015, Mitchell & Whale has sent out more than 1,800 documents for eSignatures, with a less than 3% abandonment rate, she reported.

“We saw the results immediately,” Ketelaars said. “The documents were actually coming back within minutes. Where it used to take days because the person on the other end was looking for a printer, looking for somewhere to scan it back in, having to sign it, all of that, they were coming back immediately,” she said. “The turnaround time was immediately noticeable.”

And the documents came back complete, Ketelaars said. “Part of the benefits of the eSignature solutions are that it can’t go to the next step until it’s done,” she said. “So when an app goes out and it has several places that you need to initial or sign or complete data, the client on the other end has to do it first and it’s an easy process to get it done. We get the completed app back with all the fields filled in. Now our sales brokers aren’t following up on anything.”

Another benefit was multiple signing, where the document goes to one person who has to sign, heads of to the second person, “but never skips a step until everybody is done. The time saved in just not having to follow up on documents was immediately noticeable,” Ketelaars said.

She reported that while there are a few documents that aren’t or can’t be signed by eSignatures, the majority of insurance carriers accept them, except for sometimes in cases of cancellations. Mitchell & Whale also made eSignatures mandatory.

Ketelaars said that before they rolled out the process completely, each staff member signed documents that clients would sign both on a desktop computer and mobile device. “So it wasn’t scary any more. They got to see exactly what the customer is going to see. It made it easy for them to feel more comfortable asking the customers to use the software.”

Mitchell & Whale has also started using the eSignature software internally for all employee documents, such as new hires. “So essentially anything in our office that needs a signature, it goes out through the eSignature software. Nice and easy, easy to store when the documents are signed. I am an eSignature advocate and have been for a while,” she concluded.

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