Collecting signatures online can save you a lot of hassle, but there are some things you’ll need to be aware of if you’re going to make the most of eSignature software. In this guide, we take a look at the need-to-know elements of electronic signatures so you can move forward with confidence.
Why use electronic signatures?
The benefits of eSignatures are undeniable. By replacing pen-and-paper signatures with electronic versions, you can save time, increase security, achieve compliance, and more:
Electronic signatures are more secure.
Because they reduce the need for printing, scanning, and emailing, eSignatures greatly reduce the chances your signed documents will end up in the wrong hands. Additional features such as encryption and password protection can be used to further strengthen security—options that aren't available with paper-based signatures.
Electronic signatures can be collected quickly.
Electronic signatures can be completed and saved within a matter of minutes, eliminating the long wait times that often accompany requests for pen-and-paper signatures. Depending on the eSignature software solution you use, you may even be able to collect electronic signatures via email or text message.
Electronic signatures are easy to file.
When customers and colleagues are given the option to sign documents online, the completed files can be automatically sent to an online storage location. This eliminates the need for manually filing, and can cut down on the amount of time that’s often spent scouring folders or shuffling through hard copies in search of a signed document.
When is an electronic signature useful?
Any time you find yourself asking someone to send, scan, or email a traditionally signed document, there’s an opportunity to transition to an electronic signature instead. eSignatures can be used for vendor contracts, terms of service agreements, contests, petitions, liability waivers, non-disclosure agreements, incident reports, HR forms, and more. For example:
- Higher education institutions can use eSignature software to streamline the process of collecting signed enrollment forms, applications for ethical review, grant proposals, and event alumni donation approvals
- CPAs can use electronic signature software to speed up tax return submissions and ensure client data stays safe.
- Insurance agencies that rely on eSignature solutions are able to provide quotes and process claims faster, which in turn allows these companies to increase productivity and improve the customer experience.
Are electronic signatures legal?
According to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), eSignatures are just as legally valid as their pen-and-paper counterparts.
This means the electronic signatures you collect are legally binding in every state where federal law applies. In addition, some jurisdictions have either developed their own legislation or adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).
To collect electronic signatures that will hold up in court, it’s important to keep several factors in mind:
First, there must be a legitimate intent to sign. That means you can leave no doubt that the signer deliberately signed the document in question. One way to achieve this electronically is by including a required “accept” button to be selected before the signature can be submitted. Another option is to have signers use a cursor or touchpad to purposefully “draw” their names.
Second, you must ensure there is consent to do business electronically. For example, if your business uses online forms to capture signatures, you can add a consent clause and require signers to “click to accept” before the electronic signature can be submitted.
And lastly, it’s important to retain any records associated with the eSignature, such as a complete copy of the signed digital document.
Best practices for collecting electronic signatures
As you get into the habit of capturing signatures electronically, it’s important to keep several best practices in mind:
Make sure your software is secure.
When selecting an electronic signature solution, look for advanced security features such as document encryption and AES 256-bit SSL. This will ensure that your eSignatures are kept safe with the same technology used to secure banking transactions.
Keep an eye on compliance.
If you work in an industry regulated by specific standards or requirements, make sure any solutions you use will make it easy to comply. For example, signatures collected for documentation containing patient data will need to be processed with software designed to reduce the risk for HIPAA noncompliance.
Streamline the process with templates.
Rather than recreating files and adding a signature field to each one, create templates for the documents you use most often. Better yet, choose an electronic signature solution that lets you use your data to easily populate dynamic sections of each template based on who will be submitting an eSignature.
Electronic signatures can help your business move faster, perform better, and enhance the experience for all involved. With the right eSignature software, all you have to do is create a template, drag and drop fields, and send the document to appropriate parties for signatures. Because they’re so easy to complete, the response is instantaneous. It means a superior experience for your customers, and more productivity for you.
Ready to get started with electronic signatures? Get all the features you need at one affordable price point with Formstack Sign. See what you can do with the industry’s top-rated eSignature solution.