Easy Electronic Signatures: The Big Story about Ease of Use Insurers Can’t Afford to Miss

Mary Ellen Power, April 13, 2022

Over years of electronic signature deployments in insurance, we’ve seen the customer experience – and specifically an easy customer experience – jump to the top of the priority list. If insurers can’t offer their customers, agents, and employees an easy way to sign contracts and agreements, that puts the company’s growth at risk.

To understand what an easy signing experience means for insurance stakeholders and why it’s critical, we teamed up with Glenn Rothenberg, Principal at RedMountain Advisors, a consulting firm that provides advisory services to insurtech companies. He is also the former Head of Marketing for Farmers Life Insurance, a subsidiary of Zurich Insurance Group and part of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies.

We interviewed stakeholders across the industry, from Chief Underwriters to Heads of Customer Experience, Operations, and IT, to understand ease of use from an insurance perspective. What does easy look like, when moving from paper to digital agreements within an insurance company? What does easy mean to insurance agents, brokers, and advisors? And most important, what does that look like for a customer? 

What we found is “easy” unlocks revenue.

From Handwritten Signatures to Mobile Devices, Smart Forms, and Videoconferencing

We all understand that with the increased use of digitization customers expect more from their insurance providers. But as we spoke with stakeholders who are modernizing their digital customer journeys, we realized this goes beyond premium service.

What we learned from our research is: easy is all about technology providing additional ways for you to interact with your customer in the way that they want to interact with you. Not to mention the growing interest in immersive digital environments that give insurance professionals the opportunity to interact with customers in new ways.

“Easy is all about technology providing additional ways for you to interact with your customer in the way they want to interact with you.”
- Glenn Rothenberg

To put this into context, it helps to look at the evolution of digital customer interactions in insurance. Most insurance businesses start by replacing in-person signing with a remote, self-serve process. To do that, they add e-signature capability to PDF documents. But with so much happening remotely, insurers are finding that using e-signature software to sign documents doesn’t really provide a digital experience. As I explained in our webinar:

“Carriers are looking to the next level: how to bring in dynamic forms with intelligent, guided workflows. An e-signature solution that is integrated with a smart forms solution like SmartComm can smooth the process, eliminate a lot of steps, and ease the customer experience filling in data.”

“Take the beneficiary change form, for example. An analysis of this process revealed six placeholders for signatures and 26 potential points of failure related to instructions on how to complete the process. Imagine how much more intuitive that could be with guided workflows.”

Insurance providers need an e-signature solution that is flexible enough to meet customer needs and to grow with the organization as their customers’ document signing needs change. The pandemic is the perfect example. Customers certainly want convenience and channel preference. However, in more complex transactions and important documents like life insurance, people are seeking human help, even if that is now remote. The latest technology gives customers the ability to sign digital documents via video with guidance from their agent.

“This is the next phase in the growth of digital agreements and remote processes. Bringing in new technology that blends remote digital and human-interaction together,” says Power.

This is a new technology – so don’t get discouraged if you’re not bleeding-edge, says Glenn Rothenberg, “Look at it as an evolution, not a revolution. You are going to have different use cases and you want to match the right technology and approach to each.”

“If you have advisors or an agency force that does business over the phone, then remote signing is the baseline (there are very few in-person signings). That’s an opportunity to add virtual signing with videoconferencing,” Rothenberg explains, “But also recognize that in some claims situations, you might have a customer who chooses to print off a piece of paper, take a picture of it with their phone, and send that in. From a customer service perspective, you want to be able to offer that kind of flexibility to support customers’ individual preferences.”

Is Your Customer’s Signing Experience Easy?

When it comes to ease of use, you know it when you see it. And as Glenn says: “You definitely know it when it’s not there!”

What does easy mean for Customers?

The concept can be broken down into 3 elements: 

  1. Use: How easy is it to use? Does it work as expected? Clients don’t want to have to learn something new. It should be fairly intuitive. It should work on whichever devices they choose, including Android and iOS mobile devices. The signature requests, signing workflow, and functionality should feel deeply familiar to the signer. If it requires learning an entirely new system and references to an FAQ for simple processes like accessing templates or to upload documents, then it’s too complicated.
  2. Decision: Does the digital signing experience provide a sense of security and/or peace of mind? You want your customers to come away from the signing experience knowing they made the right choice in selecting you as their insurance provider. If there’s friction in the application or they struggle with clunky authentication or something goes wrong, they will wonder if they made the wrong choice. That could lead to buyer’s remorse.
  3. Feel: How did the customer feel about the whole experience? Was it frustrating or did the customer walk away appreciating how easy it is to do business with you? Was the whole experience mindful of the customer’s needs? A positive customer experience will leave them feeling understood. Happy insurance customers are more likely to buy more coverage, remain loyal over the years, and tell others about it.

Easy for Agents, Brokers, and Advisors

Let’s also consider how insurance agents think about online signatures. It must be intuitive for the insurance agent, broker, or advisor – whether they are signing agency documents such as onboarding documentation, NDAs, and legal documents or the policy paperwork they sign with clients.

What does easy mean for B2B?

Let’s break this down into the three core elements:

  1. Use: First, as you look to support reps in the field, keep in mind that agents work with a number of different systems, so it’s important to offer them the flexibility to use signature software in a standalone capacity as well as to integrate into the systems and tools they are already using. Signature software should “just work” with nominal training. It should also be simple enough for an agent to be able to offer it to consumers at all technical levels – people who are comfortable with technology as well as those who are not.    
  2. Decision: Ease of use will inspire confidence in the agent, so they can show their customers how to eSign and guide them through the process quickly. There must be minimal instructions and the agent should feel empowered to lead the process on their own. This depends largely on an easy process that happens in just a few clicks. Another consideration when building confidence is security. Agents collect a lot of personal information, and they need to know the system is secure.
  3. Feel: Agents need the appropriate tech support. Quality, responsive technical support will provide peace of mind that their business won’t be adversely impacted when technical issues arise.

Agents also need to see tangible benefits from using electronic signature. For example, electronic signature apps should streamline the application process by reducing callbacks and write-backs. The solution’s automation and workflow rules can eliminate not-in-good-order (NIGO) documents or incomplete applications, such as when a signature is missing. It should cut down on missing or incorrect information in PDF documents while also reducing the number of back-and-forth emails and phone calls. 

As an example, in Belgium, insurance carrier P&V Insurance needed an e-signature solution that would let its agents close business in a single session with the customer. Previously on paper, clients applying for life insurance generally could not complete the application with their agent in a single session. During the initial meeting, the agent and client would fill out the application on the agent’s laptop – but if no printer was available, the agent would return to the office, print the completed application, and drive back to the customer for signature or send it by mail. Once the customer had signed the paper application, the agent was responsible for scanning, mailing, or faxing it back to the home office. All this manual effort fell short of the modern customer and agent experience the company aspired to. With e-signature, agents now process new business applications in one session. The feedback from agents has been very positive. They only need 10-15 minutes in a typical case to go through the new business flow.

“Digital makes life a lot easier for clients and for agents. It saves a lot of time end-to-end. Not just because of e-signature, because of the full digital process. Electronic signature saves a lot of time for the agent upfront,” says the carrier’s e-signature project manager.

“Digital makes life a lot easier for clients and for agents. It saves a lot of time end-to-end.”
-P&V Insurance

“In our industry, it’s increasingly important to offer digital services that make it easier for advisors and their clients,” says Karen Mason, Senior Vice-President, Individual Lines, at Equitable Life. “With EZcomplete™, we’re providing advisors with an online application that is easy to complete, intuitive and reduces the chance of incorrect information or incomplete applications, as well as reducing the amount of paper produced.”1

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Build Trust with Security that’s Easy for All

While there are many security features that build trust in the online signing process, such as digital signature encryption, let’s look at three essential capabilities: white labeling, identification and authentication, and audit trails.

First, we found that using a white-labeled signature app improves confidence and conversions. We recommend looking for custom branding that features your company’s name, logo, and colors in the UI and notifications.

You don’t want an unknown brand popping up in the middle of the process. White labeling creates a trusted experience between you and your customer, protects your brand, protects your customers and agents, and helps to achieve the highest completion rates possible. One insurer saw a 23% increase in application completion rates in just 30 days.

Assumption Life has 8,000 brokers using such a solution. Important criteria for their e-signature solution included the ability to white label (customize the user interface with Assumption Life’s brand and provide a seamless user experience), capture digitized handwritten signatures, and embed the audit trail within the signed Adobe Acrobat PDF doc. This was important from a document management perspective, so their signed PDF documents and records can be archived independently of their e-signature vendor.

Second, being asked for identity verification or authentication before e-signing gives everyone involved peace of mind. This can range from SMS authentication to email authentication and many other methods. And while the authentication step is essential to ensure that the right people get access to the signing session, they shouldn’t struggle at that step in the process (e.g., multiple passwords, logins, or verifications).

“We use a multi-step authentication process,” says The Co-operators' spokesperson Leonard Sharman. “Clients can log in using a unique code provided to them by their advisor, and can ‘click’ online to accept. We are confident that our multi-step authentication process provides an appropriate level of security,” he says.

One of the ways this carrier is growing their business is by simplifying the purchase of life insurance through the company’s advisors. Captive agents complete and e-sign the life insurance application from the convenience of the customer’s home or location of choice, finalizing the sale in a single meeting.

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for clients to do business with us, and providing the option of electronic signatures is one way we’re doing that,” says Alec Blundell, Vice-President, Individual Life Insurance at The Co-operators.

In addition, agents need to be able to easily access their signed docs for audits.

“For each signed agreement, documents are inextricably linked to the associated signing ceremony data and retained securely in an electronic recordkeeping system. System controls render the combined data and document packages as tamper-proof by restricting any modifications, updates, or edits. Audit trails and logging is in place to monitor access to the data,” adds Leonard Sharman.

Success Using OneSpan Sign Electronic Signature Software

Improving the plan for tech in the customer journey is an essential part of an insurance company’s ability to grow revenue. According to Capgemini and Efma’s World Insurance Report 2020, 75% of customers are willing to switch insurers if seamless policy servicing is not available across all channels.

If you are wondering if OneSpan can improve the health of your insurance business, you don’t have to guess. There are many case studies detailing the success of companies that have improved their customer experience and increased revenue, including businesses that switched to OneSpan Sign from other e-signature providers like DocuSign. Regardless of whether your agents or brokers are using tools like DocuSign, HelloSign, SignEasy, SignNow, or Pandadoc, our OneSpan Sign webinar can help with tips on how to make your e-sign process easier for everyone.

Digital Technologies Improved Customer Experience and Revenue During Pandemic

As we move past the pandemic, it is even more important for the insurance industry as a whole to learn what digitization of their customer journey looks like for them. Overall, tools such as mobile e-signatures, video-based signing functionality, and smart digital forms have made the customer experience much more convenient and efficient than it was before. We often see adoption of mobile signatures and integrating e-sign into mobile apps, to offer clients and agents greater convenience. One example is the Canada Life Assurance Company, formerly Great-West Life. “The electronic signature solution for transactions made from mobile devices, allows advisors to sign with their finger, stylus or mouse," explains a representative.

Pay close attention to client needs by having more conversations with some of your most loyal customers. To learn more about how to approach this, take a look at our presentation on Insurance’s 2022 Imperative to Modernize Digital Customer Journeys.

Insurance's 2022 Imperative to Modernize Digital Customer Journeys
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Insurance's 2022 Imperative to Modernize Digital Customer Journeys

In this webinar, industry experts review top digitization trends and technologies for 2022 that are reshaping the digital insurance ecosystem.

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1. Top Electronic Signature Resources for Insurance | OneSpan

Mary Ellen has over 30 years of experience leading marketing teams and strategy for technology companies. In her role as VP of Marketing at OneSpan, her team is charged with content development, marketing technology operations and lead generation through to the business development of early-stage opportunities. She has co-presented on 200+ webinars and speaking engagements with banking, insurance, and government organizations, and co-led the successful rebranding of the company.