5 Myths About Digital Signatures Busted
Myth: Only Pen and Ink Signatures Are Legally Binding
Truth: Many people believe that a handwritten signature on a paper document is more legally binding than a digital signature. Federal laws have recognized electronic signatures in the United States since the E-Sign act was passed in the year 2000. We’re accustomed to thinking of a physical signature as the act that makes a document legal and binding, but legally a digital signature carries the same weight as a pen-and-ink signature. Retail stores have been using a stylus and screen to collect signatures for credit cards. Online purchases don’t even require that; simply clicking a box is enough to certify that you approve the charge.
Myth: Digital Signatures Aren’t Secure
Truth: Unless you’re having a document notarized, a pen-and-ink signature might be easier to contest in court than a digital signature. A physical signature carries no proof of when the document was signed or who signed it, other than the handwriting. Signatures can be forged, and handwritten dates can be falsified. With an electronic signature, you have a data trail that shows the exact time the signature was affixed and the IP address of the person who signed the document. Depending on the system you use, you can even request proof of identity in order to access the signature function.
Myth: You Need New Equipment or Software to Implement Digital Signatures
Truth: Electronic signatures can be as simple as a form where you click a box acknowledging that you agree to something, like the terms of a new software product, or as elaborate as using your finger or a stylus to write your name in cursive on a tablet screen. If you don’t have an IT department that’s capable of implementing secure signatures in-house, you can easily outsource to a secure digital signature service. These services offer affordable, secure, simple processes that will improve your staff’s productivity and your customer experience.
Myth: Customers Will Balk at E-Signing Documents
Truth: Most customers are accustomed to signing online for purchases, terms, and agreements. If you present the electronic signature option as a convenience to them, most will embrace it. If your customer base skews older, you may need to accommodate a few technological hold-outs who would rather sign a piece of paper, especially if your business involves large or important transactions, like real estate sales. But those situations are very much the exception rather than the rule, and consumer acceptance of digital signature technology is rising fast.
Myth: Employees Will Resist the New Technology
Truth: Robert F. Kennedy once said, “About 20 percent of the people are against any change.” Some of your employees are sure to resist this change, but your staff will learn to love the convenience of digital signatures if you use good change management procedures. Change management is a complex topic, but in a nutshell, you should help your staff feel in control of the change, provide them with plenty of training and time so they feel competent, and offer plenty of understanding and support during the transition. The newly streamlined workflow should be enough of a reward to make the transition worthwhile for your team.
Even though we sign with a stylus at the grocery store and buy furniture online with a single click, many business leaders have trouble imagining how digital signatures will work for them. This is a technology whose time has come for large and small businesses alike. The public is ready for it, resources are available, and the payoffs in terms of staff time and customer experience are tremendous.