Before the COVID-19 outbreak, many organizations were making a gradual transition to digital forms and e-signatures. Then the whole world was forced to go paperless, virtually overnight. It overtaxed a system that wasn’t ready for the burden.
Case in point: On March 26, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity website crashed because of a spike in traffic, as a rush of newly unemployed residents tried to file benefit claims due to the pandemic.
Government agencies offer a great case study, but they aren’t alone. A variety of organizations that use application forms to activate services — particularly in regulated sectors like healthcare and financial services — face similar issues. They are scrambling to redesign their enrollment processes to handle a dramatic increase in the number of applications that must now happen digitally.
Design the whole experience, not just the form
But transitioning to a digital process is just part of the challenge. Organizations must take the entire customer experience into account.
Consider the experience of Carly Kendall, small business owner of the Azure Day Spa in Salt Lake City. She applied for the federally funded Payroll Protection Program (PPP) through her local credit union at the end of March. After filling out and submitting a static digital form that was roughly 40 pages long, she received an email confirming that her application had been received. Two weeks later, when Kendall called to check on the status of her loan, she waited on the phone for almost two hours — only to be told that her application couldn’t be found. She had to start the whole process over from scratch.
Customers can encounter numerous pain points during a digital enrollment experience. Aside from a long form that may or may not be optimized for digital use, such as Kendall’s story shows, there are often major gaps in data integration, back-end workflows, and customer support as well. While a chaotic back-end process is less visible to the customer than a poorly designed user experience (UX), it may ultimately cause even more irritation and anxiety.
Chris Malstrom, owner of Malstrom Salon in Salt Lake City, had the opposite experience of Kendall when he applied for a COVID-19-related loan program through the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Right after Malstrom submitted his application, he received an email confirming it was received and letting him know that he could expect a decision in about a week. As promised, the loan was approved within a week, and two days later he got a check in the mail.
For Malstrom, success wasn’t just about an easy experience filling out the form. It was having confidence that the process was working, moving forward as explained, and that he could anticipate next steps. This feeling of security was particularly important as he had provided a lot of personal financial information.
“You send them super-sensitive information,” he says. “They wanted everything. And you click send. If you don’t get a response, you’re just hoping that it’s gone to the right entity.”
Start with the forms that matter most for your business
No matter what business you’re in, your organization’s success depends on the quality of the customer experiences you create. Since technology is the enabler of those experiences, IT professionals are at the forefront of the accelerated transition to digital enrollment. They’re suddenly spending a lot of time managing digital forms and signature processes, programming new forms one at a time, building data integrations between various internal systems, and worrying — even more than usual — about security and compliance issues relating to customer data.
As an IT professional, you may feel a bit overwhelmed, especially if your organization has thousands or even just hundreds of forms that are currently in a paper-based or static digital format. The good news is you don’t have to do everything all at once. Instead, work with your stakeholders to identify a handful of forms — your top five — that matter most to your customers and your business right now. Focus on digitizing those forms as quickly as possible, and then scale from there at the pace that’s right for you.
Deliver a seamless customer experience from start to finish
When digital forms are correctly implemented — as part of a holistic enrollment solution that includes digital signatures, data integration, security, and customer communication — they’ve been shown to reduce form abandonment by 20 percent, decrease approval times by 94 percent, and improve productivity for internal teams by 64 percent, according to an IDC study.
A complete enrollment solution doesn’t just digitize the front-end part of the application process. It helps your organization deliver a seamless, satisfying customer experience from beginning to end. It also saves you time and money. Forrester found that moving to 100 percent digital processes saves companies up to $28.50 per document, and that using electronic signatures reduces the average time it takes to get documents finalized from seven days to two hours.
Your customers want forms to be easy to fill out, no matter what device they’re using. They want to submit signatures that are legally binding without printing and scanning paper documents. They want to get timely messages about the status of their applications. And, above all, customers expect their application to be processed promptly, and they want to feel confident that their personal information is being handled appropriately.
With the right digital enrollment solution — one that helps you integrate data sources and automate key workflows — you can meet all of those expectations quickly. If you start now, you can get your most important forms up and running within a few weeks to shore up your most critical business functions. Then, at a speed that makes sense for your business, you can build a fully digital enrollment platform that helps you consistently deliver a great experience to every customer.
Adrienne Tsai is a senior product marketing manager at Adobe.