Much progress has been made in the journey towards paperless transactions. We can now sign tax returns online; sign electronic pads at many retailers when using credit cards; and, in some cases, receipts are even emailed to us. When FedEx or UPS make deliveries we no longer sign a paper log, but a mobile electronic pad.
So, why is the automotive industry not doing this?
Despite the many new technologies now available to car dealers that enable electronic signatures, customers are still forced through a trillion signatures and countless initials (front and back, mind you) to complete a transaction — EVEN IF the dealership has adopted e-signature technologies.
Think how frustrating, confusing and, frankly, distressing that is for the consumer. Imagine going to a retailer to make a purchase, inserting your credit card and signing the electronic pad, only to have the cash register spit out a paper receipt which you then also must sign. My first reaction would be, “why do I need to sign this PAPER receipt when I just signed my name on your e-signature pad?” Well, that is exactly the experience dealers are providing to their customers. Whether this is happening in finance or service, it doesn’t matter.
I do understand that some state regulatory bodies, such as the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) in California, require physical documents with original signatures. Whereas the federal statute allows for e-signatures, which is why you can buy a home without a single wet signature.
Is this dated system required in our industry because dealers are not bothering to challenge it, or is it because the local enforcer (such as the BAR rep) claims it is necessary? Regardless, I also know that this level of redundancy is so irritating that some dealers refuse to comply. For the sake of the customer’s experience, they allow customers to just sign electronically; willing to face any fines or lawsuits that may (but probably won’t) come back around. Not that I recommend going against any laws, I am just illustrating how frustrating this is for dealers – and their customers.
We’re at the point where the Federal government now accepts e-signatures, and many state governments have jumped on board. E-signatures are acceptable enough for credit card companies and financial institutions. You can even deposit a check via your cell phone! Yet, here we are in the automotive industry still wasting reams of paper on a single automotive transaction.
While we may all be nodding our heads in agreement with fully paperless transactions, we continue to demand the redundant paper signature — even while adopting e-signatures! This just confuses customers and forces dealerships to continuously find storage facilities for the decades worth of documents that could easily fit on a single hard drive. Think of the storage costs, shredding costs, wasted time, effort and customer frustration. And let’s not forget the environmental impact of all that paper — all while our ecologically-friendly governments, states, counties, cities, communities, neighbors and family members encourage us to use less paper and preserve the environment.
Does this sound like progress to you?
Author: Ujj Nath
Ujj Nath is the Founder and CEO of myKaarma (www.mykaarma.com), the cloud-based conversational commerce software that’s revolutionizing the auto service industry. He has 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and automotive industry executive. In 1990, prior to myKaarma, Ujj founded Syncata, a major provider of business consulting and systems integration services. In 2004 he successfully negotiated the sale of the company to ProQuest Business Solutions (NYSE: PQE), which was subsequently acquired by Snap-On Tools (NYSE:SNA). At Snap-On, Ujj was Vice President of Global Accounts and headed the Professional Services Organization for Snap-on Business Solutions. He can be reached at email@example.com.