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Distinguishing between eForms and digital customer journeys

9 minutes

It is hard to overestimate the importance of digital transformation when it comes to establishing and nurturing the connection between a business and its customers. Organizations are leveraging an assortment of digital technologies to reach consumers and deliver outstanding customer service more effectively.


In this new landscape where technology and customer experience are synonymous, not all digital technologies are equal. A poorly conceived and delivered digital strategy can create friction, frustration and end up hurting the organization in the long run.


One thing about digital transformation solutions is that they are constantly evolving. Tools and methods that were all the rage ten years ago are quickly becoming obsolete. 


The history of digitizing paperwork in insurance and financial services

Insurance and financial services organizations must collect data and signatures from their customers to drive forward core business processes, such as customer onboarding, new account openings, policy renewals, and more.


Paperwork has come a long way since its early days when the only option available was to physically fill in paper forms and supply wet signatures, relying on the customer’s personal presence or the post office.


The early 90s: the emergence of the PDF as the global standard

PDF launched in 1993 and became a global standard by 1999 with over 100 million copies of Adobe Reader documents downloaded on the web.


The PDF addressed a simple but important issue; it looked the same on every device. This was a landmark development in a world where issues like cross-device font recognition were still not resolved.


The PDF format has enabled the sharing of documents electronically while preserving all the original formatting elements, empowering organizations to move away from physical, paper-based forms entirely.


Today, with advances in digital technology, PDFs' cross-device readability is considered subpar at best, especially when it comes to reading PDFs on mobile devices. PDF is an equivalent of physical paper in many ways. The data submitted on the PDF needs to be processed to be transformed into a digital format. Filling in PDFs also requires additional steps, such as sending an email with an attachment rather than syncing the data directly into the internal systems, which is possible with more advanced technologies such as web forms.


1991 - present: the emergence and evolution of web forms


The early days: 1991-1998

In the very early days of the internet, it was difficult to find anything like an online contact form that we are used to today. As silly as it may sound, subscribing to an online service most likely required downloading a web form, printing it, filling in a hard copy, and sending it out to the webmasters via post. 


The rise of eCommerce: 1994-present

1994 brought two significant developments: e-banking and online ordering. But eCommerce in its early days had substantial limitations when it came to supporting online transactions. This issue was resolved in early 2000 with the appearance of the first online payment processor.


Web forms now can direct customers straight to the payment gateway where they can complete the transaction, launching the online sales revolution.


Introduction of form builders: 2007-present

In the beginning, all forms required coding and IT expertise. A significant development occurred around 2007 when the first form builders made their appearance. Now, any internet user could create forms, making HTML knowledge no longer mandatory. 


Web forms were the first step towards the evolution into digital customer journeys and offered two main advantages:

  • Ability to customize the design without coding
  • The digitally native format for data collected


Web forms were the first step towards creating a truly digital tool for data collection, but the digital world evolves quickly. Today, online forms lack on many fronts, including personalization capabilities and user-friendliness.


2020 - present: the rise of digital customer journeys

Today digital customer journeys are at the top of the evolution chain for digital paperwork. The difference between eForms and digital customer journeys lies mainly in personalization, user experience, and data analytics.


What is a digital customer journey?

Digital customer journeys connect disparate points of contact into a single, unified experience. Unlike an eForm covering a single customer interaction, a digital customer journey provides continuity by personalizing the experience based on its customers’ data. 


How is the digital customer journey different from an eForm?


Integration with internal processes

Digital customer journeys break the silos between the customer-facing front-end and the back-office operations, speeding up workflows and processes and improving customer experience.


Personalization

The main difference between a simple eForm and a digital customer journey is the ability to personalize the experience based on the customer's response and the data the organization already has on the user.


A seamless and frictionless experience

Digital customer journeys offer a seamless experience. The customer can simply snap a photo of the damage to kickstart a claim with their insurer or digitally sign a form without taking any extra steps or leaving the interface.


Optimization powered by data and analytics

The data collected via digital customer journeys are verified and validated at the point of entry, ensuring data integrity. Data can then be funneled into reports and AI-powered analytics tools to continuously optimize the user experience.


Advanced functionality

Digital customer journeys remove friction by unifying the entire experience into one streamlined process with the help of:

  • Advanced personalization capabilities
  • Integration with back-end systems and workflows
  • Ability to verify data at the point of entry to maintain data integrity
  • Legally binding eSignatures
  • Document and file uploads
  • Digital ID verification
  • Payment processing
  • Integration with 3rd party applications to extend the functionality
  • Multi-step workflows for better usability
  • A virtual assistant  (real-time on-demand support)
  • Workflows and integration into internal processes
  • Roles and permissions for better security and access control


The disadvantages of digital customer journeys 

While digital customer journeys offer significant advantages on the customer experience front, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind:


  • Coding: Like its predecessor, the eForm, the digital customer journeys require coding and IT expertise to create. Digital customer journey creation relies on internal IT teams or external consultants to develop and maintain. 
  • Lengthy development: An enterprise-grade digital customer journey can take anywhere from 4-12 months to develop. In the fast-moving digital world, this is an eternity. By the time the new product is brought to market, it is often already obsolete.
  • Cost: Digital customer journey creation is a resource-intensive process with a hefty price tag.


Solving the digital customer journey obstacle with no-code
Like its predecessor, the eForm that initially relied on coding and then transitioned to form builders, digital customer journeys are undergoing a similar evolution today. No-code digital customer journey platforms for building and optimizing digital customer journeys are becoming the new standard.


No-code tools empower citizen developers (business users without IT expertise) to quickly scale up digital operations and introduce new digital customer journeys to streamline and optimize core business processes. These core processes directly impact the bottom line, such as customer origination, onboarding KYC processes, policy renewals, and more.


The digital world is constantly evolving, and the organizations that are stuck with obsolete technologies and processes must quickly adapt or risk losing relevance. If you are still expecting your customers to fill in PDFs in 2021, you are two decades behind the times. If your online portal features simple eForms, you need to catch up to the demands for seamless digital customer experiences that simple web forms lack.


Digital customer journeys are best for customer experience but can be costly and challenging to implement. A no-code platform solves these issues, bringing digital customer journeys to customers quickly, efficiently, and at a fraction of the cost.

Jude Sherman

Jude Sherman is the Growth Marketing Manager at EasySend. She covers digital transformation in insurance, banking, financial services, and the latest InsurTech and digital customer service trends.