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Distributors are lauding signature capture technology for its ability to streamline delivery processes, save on both space and labor costs in the main office, minimize paperwork, and eliminate most of the monkeying around on the part of delivery drivers when attempting to have a customer sign an order.

Some electronic signature software solutions now come in the form of applications that are installed on smartphones such as an Android or an iPhone, or a device such as an iPod Touch. Much like with gaming and social media apps, this software can be easily downloaded and installed onto the device within minutes. Information on the app is synced with the distributor’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Instead of complicated implementation processes that involve costly IT services, installation of electronic signature software requires only a password and a couple of finger taps on the devices.

Using a smartphone or device instead of other hardware that only captures signatures is beneficial since they can be used in various other ways to make the delivery process even more efficient. From communication tools to GPS applications, smartphones and devices are able to handle a wide range of tasks for the delivery driver.

“It’s nice because we can put additional icons on it to get the mapping that they need and [the drivers] can check a UPS tracking number,” says Richard Ribakove, president of Mooney-General Paper Company in Hillside, N.J., whose company purchased iPod Touch devices to run signature capture software. “We went from a handheld that has absolutely no value to a driver to a [device] that every kid wants to get their hands on.”

Smartphones are also beneficial carriers of the software because of the lack of updating and maintenance that is required of the hardware. Software updates on the devices take a few moments and can be done when they are being charged. A user who has access to an administrator password can quickly update the signature capture software on the road when needed.

“For the most part it’s been a very effective and efficient device,” Ribakove says. “I can control what icons are on the iPod Touch because it is synced to a company’s iTunes account. So [the drivers] are not able to add to it unless they have authorization.”

Shopping For Electronic Signature Software

When exploring electronic signature software, distributors should analyze how the software interacts with other systems throughout the enterprise. A standalone signature capture software package may not initially work seamlessly with invoicing and billing software, thus adding to the implementation cost.

Electronic signature software should also allow delivery drivers to make notes on orders when there is an error or a change. For example, if the wrong product was delivered and the order was not signed for, the delivery driver should have the ability to make a note in the system on the road.

“When they sync in, those notes will be there so the person in customer service that is responsible to look at that will get it right away,” says Matthew Fowler, who handles information technology upgrades at House Sanitary Supply in Ventura, Calif.

Another consideration for distributors is how well their customers will embrace signature capture. Some clients will not think twice about signing on a smartphone or device, but others may need a bit of coaxing. Drivers and salespeople may need to demonstrate and explain the system to the customer, which will take a patience on their part.

“There are those occasions that you have to get manual signatures when you have a broken device or something wasn’t loaded properly, but the drivers are well aware of how to deal with those situations,” Ribakove says. “We do have the ability to scan a page in our system and attach it.” 

Brendan O’Brien is a freelancer based in Greenfield, Wis. He is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.