How Do Consumers Feel About Automated Business Forms?

By: on September 7, 2017

Love it or hate it, paperwork is part of life. Whether buying a car, renting an apartment, visiting a doctor or other professional service for the first time, you can be sure that some paperwork will be involved. Sigh.

There can’t be many people who actually love paperwork. Besides, aren’t we already well into the age of digital business? And weren’t people predicting—even back in the ’70s—that most offices would be paperless by the ’80s?

Yes and yes, and yet here we are: still filling out forms by hand, despite the availability of so many tools that help manage and digitize paper records and documents.

In this report, we reveal the results and discuss the findings of a recent survey we ran on forms automation.

We show what preferences consumers have for filling out business forms and learn what consumers think about businesses that still do paperwork by hand.

Most Consumers Prefer Filling Out Forms Online

The first rule of consumer preference surveys is: Don’t presuppose you know anything about consumer preferences!

Those assumptions are very often incomplete, inaccurate or just plain wrong. And even when they’re not, there’s almost always a range of interesting and contributing factors that are only revealed in survey data.

In this survey, we told participants that a business requires that they fill out some forms before an upcoming appointment. We then gave several options for completing the forms and asked participants which method they most prefer. Over half said they prefer filling out the forms online:

Consumer’s First Choice for Filling Out Forms

For the most part, there are no major surprises here. We see three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents choosing one of the two most frequently offered real-world options: filling the forms out online or filling them out in-person at the time of the appointment. Perhaps most surprising result is that there are some people who still prefer faxing and sending forms by mail.

Age Groups Have Different Preferences for Paperwork

When we parse the results by respondent’s age, some slight demographic trends emerge. For example, as a respondent’s age increases, so does the likelihood that they’ll prefer filling out paper forms over online forms. This trend is clearest when comparing opposite ends of the age spectrum.

Compare the following preferences:

Form-Filling Preferences by Age

Overall, the preference consumers have for online over paper forms is quite clear. Businesses that target all demographics equally can stop there. However, businesses that cater to specific demographics might benefit from a more granular analysis of consumer preferences, bearing in mind their consumers’ specific use cases.

Consumers Describe Paper-Bound Companies as ‘Inefficient’

Imagine two companies, A and B, which offer identical products and services at identical prices. Consumers will choose whichever company requires less effort. This can include anything and everything a company requires of a customer, whether that’s filling in a simple short form or something else. The bottom line is that as consumers, people are all about low effort.

Effort is probably the most important variable for consumers deciding between the various options for completing paperwork. We can safely assume that most of those choosing the “online” option did so because they know it’s faster and easier—in other words, it’s lower effort.

What are consumers thoughts on high-effort processes and on the businesses that require them? Our second question focused on consumers’ perceptions of these businesses. Specifically, we asked “If a business uses paper forms and documents when all of its competitors are using digital records, I would probably view that business as _______.”

Here’s what they said:

Consumer Views on Companies That Still Use Paper Forms and Documents

This tells us that a company’s brand image can be negatively impacted by its decision to use paper forms and documents. So in addition to the risk of losing customers because of its relatively high-effort process, the company also risks harming the public’s perception of the company.

Cost Savings and Other Benefits of Paperwork Reduction

Forms automation often falls under one of a company’s larger strategic plans, like customer experience improvement, becoming a paperless/digital office or simply reducing costs. Cost reduction often takes the form of better workflow efficiency, but it can also have a more direct impact.

For example, in “Why You Should Go Beyond Managing Your Office Printing” (Available to Gartner clients), Analyst Ken Weilerstein points out that:

  • IT operations managers can reduce office printing spending by 10 percent to 30 percent through active management.
  • Organizations that fail to actively manage their printing pay up to three times as much per page as the most efficient ones.

Other benefits to forms automation are listed below:

Data Entry Optimization

If your team struggles with incomplete or illegible forms, you’re likely to see a great improvement once those forms are automated. Streamlining the way data is captured also makes it easier to generate meaningful reports from that data.

Workflow Efficiencies

Templates with time-saving functions, such as pre-populated fields, let users fill out forms faster. And it’s usually quicker for staff to retrieve digital forms through software search functions than it is for them to dig through paper files.

Cost Savings

Offices that transition to software can save a substantial amount of money since they will not have to spend as much on paper, printing, postage and physical storage solutions like filing cabinets.

Waste Reduction

Companies aspiring to be more environmentally friendly can have a positive impact on nature by reducing or eliminating their use of paper. Forms automation software makes this goal much more attainable.

Have more questions about forms automation? Curious which software solutions can help your business better meet consumer preferences?

Start here with profiles and reviews of popular form automation software then give our advisors a call for a complimentary FastStart Consultation: (844) 680-2046.

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