One question we all heard in retail stores beginning in the 90’s was the choice of ‘Paper or Plastic?’ Not to offend traditionalists, stores continued to make paper bags available, but also wanted to lower their costs by offering the choice of (much cheaper) plastic as a ‘better environmental choice.’ Now that plastic is the default choice, it is becoming harder to find paper bags or, in some cases, any bags at all. Under the mantra of ‘saving the planet,’ stores have passed along the cost of bagging the items they sell to the consumer. For the first time, I paid a few cents for a plastic shopping bag while on vacation last year.
In the insurance world, agents have been seeing a similar change in the way their insurance carriers and vendors do business. Under the guise of saving the planet, companies have encouraged (or forced) their agents to accept electronic customer policies, files, and statements … and eliminated a tremendous expense of printing policies and documents for agencies. While managing the documentation and training for agents at AMS in the late 90’s, I managed the transition from paper to Adobe PDF files for software manuals. We offered to print manuals for customers at a small cost but had almost no takers. As a result, we were able to outsource our print operations and save a lot of money, which we invested in better help files and video training.
As a document management company, we are also asked about what impact these changes have on the service we provide. If our customers receive electronic documents from their suppliers, why would they need a system to scan paper which they receive less of? When I first started with docSTAR and spoke with prospective customers, agents often bragged that they were “paperless” with their carriers. With some probing questions, however, I found that often meant that they would get an electronic file from the company which they printed and placed into a paper file! There is, of course, a better way.
docSTAR enhances the paperless process in at least four ways:
- It provides a secure, indexed place for electronic files to be automatically stored. Whether you download a file from the web or receive it from an insurance carrier, it can be dragged and dropped into docSTAR. You decide the rules governing security of electronic documents (you may not want your sales team to see your net commissions!), as well as how they should be titled and retrieved – and docSTAR automatically carries out your policy every time. Without this consistent workflow, electronic files could remain in Outlook emails, on a local hard drive, or buried in a nest on a shared drive that is increasingly hard to negotiate.
- Any file or email received in electronic form can be instantly searchable by EVERY WORD in the document. If I want to see all the statements that have “Keighron” or find a scheduled item by name in a policy, docSTAR takes me to every document containing these words in a date-ordered list.
- docSTAR includes viewers for almost every form of electronic file. For example, if someone sends you a drawing in Microsoft Visio or a diagram in AutoCad, you do not have to have the program loaded on your workstation in order to view, print, annotate, or forward the document. Thumbnail views show you what’s in the document as a preview, even before you open it!
- As with scanned paper documents, docSTAR provides both legal proof of the date and time that a document was received and that the contents have not been altered or changed in any way using the Authenticate marking technology. An audit trail shows who has opened, viewed, printed, faxed, or emailed any document or electronic file.
Just because a document arrives in electronic form does not make it any less vital to your business operations or lessen the need for it to be found quickly and secured. As you move from Paper to PDF, we provide tools that help you consistently manage your documents regardless of what form they arrive!