In the age of digital transformation, companies all over the globe need ways to boost productivity and stay competitive. Many are going paperless to speed up business processes and optimise their spending.
Given the potential savings, companies in all industries are trying to convince their customers to go paperless as well. The professional services group EY carried out research suggesting that financial services companies could save €1.5 billion a year if they, and at least 80%, of their customers went paperless.
However, there are still large swathes of the population that want to keep using paper. Printed documents are typically more expensive to create and distribute than digital ones, and they take longer to reach the intended recipient, if they make it. So why do people still want to receive their bank statements, utility bills, and contracts on paper?
Research by Consumer Action revealed that 63% of people prefer to receive utility bills on paper. The most common excuses among those surveyed include the ease of reading and the reduced risk of forgetting to pay a bill. Digital bills are often sent by email as PDF attachments, which can easily be overlooked if you have a full inbox, or they could be mistakenly discarded as spam. The option to set up automatic payments could worsen the problem – if you don’t check bills regularly, you could be overcharged and end up in debt.
However, if done properly, going paperless is more efficient and reliable. For a start, sending anything by email is quicker than the post. First-class delivery can take several days to arrive, whereas emails are received instantly, with zero risk of your bill getting lost along the way. Faster billing means faster payment, and if there are any discrepancies, you can phone or email the company immediately.
Banks are also pushing customers to go digital. But rather than attach statements as PDF files, they prefer to send an email notification telling you that your statement is available to consult online. Not only are these emails easy to miss in packed inboxes, they also complicate the process and increase the administrative burden for account holders. To see your latest statement, you have to navigate a complex website. Plus, managing multiple passwords can be difficult for customers, who might use the same password for everything, inadvertently putting their accounts at risk.
But switching to digital banking does bring one big advantage: improved security. Paper statements need to be printed, and banks that lack high-volume devices are forced to outsource this task. As a result, your account information might pass through the hands of an unknown third party as well as the postal service before reaching you. Intercepted post is one of the most common ways that identity theft or fraud have occurred. In contrast, electronic statements cannot be stolen en route.
Contracts have also been slow to go digital. This is partly due to the authority that paper continues to enjoy, as physical ink signatures are considered more trustworthy, while digital ones are viewed with suspicion. In fact, research by YouGov found that 8 in 10 UK businesses still print documents just to obtain ink-based signatures, especially in the public sector (83%) and financial services (82%). Customers frequently prefer paper contracts because it’s reassuring to keep a physical copy.
But the cloud would be safer. If your contracts are stored online, and your computer crashes, these documents remain unaffected. What’s more, you can access them from anywhere using any connected device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The cloud is also more secure than a filing cabinet, allowing you to control who has access to view, edit, or copy your digital documents.
Will the resistance last?
Although the resistance to paperless is more widespread than you might have imagined, its causes are easy to explain. In short, paper still enjoys a certain level of authority. Since you can hold a sheet of paper, it’s perceived as more trustworthy and future-proof than digital variants. Trust is an important factor for banking and utility companies, as they deal with confidential data.
However, converting paper documents to digital files enables you to create several copies of the same document for safekeeping. If you upload a copy to the cloud, it will always be there, accessible from any authorised device at any location. Digital documents add an element of speed to business processes that paper lacks, and the technology is now reliable enough to oust paper. You can safely store all of your bank statements, contracts, and bills on the cloud as searchable files for quick retrieval whenever necessary.