Expedia's hotel contracts go electronic
03/21/2007|4:22:00 PM|Hotelmarketing
March 19, 2007:Expedia has begun using a Web-based electronic signature service to help it speed contracts to corporate headquarters for electronic signatures from locations around the world, enabling new hotel inventory to be made available to customers in record time, with less effort and more control.

Through its use of DocuSign, Expedia’s international market development managers can now obtain signatures from U.S.-based vice presidents in near real time. This means that customers can start booking travel to more hotels that much sooner. In addition, since many hotels offer introductory rates when joining the Expedia service, Expedia is able to make these special rates available to customers for a longer period of time. For a high traffic service such as Expedia, even a few days makes a significant impact on revenue generation and customer satisfaction.

“Expedia is a fast moving, online business, and we want to use the smartest services available. We were impressed from the start with how quickly and easily DocuSign helped us obtain signed contracts,” said Gene Harden, Director of Lodging for Expedia. “We knew that printing, faxing and manual signing processes were not going to be able meet our requirements for speed, or scale up to handle hundreds of contracts per week.”

Before Expedia can offer a travel product to consumers through its Web sites, the company must have signed contracts in place detailing the product’s pricing rates, special offers and many other conditions. The contracts range from a few pages to tens of pages in length.

The process of adding a new hotel to Expedia’s database begins when signed contracts are obtained by market development mangers based in travel destinations around the world. Prior to DocuSign, these contracts were converted to PDF (portable document format) files and e-mailed to Expedia corporate headquarters. At headquarters, Harden and his team would print the PDFs, route them to the appropriate vice presidents for review and obtain “wet ink” signatures. Once signed, the contracts then had to be faxed back to the hotel partners.

“After printing out all the contracts, we would typically have a 12- to 15-inch stack of paper that had to routed, signed and faxed every day,” Harden said. “The fax machine would be running for four to five hours six days a week sending signed contracts to locations across Europe and Asia.”

Now with DocuSign in place, the labor-intensive paper processes have been eliminated. Using the DocuSign service, market development managers prepare documents with virtual “sign here” or “initial here” tabs and transmit them directly to executives in the U.S. for review and signature.

To sign the document, the vice president simply clicks on the “sign here” tabs and hits send to complete the process. A two-minute Web demonstration made it easy for managers and executives to learn the DocuSign service. The signed contracts are fully encrypted, stored electronically and easily accessible through a Web browser.

In addition to speed, DocuSign gives Expedia’s market development managers better control over the signing process, enabling them to see where each contract is in the signing process, and whether it may have gotten stuck waiting for review or authorization. Moreover, the managers have a permanent, online record of each contract, giving them better control over their hotel relationships, or allowing new managers to easily step in with full access to current and past records.

“Expedia is another example of how DocuSign’s electronic signature service helps companies to remove costs, increase revenues, and accelerate the velocity of their business by using the Internet to replace paper agreements,” said Matthew J. Schiltz, CEO and President of DocuSign.

“Electronic signatures make great economic sense for any business. The DocuSign electronic signature service has made the cumbersome process of signing paper agreements obsolete.”